Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Sad, Sad News

The goslings have been growing almost visibly over the last month, their baby fluff almost entirely replaced by feathers. They are almost as big as their parents, and sometimes I have to look twice to tell the difference.

But today I came home from picking my Mum up from the station (she has come up to attend the Summer Gathering) to a horrible shock: something had killed one of the goslings.

It must have happened while I was out, otherwise I would have heard the commotion. Almost anything sets the geese off shouting, and an attack on one of them would have caused a huge uproar.

When we got back, I took the afternoon grain ration down to the chickens and geese, and knew something was wrong immediately by the silence - the sight of me bringing food always causes a hubbub of excitement. The geese were nowhere to be seen, the chickens strangely crestfallen. I went immediately into the goose run, anxious as to what I might find.

The buzzard flew up as I approached, but vegetation obscured the view until I rounded the pond. By now I could hear goose murmurs from their shed, and my first thought on seeing the pile of feathers on the bank was that the buzzard had killed a pigeon in the run and the geese were freaked out and hiding. But as I got closer it was clearly too big for a pigeon. And too torn up for me to identify which goose it was.

I went to the shed, and found Angel, Buffy and Sunny huddled together. The victim was Snowy. I immediately decided to shut them in for the night with their grain, while I (a) cleared away the corpse and (b) checked the fences for breaches - at this stage I wasn't sure if the buzzard had been merely taking advantage of left-overs from someone else's kill (e.g. a fox).

Unfortunately, as I went to get the grain, the bereaved family chose to follow me out, perhaps sensing that it was now safe. They immediately saw Snowy's remains. It's hard to imagine that a goose has facial expressions, but believe me, I saw Buffy's face as she looked at the torn and broken body. And in her eyes, I saw her heart break. This is the moment that keeps coming back to me. Not the clearing away of feathers, flesh and bone. Not the search for evidence of fox involvement (there was none, no breached fences, no paw prints). Not the resigned quiet of the remaining residents of the goose shed, or the hysterical clucking that erupted from the chickens when I finally got around to feeding them. Poor, poor Buffy. Somehow, I feel I have let her down.

Sometimes I regret that I have not been able to have children of my own. But sometimes, very occasionally, I get a glimpse of the unbelievable pain of a bereaved parent - and I think perhaps, just perhaps, I am lucky that I will never ever experience that depth of grief.

Sorry, Angel, Buffy and Sunny. And Rest in Peace, Snowy.

(The photo shows Snowy and Sunny together in happier times. Snowy in the foreground, Sunny behind her).


This Guy said...

I am so sorry, my heart dropped as soon as I read your post.

I know exactly how you feel, I used to raise ducks in my younger days. Its true, ducks and geese do infact have facial expressions. I remember coming out one morning to check "Buttercup" my favourite duck. She was sitting on a nest of 14 eggs. I knew something was wrong as soon as I approached her. I saw her heart break in her eyes and frown. Raccoons had came that night and taken all but 1 of her eggs. I felt so horrible for her. Her feathers torn out and scattered as she must have trid to defend her unhatched babies.

It's hard to say which animal caused so much loss to your goslings. I just hope you are able to secure them. Its so hard, they truly are animals that need alot of space, so its hard to confine them I know.

I wish there were some piece of advice I could give you that might deture future attacks, but I know of none sadly :(

I hope your Geese feel better soon! :)

This Guy said...

OH OH OH! Acutally one thing that did seem to work! I just rememberd! I hooked up some motion lights (as my attacks were all at night). I drove posts into the ground, attached motion sensor lights to the poles and supplied power to them via extension cords. Also, you can get an insert that would screw into the light socket to give you a plug, that you could plug a radio into too, so then a light and noise would come on at the same time, and hopefully would scare a fox, or something else away! Should work during the day too with the radio! I hope you find a solution, its hard to lose an animal :(

Any other suggestions bloggers?

dragonfly said...

Hi Moonroot....I am so sorry to hear your news. A shock. Maybe what 'this guy' says could be practical? I have come across something similar with speakers dotted around broadcasting radio...I wish I had wise and blessings Dragonfly

willow said...

Oh that is sad news. Do you think it was the buzzard then as there was no trace of a fox?

Paul said...

I've never heard of a buzzard attacking outright like that before. I just believed they were scavengers. Then again, if the opportnity arose, any carnivore would.

I'm really sorry to hear about the loss of the gossling :(

You must be quite upset, Susan. Thoughts and light are being sent your way.

Motion lights are good :) And deep fences...

Moonroot said...

I think it was the buzzard, or at least some bird of prey - the buzzard may just have been 'cleaning up'.

A couple of years ago a buzzard was attacking our chickens. We ended up having to put netting over the run after our Silkie hen was killed. It was definitely a buzzrd that was the culprit as not only did we see it in action, but also it got itself caught in the netting once and we had to free it. It left the chickens alone after that - and we had thought that now the goslings are so big they were safe. Clearly not.

Unfortunately the goose run is way too big to be netted over, so we are erecting a scarecrow and putting up other bird scarers, plus trying out a solar powered radio to make noise. The attack happened in broad daylight - probably between 4pm-6pm, so I don't think lights will help.

Ayre said...

Awww I'm so sorry you had to lose Snowy :( Hugs to you!

Anonymous said...

This was so sad to read...I am so sorry.
A couple weeks ago, my friend's pond fish were thriving healthily, and growing quite large when an herring,(we assume) plucked them out of the pond and ate them. It's such a loss to her. They had lived for 2 years and were quite tame and trained to come for their daily feed.
Ahhh, nature's foodchain can be so unfair sometimes.

Jopan said...


Anonymous said...

That's terrible news, I am so sorry. I remember watching a mother magpie sitting on a fence looking down at the remains of her baby (hit by a car). She was quietly calling to him and her face reflected all the emotion you'd expect in a grieving parent. It nearly broke my heart.

Leanne said...

Oh Moonroot :-(

a week ago- 31st july, i wrote about a dying rat, and you commented that it made you cry. well now its my turn to have tears. what a sad sad day, and how awful for you. But worse, how awful for mummy goose. you may remember a few weeks back i wrote about the sudden death of my hen cerridwen, and how Juno went into shock, visibly distressed, pale, gaping and gasping for breath. I really thought i was going to lose her too, through shock.its only now, several weeks on, that she seems to be getting over it. They were nest mates, hatched together. who's to say she doesnt feel grief as we would to lose a sister? I spent ages going out repeatedly to check on her, she was quiet, depressed even, standing alone, tail down, and it made me cry.

Please give extra love to your surviving geese from me. I am so sorry for you all

Leanne x

The Intracerebral Itinerary said...

How terrible for the poor birds! I hope things get better for you all soon.

deborah oak said...

So sorry, Susan. I hope the surviving goslings keep right on with that...surviving and thriving.

Pixiedust said...

I'm so sorry to hear about snowy. It bought tears to my eyes. I've enjoyed the pics of watching them grow.

((((((hugs)))))) to you and the geese.

Pixiedust. xx

solsticedreamer said...

i am so, so sorry~this is my first day back to blogging after the big move and when i saw the post title i knew it would not be good.

Cottage Smallholder said...

Oh this is such bad, sad news. Devastating for you all. Thanks for sharing the sadness.

Big hugs and lots of love to all of you. .

Spicy Cauldron said...

I live in fear of foxes or other prey animals getting to our own flock of 14 hens. So far, and anecdotally from neighbours, there's never been a sighting of a fox but we have had some rare birds of prey as some have been bred and released into the wilds of Yorkshire. I saw one in our garden, sitting on the fence watching the hens, but a friend who breeds all kinds of birds locally says adult birds are safe from Red Kites (that's what they are) and it's her chicks and pullets that have been occasionally horribly lost.

We don't intend to even attempt rearing any chicks until at least 2010, this year being our first as poultry keepers. But when we do have very small baby birds, they will always be under cover, that's for sure. I'm so sorry you had this to deal with.

I agree, though, that their reactions can surprise and upset. We started with four ex-battery hens in February in a small run (now we have a converted kids' wooden play cabin for them all). We were advised the ex-bats could die at any time, but it was still deeply upsetting to find one of the girls, the biggest and most productive, fall ill and die within 24 hours. She went in her sleep, in the night, but her fellow ex-bats, who by then had been joined by a number of purebreed youngsters, were distraught. The youngsters didn't care, I presume because they didn't have the same bond with the one that died. The ex-bats stick together, sharing a hideous past of course.

The thing that upset me most was that they kept looking up at me, as if to say, can't you do anything? Why has this happened? It's hard to say, no it's impossible to say for sure what went through their tiny heads... But it did, and does, make you wonder.

It's no surprise that my beloved has turned almost entirely vegetarian (he still eats meat, rarely, but not chicken) since we started keeping the hens, none of which were ever destined for table, all of them treated as pets, and me having been vegetarian for almost two decades. x