Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Mystery of the Missing Geese

A few weeks ago we had a whole gaggle of geese on the farm. The proud Mama Goose had raised a whole family of five goslings successfully, without losing one. They would parade in formation around their enclosure at the bottom of the farm, necks stretched out honking, whenever we drove past.

Over the last two weeks their numbers have been dropping off. We'd drive off early in the morning to school and pass a tell-tale snowdrift of white feathers beside the road. Two disappeared one night, then another a few nights later. We didn't know what was getting them. First of all we blamed the neighbour's dogs who can get over our fence. We didn't ring up and rant because we weren't sure and they had their own geese, so it was unlikely that their dogs would be selective goose killers abroad.

We were down to four geese, one female and three males. Another one went the next night so then there were three. The next morning we set off for school, late and in a hurry and came across my sister-in-law armed with a shovel. She was digging a grave for the last female goose, whose body had been abandoned in the beefwood trees and not even been eaten. The two bereft males stood a little way off honking anxiously, the survival of the species now threatened.

Yesterday I had a house full after school. Middle Daughter had organised a play date with her two friends, Youngest had her sometimes-friend to play (now she is at kindergarten she has been discovering the complicated dynamics of girls' friendships and comes home devastated because this friend said she wouldn't be her friend any more). I had a bread-baking play date going for myself - a friend having asked me to show her how, and her daughter and two friends had come home from school with my son. He, at 10, handled having to come home from school with three girls from his class with great dignity and panache. As soon as he was home though, he detached himself from the proceedings and retired to the sofa with his latest discovery - a book with 101 magic tricks.

Into this hum and bustle of activity came my sister-in-law, big with news. The goose killer had been identified, its corpse lying in the goose pen, caught red-handed. Children and adults poured out of the house to the goose pen.

It was a hefty rooi kat, lynx, caracole - a South African wild cat quite a bit bigger than a domestic cat, reddish fur and black tufts of hair on its long ears. It looked like two of our dogs must have caught and killed it. Two of the border collies have learned to leave the house cats alone, but reckon anything else is fair game. We were all slightly sad to see it pathetically stretched out there in the restios. It was the first time I'd ever seen one - they are nocturnal and it would have been beautiful alive. Now its rather pitiful scraggy remains had flies buzzing round and another grave was awaiting it once we'd all looked at it. But at least the two geese should survive now unless there is a whole family of lynx hiding out somewhere. We just need to go looking for another Mama Goose to ensure that the dynasty continues.

Now our detectives have each got their own magnifying glass, I unwisely told them what we used them for as children. I have memories of melting holes in Wellington boots with ours, and if you weren't too clever you then found you'd holed them below the water line… I advised them against this. Today the sun is shining and they have been burning holes in paper to make ancient maps … luckily we have had plenty of rain this week so the incipient pyromania won't result in any bush fires just yet.

1 comment:

  1. Oh how sad for the geese, especially after Mama managed to bring all her chicks up successfully!! I really do hope you find a new matriarch for the bereft males. But how sad also for the rooikat - they are gorgeous creatures and I guess it was only doing as its instincts told him. Nature - not for the fainthearted.

    And I rememebr spending many hours trying unsuccessfully to burn paper with cheap magnifying glasses - clearly I wasn't patient enough!


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