Hammock Island in Bodkin Creek is a tiny island that Canadian geese use as a summer retreat. They arrive just as boating season begins, hatching chicks and then flying off when the baby geese are grown. The island is also home of a marina that encircles the island about half-way round with sailboats.
This past summer, a Canadian goose laid eggs and the normal way of nature shifted. A brownish-grey and white gander showed up. “He stood guard over a female Canadian for weeks waiting for the eggs to hatch.” says Carol Durr, owner of Hammock Island.
“Much of the time the goose was guarding his mistress,” Carol says “the Canadian “husband” was hanging around in the water nearby. A whole new kind of ‘ménage à trois’!”
The nest was just a few feet from the boater’s walkway in a flower bed. That foreign goose hissed and strutted when anyone went by. But while the other eggs hatched, this mother sat. And she sat. Those eggs never hatched and the female eventually got up and went away, leaving the eggs behind, along with “Toulouse,” the European goose.
Islanders figure he’s a Toulouse goose of the kind that originated in France. But he also looks close to a greylag goose usually found in Great Britain. But either explains why he looks like the type of goose found in old children’s books.
Larry Hindman, Maryland Department of Natural Resources waterfowl project leader, believes Toulouse is a domestic goose, bred to hang around and be plump. Because of that he can only swim; he’s too big to fly.
“Because of its large size, I do not believe it (Toulouse) flew into the area with the local Canadian geese,” Larry says. Canadian geese are athletes of the air. Toulouse is more of a ‘bubba’ goose with lots of bluster and not much action.
Larry thinks the gander was living nearby and the owner stopped feeding it, released it into the wild or Toulouse simply decided to call it quits and swam away to a more pleasant place.
This type of goose can live 20-22 years on average. Canadian geese will put up with him, but not much else. Domestic geese can breed with Canadians, but their offspring rarely live and if they do, they can’t reproduce. He’s a freshwater goose living on the brackish Bodkin Creek and drinks from a bucket of water on the pier. He also dips his head and neck in the bucket in attempts to get water to his back and other parts. One islander actually saw him in the bucket.
Toulouse has gotten better acquainted with the sailors and he now stands watch over the island. He’ll lightly peck at someone reading a book while sitting in the lawn chairs in an attempt to get fed. He’ll hiss at anyone visiting the island who seems threatening.
But he’s on his own. Never quite fitting in.
“A small flock of Canadians were on the island this a.m., and when they left, our Toulouse really wanted to join them – but his flight skills are not up to his catching them,” says Carol in an email.
Now Hammock Islanders are worried about what’s going to happen during the winter when the sailors are no long around to supplement his food. There’s no home in Maryland for unwanted geese. And poultry swaps at local farm sales have been shutdown for the time being due to Avian Influenza (bird flu).
So far he’s had an offer to be a pet goose on the Magothy River. And Carol says he’s been offered a trip to Florida at the end of October.
Follow up from Carol (October 2015):
“Today we took Mr. Toulouse Goose to his new home: Work Horse Rescue and Exotics near Denton, MD.