The Great Migration Outside My Window

by Kristine Mietzner

Eyelids closed, I postpone viewing the new day. I linger in dreamtime until a familiar honking breaks the morning stillness in Benicia, California, a waterside community thirty miles north of San Francisco. The world outside my window rests under the great Pacific flyway, the north-south path of North American migratory birds. 

Eyes wide open; I peer through the bedroom window in time to see Canada geese, a trio in flight, noisily bound elsewhere, calling to one another, beaks pointed, necks stretched; chests lifted upward, wings flapping hard. I track their flight over Southampton Bay, the cove on Benicia’s west end. The pale gray clouds of the marine layer blanket the opposite shore of the Carquinez Strait. This wide watery ribbon funnels fully half of California’s water drainage through a deep channel on its way to the Pacific Ocean.   

Cuddling under a soft, embroidered, cotton quilt, while I marvel at the waterfowl, Franz Kafka’s translated words come to mind.  

You do not need to leave your room.

Remain sitting at your table and listen.

Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, and solitary.

The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, 

it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

The universe blesses Benicia with a significant year-round presence of waterfowl—mallards, coots, the great blue heron, and snowy egret. Spring brings an upswing in activity: nesting and the annual migration of some birds to points north. 

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words + photos by Alan Fritzberg


OMG.  There’s a goose sitting in a flowerpot on the neighbor’s dock!  There began a month plus of watching a goose nesting in what would seem like an odd, very visible and seemingly vulnerable location for the process on the shore of Lake Whatcom in Bellingham, Washington. 

My 1950s boyhood memories of Canada geese are of my father dreaming of seeing one close enough to have a shot at. Near our house between Bellingham and the Canadian border they were usually seen only high overhead.

Nowadays, as we all know, geese are seemingly everywhere there is water and, especially, freshly cut grass.

The geese we see in our area are nonmigratory residents, thanks to the U. S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. In response to declining goose populations in the first half of the 20th century, eggs were incubated separately from parents so the goslings could be raised without being taught to migrate. Success in this recovery endeavor was defined as improved hunting opportunities.

Being in the habit of shooing geese off the property, how should I react to a goose that has decided to nest in a large flowerpot on a neighbor’s dock? My first inclination was to move the goose along to the next grassy yard.

Our neighbor who put the flowerpot on the dock was excited to see a goose sitting in it. I realized it was not my role to call a halt or try to figure out how to oil the eggs or whatever one does to un-fertilize them in order to make a small impact in retarding the population growth of our western resident Branta Canadensis moffitti.

Questions Arose

Was the goose a young first timer and didn’t know any better? Could it actually nest in a 15-inch diameter flowerpot and incubate eggs to hatching status? Was it vulnerable in so conspicuous a spot?

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