It’s the chicken and the egg argument—do animals display humanistic behaviors, or do we just think they do? Or do we see these behaviors precisely because we are all animals? Why do I ask? Let me explain.
After several hours of Zoom meetings where the spoken language was English, but I still needed a translator—ever sit through real estate agents running yearly projections and next year outcomes? It’s like sitting in on a Football team studying film—there’s a lot of gobbledygook, you know-s, and then suddenly, gold! True gold! Any translation means nothing if one doesn’t understand the plays. Anyway, to calm the voices ping-ponging in my head, I ran away to my lake with my dog.
It’s been cold around here lately, as in capital BRRR, and I haven’t wanted to wrap up in my coat, hat, and gloves to venture outside, so it had been a few days since we’d been on a walk (know how hard it is to put mittens on a dog?)
It was strange, up at the lake, Zoey and I were almost entirely alone. On most days, joggers, baby strolling mamas, and speed walkers arrive in the morning and return again in the evening. However, at l:00 in the afternoon, Zoey and I had the place to ourselves (save for the birds that are always shuffling around, begging for bits of peanut butter sandwiches, the pigs! ). This was when a giant swarm of Canadian Geese entered the Salt Lake Valley.
They made a big show of it, of course, like out-of-towners usually do. They swooped in as a tremendous storm, circling the lake, like rimming an invisible bowl, honking loudly, and making a big production.
“Hey! Good afternoon!”
“ We’ve arrived, eh?”
“Yeah, glad to be here!” (you know how Canadian Geese talk smack!)
The dark gray birds then skidded across the water to a stop, off the beach’s end, and at the well homed pier of the local ducks. The Mallards were there on the opposite side, bobbing in the wake, pointing their beaks towards the new arrivals, stunned.
The ducks were not happy. I could feel the tension, smell the disgruntled-ness in the air. Intruders had come to steal the best sunspots and gobble up all the birdseed, and Wonder bread pieces dropped near the site.
“There goes the neighborhood!”
“Who do they think they are? They can’t just swoop in and set up shop wherever they want! There are laws against that, aren’t there?”
“Someone should build something they can’t get over. Something very long and very tall, you know, like a wall!”
Why not a wall? Name one Canadian Goose that is known to dig. They’re not like those weirdos, those Ostriches from Down Under! Then again, do they dig, or do they just headbutt the sand until the ground collapses?
Anyway, there has always been soft segregation among the birds at the lake. The Mallards and other ducks generally mingle along the water’s edges and across the lawns, with the odd American Coot in the mix. The Seagulls keep to themselves on one end of the lake or else congregate in the middle of the water. And all stay away from the Swans that gather in lines along the asphalt path and hiss one by one as we walk past.
Now the birds from way up north have come to the lake to winter. What are the poor old locals supposed to do? Hunker down, dole out stale breadcrumbs? Hideout and wait for spring or fly south?
I tried to take a Canadian infiltration photo, but Zoey wouldn’t hold still long enough for me to get a good shot. This morning, I took her back, hoping I could get evidence that the geese were here, and the ducks were upset about it, but I found nothing.
Today, the Mallards were on their beach and waddling up and down their grass hills as if nothing had happened. But I know what I saw, and from what I know of the habits of the birds who live there, I believe something happened to the Canadian Geese.
Maybe it was nothing! Perhaps the lake is like a Motel 6, and the geese were simply passing through for the night. Or maybe, as I suspect just by looking at those black beady eyes, the lake is more like the Bates Motel, and the birds who live on it are not normal, but Norman.