Not Art Nbr 2: His Phantom Foot

When the birds
come to breakfast
some have lost
legs or feet
to the world,
and I give those more,
their lives
being difficult enough,
but I never
see the ones who have
lost wings.

470 Fidelity Agape (excerpt)

William Mealer
Alethea At Aphelion

© Babsje (

One-legged Canada Goose

Five kayak outings in a row, the young Canada Goose has followed along as I ply the shores of the lake. He hadn’t joined the other gaggles of geese as they readied for migration south, and remained behind after their departure. Instead, he could be found in the company of the ducks in various coves or near the gulls congregating along the boat launch.

As the weeks drew on, several waves of geese migrating from farther north would briefly stop over at the lake – a way station on their route south – and the young goose would join along the fringe of the newcomers, but I noticed he always remained behind when they, too, headed south.

It was then, as autumn gave way to winter, and most of the ducks had migrated, that one day I noticed the young goose seemed to be following me about the lake.

The next day, I came across the goose near one of tunnels where the Great Blue Herons perch, pulling up greens from along the shore. By then, much of the vegetation had dried to straw, but that patch was still a vibrant green, and most days I would sight the goose there on my way to the north. And most days from then on, he would follow along behind the blue kayak, from middle lake into north lake, and back, then east into the shallow cove favored by the herons.

The weather here on Christmas was unexectedly warm for Massachusetts in December, near 60 degrees, and my gift to myself was an hour in the kayak, tucked deep in the slender cove, drinking hot coffee and eating a friend’s home-made cookies. Any my companion there? The young goose – delightful company.

Yesterday was again warm, and so once again I headed out on the water. Once again, the young goose was near that patch of greens. Once again, he followed me, at times paddling behind Blue Boat, at others circling around alongsides to port or starboard, at others pulling out ahead of my bow.

He seemed healthy enough, despite being an unusually solitary goose. His chest was plump, feathers abundant and glossy, eyes clear, tongue pink. The only thing amiss seemed to be a shallow, silver-dollar-sized wound at the back of his head where it joins the neck, but the short feathers there looked like they were growing back in just fine.

So why hadn’t he migrated with the others? I assumed he couldn’t fly, although I had seen him stretch out his wings once when he accidentally came to close to the kayak. It was only for a moment, and so my glimpse of the wings was brief, but I couldn’t see anything obvioulsy wrong with either wing.

It was a mystery, his flightlessness.

© Babsje (

Canada Goose

At the end of the day yesterday, the young goose followed me back to the boathouse, and watched from the shallows as I beached the kayak. I wondered if he would flee in fear were I to stand up full height on shore, and so I slouched down to look smaller as I clambered out of the boat. Apparently that worked, and he simply paddled about in small circles, watching me all the while.

Then he started to preen, just like any other goose, tucking his head under first one wing, the the others, craning his neck over his should to reach his back feathers, nibbling at his tail.

And when he stood up, it hit me – the reason for his flightlessness. He stood there gracefully on his left leg, the stump of his right wavering slightly as he regained his balance, and settled in preening on one leg.

The photos in this post are clearly not “art” (they were taken with my phone). And even though they are not art, there is something curious about them. Look closely at the top photo here, do you see what I see floating on the surface of the water below the stump of his right leg? Doesn’t that reflected shape look like the reflection of an intact goose’s foot? His phantom foot?

It is remarkable how nimble he has been in paddling after me for miles all over the lake, how agile he looks standing on one leg preening, how healthy he seems to be apart from his missing foot. How endearing he is.

And even though these photos aren’t art, the young Canada Goose is.


This week’s photo challenge is Warmth. Thanks to Ben H and WordPress for this topic.

Thanks to Paula for hosting her Black & White Sunday challenge.

Thanks to Cee for hosting her Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Circles and Curves.

Thanks also to Leanne Cole and Laura Mackey for hosting the Monochrome Madness challenge.

A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2014 Babsje. (

Great Blue Heron, Kayaking

Posted on December 28, 2014, in Art, B&W, Birds, Black & White Sunday, Black and White Photo Challenge, Cee's Black & White Challenge, Monochrome Madness Challenge, Monochrome Monday, Nature, Photography, Photos, postaday, Weekly Photo Challenge, Wildlife Photography and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Canada geese are beautiful. I have posted a pic of a pair of them recently. Thank you for the link, Babsje. I wish him good health too.

    • Many thanks, Paula, I’m glad you find them beautiful, too. I learned just today that they can live as long as 24 years or so. Maybe this one will have good fortune. Happy New Years to you. Best, Babsje

  2. Babsje,

    Thanks for this portrait of the persistent resilience of life and your tenderness toward this other being.

    • Many thanks for your very kind comment. What you say about the resilience of life is very true. And yes, this goose has captivated me in unexpected ways, and I feel protective towards it. I hope to reach out to the local wildlife rehabilitators or rescue groups tomorrow.

  3. It’s sad, the poor thing probably lost its foot to a turtle when it was young. I hope that he’s able to survive the winters.

    • You could be right that it was a turtle, although the wound on the back of its head makes me wonder also about the possibility of a fight with another bird, but maybe the two injuries are unrelated. His swimming ability is remarkable given that one foot is missing. I would expect the pattern of forward movement to include a tendency to move in circles, but he paddles in a nice straight line, and quickly, too. Thanks for your kind words.

  4. This is an interesting and really well-written story. I hope there are more chapters to follow.

    • Hi Nick – I’m so glad you like this goose’s story. I, too, am hoping for more to come. As we move deeper into winter, opportunities to get out on the lake in a kayak are dwindling rapidly. I’m planning on reaching out to see if the wildlife rescue folks think he should/could be rescued. Around here, some swans, ducks, geese, gulls, and even herons successfully winter over, and apart from his missing foot, he seems healthy. Thanks for your kind comment.

  5. How very touching. Here’s hoping he doesn’t face a rough New England winter this year.

    • Many thanks! Yes, fingers crossed that this winter continues to be mild. A friend has suggested finding out from a bird store if there is any special food that is good for geese. If winter is extreme like last year, and the goose cannot be rescued, it might be possible to get nourishment out to him on foot.

  6. You are right it does look like a foot in that first photos. How amazing.

    • Hi Margaret – I’m so glad you noticed that, too! That phantom foot only appears in one of the many photos I took. It caught me entirely by surprise! Thanks for visiting and commenting here again.

  7. Great post for all these challenges.

    • Hi Cee – Many thanks for your kind comment! I like being able to multi-purpose a post for several challenges at the same time – that way, each reader gets just the one email. It makes me feel less of a spammer. 🙂

  8. I hope he does survive. I think it would be good if you could help to feed him. Good luck.

    • Hi Joyce – thanks, I hope he does as well. I spoke with a kind naturalist from Audubon who was reassuring about our Goose. If winter stays mild (as it has been thus far) there’s reason to be optimistic. Glad you like this one, thanks for the kind thoughts.

  9. I so enjoyed reading about this ‘left behind’ goose. I hope he makes it through the winter. I’m sure you’ll be checking up on him.

  10. Beautiful post. I’m so teary having read about your little friend. Thank you, and have a blessed new year.

  11. Poor little chap! What must it feel like to be left behind like that? Is he still about?
    Happy 2015 to you, incidentally 🙂

    • Hi Jo – Thanks for your empathetic comment! I’m not sure if he is still around – I attempted to go out kayaking Friday to find him, but the lake had frozen over in the past few days. The woman from Audubon said that he will probably be ok to winter over, which is what the local Canada Goose population does. Happy New Years to you and yours, may your first Monday walk of 2015 set the tone for a great 2015 of walks! Best, Babsje

  12. So I assume he couldn’t take off because he couldn’t use his feet? Whatever became of him?

  1. Pingback: Black & White Sunday: Wish | Lost in Translation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: