My companion and I were driving down the busy six lane thoroughfare known here in Rochester as Jefferson Road yesterday evening. It was the tail end of rush hour traffic, and as we were approaching the intersection out toward Marketplace Mall, I noticed an odd sight. He noticed it at the same time.
A seagull appeared to be disoriented in flight, circling in the middle of the stoplights as if he would suddenly drop. Two other seagulls appeared to be watching. He flew out of the intersection, seemingly tired and then we were surprised to see another take his place. My friend had been worried about the seagull, but as the moments passed, it occurred to me that something tasty had fallen to the pavement and the seagulls wanted to eat it but couldn’t due to the press of traffic. I guessed a bag of potato chips or french fries (there were three competing fast food chains on the right side of the intersection. As we approached, I looked at the ground where the seagulls had been circling. There was a small dead animal there. I couldn’t tell if it was a squirrel, there were no recognizable body parts on it. Whatever had run it over had really clobbered it. I couldn’t distinguish its pelt, but as we passed the corner on the right, we saw a small family of geese, two parents and three goslings. They were moving about in a small circle in the ditch looking back towards the road expectantly.
“Look at the cute baby geese,” I told my friend, and as we went further down the road I started comparing the pelt of those downy babies to that of the road kill, which seemed the wrong shape and color to be a gosling.
Coming back the other way on the thoroughfare, traffic seemed to be worse on one side. We noticed that several vehicles were stopped but there had been no accident. Two women were trying to coax the entire family of geese out of the road to the side. The pair of adults were very distressed. One of them was chasing one of the women, its tail feathers splayed out like knives in a back alley skirmish. Both adults were hissing and arching their necks at the two puzzled women. Canadian geese are the most docile, but these two were really upset.
Later it occurred to me what probably happened. Two adult geese and their four little babies had been crossing the thoroughfare at the corner. One of the babies got left behind somehow, rushed to catch up and was crushed under the wheels of a car that had gotten into the turn lane. The family had waited in the ditch for the last one to catch up and then tried to go back to find the little lost one.
Just in case you wondered if Canada geese can count: if you suddenly lost one of your kids, how long would you keep going back to look for him or her?