On April 24, 2024
Living the Dream

Loon vs. Canada goose: A battle for Goose Poop Island

I am pretty sure she was a little disappointed when I turned into the Kent Pond parking lot. Can someone really get excited about the 100 acre pond that you pass by all year long on the way to the resort or to work? It is definitely not expected when someone says “Will you take me paddling in your canoe sometime?” One probably dreams of the grandiose views of the Chittenden Reservoir, the playfulness of Woodward Reservoir or the solitude of Lake Ninevah.

Anyway, it was 40 F. with flurries. Bodies covered in multiple layers of clothing were then squished into life jackets, because you have to give yourself a fighting chance in the cold of waters of spring. There was ice on the lake just last week!

Within seven minutes of being on the water, we watched as a loon rowed his wings across the lake until he actually had enough momentum to take off! Although the loon didn’t soar into the sky like the constantly threatening bald eagles and hawks, it was beautiful. The only other time I have ever seen a loon fly was our first ladies’ paddle after Barb passed away. Nature can be really freaky sometimes.

Well today, we got to see a loon fly. One of four grown loons on the lake today. Our assumption was that last year’s loonlet found a life partner during the summer months and brought it back to Vermont to live with her parents. It’s the story that I made up, watching the one loon flit back and forth between a couple and a solo bird. A daughter caught between her family and her boyfriend. I had a whole storyline growing in my head.

From there, the loons kept buzzing our canoe. There we were, watching the loons from an appropriate distance when one would just pop right up next to the canoe! And then we have to slam on the brakes, turn the boat around as quickly as possible and flee the newly claimed loon area. I didn’t realize at the time, but I think the loon was trying to keep us away from the nesting island, more aptly named Goose Poop Island.

By Merisa Sherman
Local musician Jenny Porter sits the bow through the reeds on Kent Pond.

Because, unbeknownst to us, the nesting island is currently in territorial dispute. You see, the loons always nest on that island and have been since they discovered Kent Pond quite a few years ago. But recently, the Canada geese have been arriving earlier and taking the island. One year they decided to each take one side of the island. This is not that year.

Today, the proud goose dad decided that he had enough of the four loons circling the island and decided to dive bomb the four pack. The goose took one of the loons by the neck and the turf war become real. Two of the loons quickly skittered away, while the third performed the famed “penguin dance,” standing up as tall as possible and flapping his wings like Satan laughing during War Pigs. It wasn’t enough. The attacked loon quickly dove underwater, taking the aggressive goose down with him. For a few moments, we saw nothing of the two, presumably caught in a life or death battle beneath the surface. When finally they come back up for air, the goose calmly flew back to the island and the two remaining geese took off, wing rowing.

It was heart wrenching to watch. Canada Geese must certainly be the most evil and useless birds on the planet. All they do is poop and reproduce and hiss and poop some more. My first lifeguarding job included cleaning up all the poop every morning. No sanitary standards back then, just me, a bucket and a beach shovel. And now we had seen just how evil these geese can be. Also, I am now a little frightened of them because I didn’t think they could pull off a dive bomb attack.

But it gets worse — maybe. Another 3/4 lap around the increasingly windy lake and we see a loon scooting its way back into the water. A loon was on land! Loons only go on shore when they are injured or need to nest. So either the female loon, having accepted the loss of the nesting island, chose to nest on shore, or the loon was so injured from the goose attack…

As I write this, we are still unsure if the fourth loon has survived or if we will soon be seeing a fifth or sixth loon take residence on Kent Pond. But caution reigns because a hawk was looking very hungry today and rumors abound of two bald eagles this year.

It should be a wonderful summer for kayaking on the pond — it’s only April and already so much nature!

Merisa Sherman is a long-time Killington resident, local Realtor®, Killington town lister and member of the Development Review Board. She is also Coach PomPom. Share your Killington stories at Merisa.Sherman@SothebysRealty.com.

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