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Published: Friday, 4/29/2011

Fowl family afoot at post office

Nesting geese forgo the wild, hunker down near front door

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A male Canada goose named Harry patrols the post office grounds on South Detroit Avenue, where his mate, Sally, has laid her eggs near the building's entrance. A male Canada goose named Harry patrols the post office grounds on South Detroit Avenue, where his mate, Sally, has laid her eggs near the building's entrance.
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For sure, nobody knows when Harry met Sally.

What is certain: the loosey-goosey couple are acting all lovey-dovey at a South Toledo post office.

In a planter box near the front door, she perches atop a half-dozen or so eggs; he prowls the parking lot, ever on guard.

They've been there -- day and night, night and day -- for about three weeks, and by next week, postal patrons predict, Sally will be a mother goose and Harry will have hatchlings to care for.

For now, folks are fussing over the feathered fowl, tossing to them pieces of pita bread, goldfish-shaped crackers, and cracked corn. One day, someone threw a half-eaten cheeseburger into the mix. Chirpy sparrows squabble over bits and pieces, and squirrels help themselves to leftover scraps.

A dish near Sally is filled regularly with fresh water.

"We've adopted them as much as they've adopted us," said Mark Heminger, window clerk at the post office on Detroit Avenue.

In recent weeks, many customers have asked, "Do you know there are ducks out there?" And postal workers nicely note that those aren't ducks; those are geese.

Amy Bruecken of South Toledo said she's lived in the area 50 years and never has seen a situation such as this before at the post office. "It's odd. They're cute. They're not hurting anyone."

Harry hisses from time to time if a patron seems to dally too long near Sally, but otherwise, his only aggression is toward his reflection in the front door.

"When Harry sees himself, he fights with himself. It is always a draw; there is not any winner," Mr. Heminger said. Such papa goose behavior, he said, "just means Harry's doing a good job" of protecting Sally and the eggs.

Her nesting spot gives her a fairly unobstructed view in many directions; she faces the door. It would have been Sally who selected the site and she did much of the nest construction, adding down feathers and some body feathers as eggs were laid. She does all the incubation while her mate guards her and the nest.

Some postal patrons fret about Harry's safety as he wanders the parking lot. He takes a gander from time to time at the traffic, but mostly his focus is on Sally.

"One day Harry was sleeping in a puddle in a handicap spot," Mr. Heminger said, and on this windy day, Harry plunked down at the entrance to a parking space designated for handicapped drivers (the large waterbird seems to sense that those spaces aren't used as much as the others without such a designation).

When a car wheeled in, barely missing Harry, his feathers were obviously ruffled by the close call.

Logan Blockway, 11, left, and his mother, Hanna Blockway, take a gander at a mother goose perching atop her eggs near the entrance to the post office on South Detroit Avenue. Logan Blockway, 11, left, and his mother, Hanna Blockway, take a gander at a mother goose perching atop her eggs near the entrance to the post office on South Detroit Avenue.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Mostly, though, patrons watch out for Harry, drive around him, and keep their distance.

"A lot of people stop by to see them. Harry and Sally have created quite a stir," Mr. Heminger said.

Although the geese have captured patrons' attention, Harry and Sally have yet to influence customers' buying habits. When the geese moved in, some postal workers predicted that perhaps more duck stamps would be sold, but that hasn't happened.

Paul Weirich of Holland, who visits the post office about three times a week, said patrons seem quite taken by the geese. He figures Harry and Sally (they were named by a postal clerk) were chased away from nesting sites at a pond across the street from the post office.

Wanting to stay close to the water, they picked the planter at the post office for their nest, he said.

Although Mr. Weirich said the mother, father, and goslings could someday walk across to the pond, that isn't going to happen.

Plans call for Harry, Sally, and their brood to be moved to a new home as soon as possible after eggs crack open and the little ones peep out.

"It's my understanding, after the eggs are hatched, the goslings will be relocated so Mom does not walk across Detroit Avenue with them," said Mr. Heminger.

Postal workers cross fingers, hoping Harry and Sally don't return to the planter next spring. "For their own safety, we hope they don't come back," Mr. Heminger said.

The couple would be missed, but that would be better than having something awful happen to them, such as getting smushed by a car on Detroit Avenue.

Even a close call with Harry in the parking lot is enough to give a postal patron goose bumps.

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.



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