OUTDOORS COLUMN: Canadians know more than just hockey

Bob Kornegay

Bob Kornegay

I like the Canadians I’ve met. They’re nice folks. They drive south in winter, bringing with them their culture, customs and money. Those with whom I’ve spent time are kind, courteous and easy to befriend. One was actually kind enough years ago to help me, a novice birder, identify a tough-to-see winter-plumage loon on St. Andrews Bay. He thought I was weird, but expressed the opinion with great patience and kindness.

Long ago we christened these north-of-the-border visitors “Snowbirds.” It’s a title they wear with amusement and pride, taking no offense. Good sports, these Canadians. I look forward to their “migration” every season.

Of course, as a waterfowler, there are other Canadian migrants for whom I harbor affection as well. They fly, rather than drive, south in winter. They stay awhile and then, like the Snowbirds, return north to escape the oppressive heat and humidity of a Deep South summer. We have nicknames for them, too. Monikers like “sprig,” “spoonbill,” “greenhead” and “can.” It’s mighty hard to be sad when the southbound ducks and geese are on the wing.

Unlike their human counterparts, these latter migrants aren’t especially friendly. They’re a mite standoffish, in fact. Can’t really blame ‘em, though. Being shot at makes me a little testy, too.

This primordial seasonal journey from the Far North to my beloved Redneckia and back again is a time-honored ritual for all Canadians, human and feathered alike. It is Nature most fascinating.

So, tell me, what is it with the Canada goose? What happened?

A lot of Canada geese have “flown” into the face of tradition. They’ve shunned migration to come south and stay. I don’t know why. They don’t hunt, fish, drink beer, or drive pickups through mud bogs. Instead they just sorta hang around, chasing children off public beaches, obstructing air traffic and pooping on golf course putting greens. Couldn’t they just as well do that up north during spring and summer?

I used to thrill to the sound of the first Northern honkers arriving in the fall. It gave me (no pun intended) goose bumps to watch those lovely V-formations against the background of a full moon on a crisp November night. Now that once-beloved honk is a warning alarm. “Quick, Earnestine, protect Little Timmy while I guard the picnic basket!

Goose gangs are everywhere. They terrorize public parks, swimming pools and marina parking lots. They hang around airports like Depression-era hobos in 1930s railroad yards. They chase old, fat outdoor writers off hiking trails and out of fishing holes. They carry switchblades (or would if they had pockets). Next thing you know they’ll even have me feeling sorry for golfers. Never thought I’d see the day.

A few years back, a few select Southern states opened special early goose seasons to combat this ever-growing resident-goose glut. I was excited at first, but it soon palled on me. There’s just no sport in it. Resident Canadians aren’t at all like their migratory brethren. They’re largely just fat, lazy, flightless sloths. They can’t be traditionally lured and few waterfowling equipment suppliers carry ham sandwich and potato chip decoys. On the other hand, one does derive a certain amount of satisfaction seeing one fold and fall. I’m a firm supporter of justifiable homicide.

Thus far, thank goodness, this resident Canada dilemma is isolated. No other waterfowl species has seen fit to rebel against ages-old genetic programming. Except maybe this one flock of late-staying teal I saw last April. I couldn’t help noticing a smart-aleck bluewing drake with an “I-ain’t-goin’-nowhere” look in his eye. I just hope the anomaly doesn’t eventually spill over into the Snowbird population. That’d be a shame.

We might have to ban two-legged Canadians from beaches and golf courses, too.