By Pat Foster-Turley
June 30, 2022
During our early years in our home bordering a retention pond on Amelia Island our yard was full of wild nature. We happily admired the frogs and snakes and turtles that called our yard home. I planted lots of vegetables and flowers that produced ample rewards for me. We happily admired the visiting egrets and herons at the pond and wrote almost daily in a journal about the different sights and sounds we witnessed.
But now, our home has turned into a barnyard. Many of the native species have disappeared due to the contamination of the retention pond with the toxins like herbicides and pesticides it was designed to retain. And now we spend more of our time chasing rabbits and geese away then we do admiring anything else.
The rabbits were a driving force in modifying my veggie garden. Over the years we tried “rabbit-proof” fencing (but they were small enough to go through it). We tried store-bought rabbit repellents, and even human hair that some said keeps rabbits away (no luck with either). We had a solid fence installed (they dug under it).
We installed elevated garden beds (that worked fine until they collapsed and the rabbits then ate the plants). We tried trapping and relocating the rabbits (but some always returned). Now our current resident rabbit has two offspring. And we have given up. Whatever the rabbits eat, good for them. Aside from what is in my newly installed elevated beds, we gave up on fighting rabbits.
Then came the geese. Over the years Canada geese have increasingly moved onto Amelia Island. They can be seen congregating at water features all over our neighborhoods and golf courses, stopping traffic as they leisurely strut across our streets. For a number of years we had a pair of geese nesting every spring by the outflow to the retention pond. We tolerated them, when for a week or two they brought their young to our bird feeders to fill up on the dropped seed but they always left soon after.
This year is different. The resident pair of geese lost their nest and eggs when the pond flooded and they disconsolately wandered away chick-less. But now they have been replaced in our pond by a family of five that seem as if they are here to stay. Each morning the two adults and three nearly grown chicks climb out of the retention pond and stride through the woods to visit our bird feeders. OK, not so bad. But oh no! They are coming up on our back patio when no one is watching, and leave smelly large gooey brown deposits all over the place which I have to hose off every day. And they have managed to eat all the cherry tomatoes in my patio pot—above the rabbit’s reach but apparently not the geese’s. This cannot continue.
So now it is the goose wars. From my vantage point in bed I can watch them waddle out of the woods toward the feeders. Either Bucko or I run out waving our arms, yelling “Git, Git” and now, even throwing small rocks at them (which never manage to hit their targets). I have been trying to only put a little birdseed at a time in the feeders for the cardinals, hoping that not much still falls below for the geese. But I know I inadvertently made matters worse once by tossing old cherries out near the feeders. This treat motivated the geese to keep looking again, and again, and again, even in the absence of cherries and little grain.
So now Bucko has developed a new plan. He has positioned trellises to block the geese’s path to our backyard. Today was the first trial of this method and it was a failure. Early, at first light, Bucko saw the geese circumventing the fence by squeezing around it, and he ran out to chase them. The young got trapped against the fence, one got momentarily caught and they all managed to slip away, frightened this time, we hoped. But no. In less than fifteen minutes the geese were back again, and all managed to squeeze through the trellis gaps to get back at the feeders and our patio. Bucko has just put another roadblock up for them against the trellises—a solid barrier they can’t get through. Yet.
But I’m pretty sure the geese will win the contest for our back yard, just like the rabbits did. Sigh. Maybe I should grow houseplants instead.
Pat Foster-Turley, PhD is a zoologist on Amelia Island. She welcomes your nature questions and observations. [email protected]