Geese at Lake Winona vs. the ‘pale-faced intruders’


From: Dick Gallien

It’s great to see James and Mary Ellen Puz goosing Winona’s leaders, who are making efforts to protect a few complaining prudes from a little doo doo. Four hundred acre Lake Winona has a mere six broods of five gooslings a season, each with a gander “protecting” his brooding partner for only 28 days (as they have been doing for thousands of years before the pale-faced trespassers arrived), after which, snapping turtles and northern pike become their greatest threat. Meanwhile, Rochester’s 30-acre Silver Lake, with open water year-round, famously attracts 30,000-plus giant Canada geese each fall — many migrating 600 miles non-stop from Canada to a welcoming “Sanctuary City” — while Lake Winona is frozen. Where a gosling learns to fly is its home until winter and the lack of open water forces it to migrate. The crippled geese that have survived crash landings near Silver Lake for years, never to fly again, have no reason to leave Rochester and continue to expand in the surrounding area.

For 40 years, we’ve had 25-plus giant Canada geese at The Winona Farm. One spring, before coyotes moved in, eight pair of geese nested safely around the ponds and brought their broods up near the house for safety; however, since there’s no open water here or at the lake, they are forced to migrate. One spring, three among the returnees came happily honking into the farmyard with large blue neckbands bearing white numbers. The DNR found that they had been banded in a Fed. Mississippi River Refuge in the southeast corner of Arkansas. They had survived a 2,000-mile round trip, half the time while being shot at.

About 10 years ago, Pat Durnen and Sons voluntarily put in a number of goose and wood duck houses on the farm ponds, as did some boys from Riverway. Recently, Terry Breza — who decided when he visited this farm about six times as a fourth grader with his class from St. Stans that he wanted to someday live in the country and now lives in the original Carl Goetzman farmstead just across the valley — helped put up some goose nests here, made with pickup tire casings bolted to a steel plate and attached to a pipe pounded into shallow ponds. A few of these nests, placed 20 feet off the lake shore with something for the gander to stand guard on, would be an interesting experiment. At the right distance they would allow park visitors a chance to watch the “mother in residence” while posing no threat to her gallant husband on guard.

However, in that the “adults in the room” have suggested oiling and shaking the eggs as though they are foreign aliens in disguise, thus setting the lowest bar for vandalism, let’s hope that those at the lake, as at the farm, will look forward to the bouncing heads in each nest, jumping into our Canada goose sanctuaries and proudly setting sail behind their pa, with ma bringing up the rear, while always keeping a suspicious eye on those “pale-faced intruders.”


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