Good for our Town

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

It says something – something good – for our town’s reputation that wildlife lives here alongside people, and thrives. Bird lovers keep their feathered friends fed and watered, and the word is out: We have peacocks strolling through our office complexes.

They weren’t the first exotic visitors here. A flock of wild turkeys took over one of the more luxurious campuses several years ago. On the ground floor level, visitors intending to scope out Peachtree City and its amenities were distracted by watching the big birds.

No report that anyone was ever pecked by the turkeys, but you’d be surprised how frightened some people are by birds, especially as large as these.

I was reminded of those days just last week when we spotted a turkey hen grazing alongside Ga. Highway 74 very near the 74/54 intersection.

When the ponds below our house – Three Ponds, we call them, while the city says Luther Glass Park – were completed in about 1984, someone dropped off a pair of gawky young geese and left them to fend for themselves. Naturally, a sympathetic neighborhood fed them and tried to make pets of them. As long as children were restrained from too much contact, there were no reports of injury, but geese do grow up and inflict bruises on ankles.

These geese, by the way, were white farm geese – not sure what their correct name is, but they are solid white, not the black/gray/white of a Canada goose.

They visited us, I suppose because we lived so close, making their honky noises all the way up the hill, often with a couple of mallards trailing behind. It struck us odd that this funny little flock walked all the way up the hill but flew back down to the ponds, laden with cracked corn, their favorite.

My favorite memory of them was an afternoon when I was sitting on the edge of the deck painting a wooden rocker, and they started crowding up against my back in a gesture that seemed to convey affection.

Inevitably, humans pushed the relationship and the geese pushed back. Bare legs were a favorite target for the big white birds, and soon protective parents took to carrying sticks to beat them off. They called City Hall or the police department several times a day, and we were worried sick that a zealous police officer would overreact and shoot our beautiful friends. One big fellow started brandished his German shepherd toward the geese. Poor dog didn’t much like the job.

When we went on vacation out of town that summer, we were half afraid that the geese would be gone when we returned.

And they were. Our questions about them were answered hesitantly or not at all. No one would tell us what happened to our geese.

Finally a sympathetic police officer provided details. With the help of the public works department and animal control, they loaded the geese into animal crates and took them to a farm on the edge of Senoia – a farm with geese and a sumptuous lake and lots of green grass. We sat and watched them for awhile and they appeared happy.

As long as we’re following up on bird stories, do you recall the stunning Mandarin duck that attracted local birders by joining the flocks of ducks in Three Ponds a couple of years ago? He apparently was released by the proprietor of an exotic animal show, who should know better. Birds raised in captivity usually do not fare well when left to their own devices. Bread and crackers do not make a healthy duck. Oatmeal, cracked corn and sunflower seed are better, and best of all, feed formulated for poultry.

But back to the gaudy Mandarin. We hadn’t seen him since last breeding season and had not really looked for him this spring. He found us. He was on the lowest of the three ponds, leading a string of half-grown ducklings with a female mallard bringing up the rear.

Lots of ducks interbreed, usually without much success. We’ll watch this curious mélange more closely, and I’ll let you know if the youngsters turn out differently.

A screech owl sang to us recently, an unusual gift. We hear barred owls frequently and actually watched a pair start a family in a rotting tree trunk a year or so ago. Either the trunk collapsed under the nest or perhaps predators got the eggs, but the pair was gone when we returned from a trip to the grandkids’ house. Dave got drawings and specs, and built a huge sturdy box to put up in a more solid tree near the original nest.

To no avail. One of the windstorms that seemed bent on snatching the trees from our little lot knocked the owl box down. It had not been used, so Dave wedged it into a clump of trees for the birds to use as a roosting box next winter. Climbing to place it at the height preferred by owls is just too risky for a fellow Dave’s age.

Sorry, Hon. The birds win this time.

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