Great Blue Heron’s Guest…Flightless Goose?

One-legged Canada Goose - babsjeheron © Babsje (

Canada Goose – babsjeheron


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

Five kayak outings in a row, the young Canada Goose followed along as I plied 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.

One 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 that year was unexpectedly 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.

The day after 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 alongside 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 obviously wrong with either wing.

It was a mystery, his flightlessness.

© Babsje (

Canada Goose -babsjeheron

At the end of that day, 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, then 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 had 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 post is prompted by Cee Neuner, Debbie Smyth, Jez Braithwaite and the creative and inspiring Lens Artists Tina, Amy, Patti, and Leya, all of whom encourage the community of photographers and writers.

This week’s Lens Artist challenge comes from Ann-Christine. The topic is Weird and Wonderful. Do you think it weird to see a one-legged Goose? Was it wonderful that the Goose survived as long as it did?

Please click the links below to see the beautiful offerings from these wonderful photographers.

Thanks to Cee for her CBWC: Vanishing Point. I am stretching things a bit with this topic. The point of the Goose’s leg vanishes into space where his foot should appear.
Thanks to Debbie for her Six Word Saturday At the End of the Pier. The title is the requisite six words long.

Thanks to Jez for the Water Water Everywhere Challenge. Water is in all the photos here today.
From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 171: Weird and Wonderful .
From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 171: Weird and Wonderful .

From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 171: Weird and Wonderful .

From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 171: Weird and Wonderful .


Folks, now that some areas are opening back up, please consider supporting your local Arts communities – whether music, theater, crafts, visual arts venues, and others. All have been impacted over the past year and a half and they need your love more than ever.

Natick Center Cultural District logo

Natick Center Cultural District


The Natick Center Cultural District is situated in a friendly, classic New England town hosting a vibrant, contemporary fusion of art, culture and business. Learn more!


My brick & mortar presence in Massachusetts dates back to 2009 in several local venues/galleries.

Please watch this space for news of my upcoming Winter 2022 gallery show.

TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick
Natick Town Hall
Five Crows Gallery in Natick
Audubon Sanctuary

Be a fly on the wall! Please CLICK HERE to see the Great Blue Herons gracing the gallery walls.


Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

May the Muse be with you.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2003-2021 Babsje. (

Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick

Posted on October 30, 2021, in # Lens-Artists, ardea herodias, Birds, Inspiration, Kayaking, Nature, Photography, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Did he adopt you as his human friend?

  2. Interesting Babsje—I’d have expected him to be even more wary of you if he couldn’t fly away. Do you suppose he didn’t fly because he knew he couldn’t land correctly? Poor guy was probably lonely.

    • Thanks for your great questions Tina. I don’t know for sure. I have seen other one-legged birds take flight and also land, but they were much smaller – European Starlings. Even healthy Geese need a lot of runway to take off. Landings can be pretty dramatic. They are indeed social birds and he probably dis appreciate having company. Besy6, Babsje

  3. I think he enjoyed your comapany too!

  4. These birds are a social species. I wonder how he lost his foot? Are there any predators around the lake? A Fox could have done that.
    I do hope he was able to make it through winter ok?

    • Many thanks for your kind comment, Wayne. Yes, there are predators such as snapping Turtles and Foxes. Even filament from a fisherman’s line could have encircled his lower leg. And you’re right – Geese are social birds and I was encouraged seeing him try to join the other goosies that stopped over temporarily on their southbound migration. I don’t know if he survived the winter. We do have Mute Swans year-round, and some Great Blue Herons too – I have seen both breeds in several different areas where the water remains open and flowing near tunnels. I like to think the plucky Goose was lucky. Best, Babsje

  5. I love “ the gift you gave yourself for an hour”. WITH you companion. Perfect autumn day, I’d say.

    Hope the goose is ok for the winter. I think maybe he picked you as well. Sweet story. There must be a follow up. Donna.

    • Hi Donna. I’m glad you liked this story, thanks for your thoughtful comment. When I think back, I had no idea the Goose was missing a foot until that one chance encounter when he stood up on shore to preen. I have many photos of him following me around the lake over many weeks, but he just looks like any other Goose floating along. Unless I were to see him standing out of the water again, I wouldn’t be able to identify him. So I have no idea if he returned to the lake the flowing spring. I like to think so and maybe there are some of his descendants around. Best, Babsje

  6. Poor lonely beauty. Beautiful narrative.

    • Hi Cindy. Thanks so much for saying that. I’m glad you like this one-legged one. And you’re right – he must have been lonely. I like to think he somehow found a mate and his little offspring grew up on that lake. I’ve seen other one-legged birds partner up. Best, Babsje

  7. What a lovely story, Babsje. Very moving and heartfelt.

  8. Such a bittersweet thing to see beautiful creatures with injuries/ birth defects and try to enjoy the moment with them without thinking too much about their future. Wonderful story, Babsje.

  9. Fascinating story, Babsje. I guess if dogs can get around on land with three legs, a goose can paddle with one, although I feel as if he’d go around in circles. 🙂 I’d love to try kayaking sometime. Have a wonder-filled weekend.


  10. Another wonderful, story of your encounters with our marvelous feathered friends 👏 I love canada geese, they are so elegant & photogenic; I hope this guy was able to migrate with the others & get a safe winter home 🤞

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