SUBJECT :Unobtrusive, silent, disciplined parenting made the birds stand out; but in the end, the nest was empty 

By - Sharada Natarajan

August 11, 2019: Last month, I saw them. I was sitting in the deck, overlooking a pond right opposite the backyard of my son’s house in Minneapolis, Minnesota State, U.S., sipping a cup of coffee and enjoying the weather in its phase of transition to summer.

They were gliding along in one straight line, in the cool, crystal waters of the pond, the father at the head of the procession (it must be the father, because of its size), followed by five cute goslings and lastly the mother. That was the first time I saw them. Did they migrate from somewhere or had I missed seeing them before? They couldn’t have migrated because the goslings were too young to fly.

Minnesota State, famous for its lakes and ponds, is known as the “land of 10,000 lakes”. During the migratory seasons of spring and fall, gaggles of geese blanket the waterbodies. It is a spectacular sight at dawn, the huge birds flying to the pond, 25 to 30 of them in the V formation, make a perfect landing, frolic around in the waters, chill out on the lawns and at dusk, take off in the same fashion. I wonder if they have any group allegiance.

This particular family of geese seemed to have made this pond their permanent residence, at least for rearing their young ones. The migratory season has not yet started, and the pond was for their exclusive use. The family of seven was always there whenever I looked through our large kitchen window. The green lawns on all four sides of the pond and the wild growth of shrubs fringing the shoreline provided a perennial supply of food — leaves, seeds, berries and insects — for the birds.

Their discipline was amazing. The father would be the first to climb up the banks or glide into the waters, followed by the goslings, one behind the other, and the mother at the end. When the goslings were tiny specks on the waters, the parents would wait for them all to form the line, do a quick check, and then proceed. They would select one bank of the pond each day for grazing, have a siesta burying their heads into the feathers, and when one of them woke up, all would immediately wiggle out of their slumber.

Two days ago, I noticed the young ones had grown up and were almost the size of their parents, but the ceremonial procession in and out of the pond continued. There was never any obvious danger for the young ones in the pond, as they were having the sole rights to its enjoyment and occupation, except for a white crane in a meditative mood in a far end of the pond’s shores.

Furthermore, the little ones had outgrown the period of vulnerability, but the security blanket still was in place.

Such a close-knit family. They don’t fight or meddle with one another. They don’t even play around in the waters. Simply glide along in one straight line from shore to shore in an almost saintly way of disciplined life.

When will the young ones be relieved of the parental supervision? Do they have a cut-off period? When will they seek their own partners and start a life of their own? Will they fly off one day, leaving their parents to go through an empty nest syndrome?

I finished writing this, looked out of the windows and alas, they were not there. The whole family had left. Just like that. As though they read my thoughts. The pond’s waters glistened in the afternoon sun as I felt a sudden melancholy.