Archive for April 8th, 2009


Recently there have been platoons of Canada Geese paddling up and down the river. They are attracted to a section of the river that lies just to the west of the house because the river bank slopes gently up to a farmer’s field at that point. They are thus afforded easy access to a favoured gleaning territory. Having lived in the Greater Toronto Area for many years, I am accustomed to Canada Geese that have become integrated into the fabric of the city. They hang out in parks, overwintering there, accepting handouts from park visitors. Indeed, Canada Geese have become a considerable headache for city officials who must deal with the clean up of their messy droppings, and the occasional overaggressive bird who threatens visitors. The problem is that the same features that people enjoy in a park, lush lawns and sparkling water, are exactly what geese prefer. Efforts to control geese populations have included oiling eggs to prevent them from hatching and employing handlers with trained dogs to harass the geese and encourage them to move on. The geese around here are not so citified. When they catch sight of me they immediately begin a retreat, sometimes forming a tidy row of geese.


On Sunday, when Birdgirl was visiting, she noticed someone new on the river, a solitary goose making its way downstream. It appeared to be a domestic goose that had perhaps escaped from a local farmyard. After an absence of a few days, the stranger reappeared, this time in the company of 8 or 10 Canada Geese and a pair of Mallard ducks. The newcomer is a Brown China goose. Domestic Chinese geese originated from wild Swan Geese (Anser cygnoides) stock. It is thought that geese are among the oldest of domesticated animals, with archaeological evidence for domesticated geese in Egypt 3000 years or more ago. Domestic geese are generally larger than their wild kin, and are not usually strong fliers. Brown China Geese can breed with Canada Geese and produce hybrid offspring. The photo below, of two hybrids and their Canada Goose parent, is from Feathersite.com (Photo courtesy of Kathy Reeves).

Geese are sometimes kept as pets or guard animals. For the story of April and Fool, read Willow Miranda’s “Everyone Should Have A Goose At Least Once In Their Life“.


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When walking in the woods on the weekend, this branch, thickly covered with a mass of black, lumpy stuff was observed. It proved to be a fungus, Black Witch’s Butter (Exidia glandulosa), one of the jelly fungi. Although it looked rather repulsive, the black lumps are dry to the touch, not sticky, and yield slightly to pressure in a jelly-like way. In dry weather, the fruitbodies of most jelly fungi lose water and become rough and shrivelled, almost disappearing. In rainy weather, however, they quickly absorb water and the fruitbodies recover their gelatinous, full shape. Thus, jelly fungi can appear quickly after a rain storm, and we have recently had plenty of rainfall to plump up this specimen. Black Witch’s Butter is a widespread fungus and fruits on the twigs and branches of hardwood trees.


Another branch played host to both Black Witch’s Butter and a small, reddish bracket fungus Peniophora rufa. This fungus features flat, scattered fruitbodies with coarsely wrinkled surfaces. It is also a widespread fungus and not uncommon. It is often found on the dead but still bark-covered branches of aspens. Set off by the green of club moss, this branch made a colourful display.

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