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Some new neighbors arrived a couple of weeks ago. They glided through the neighborhood, honking, announcing their arrival.
My neighbor Jane McCaslan scurried over the next day to announce that the population of our small community was expanding. "What are those beautiful birds in my backyard?" she asked.
I knew they were geese, and to me a goose is a goose, but I enjoyed seeing them in the area. What with all the development on S.C. 802 in Port Royal, most of the wildlife has been seeking cover elsewhere. The alligator that was in the pond behind my house has found another refuge. The deer that used to graze on the property where the former Hall's Nursery was located have been displaced. Once in a while, you see a few deer near Baynard Road, but they are all runty beasts.
My wife isn't as enamored of the birds as I am. She told me pretty quickly what she thought they were, and it wasn't too nice -- and I probably shouldn't mention it here. Blue herons and egrets still flutter into the ponds, but I wanted to find out what those bandit-looking birds were with the dark, oblong circles around their eyes.
I called the Clemson Extension Service the day before Thanksgiving, but I didn't get an immediate answer. A few phone calls later, an attendant driving past a hangar at Frogmore International Airport (Beaufort County airport on Lady's Island) found retired extension agent Jack Keener up to his elbows in aviation grease. "I am trying to complete my thousand-hour inspection," said Jack, a former Vietnam pilot of slicks (helicopters used to lift troops or cargo with only protective armaments systems). "But what's up?"
"Well, I saw these birds, these geese-looking creatures in my neighborhood; someone said they were Egyptian geese," I said.
"Well, they could be. I was called over to Habersham about 10 years ago to identify birds. A flock had arrived. We also found some at the pond near Wal-Mart (at Cross Creek Shopping Center)," Jack said while working on his 1956 four-seater, Cessna 170 tail-dragger. The next year Cessna introduced the tri-wheel model still produced today.
"Someone had to domesticate them and bring them here.
"Once they are in your neighborhood, they generally hang around for a while, unless someone gets aggressive with them and runs them off."
After researching the bird on the Internet, I discovered he was absolutely correct. The Egyptian geese usually remain in small flocks of family units through the majority of the year and pair up only during the breeding season. They are mostly sedentary but will move from their normal range to seek water during periods of drought.
They are widely distributed throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, and they are not an endangered species. In their African home Egyptian geese frequent rivers, marshes and lakes resorting to a wide range of nesting sites. Cavities, holes in trees and abandoned nests of other birds may be selected, also ledges on cliffs and banks, according to the writings of the late Michael J. Seago, a British bird expert.
I don't know when their mating season is, but the thought of a bunch of goslings waddling around the community doesn't intrigue some people, especially my wife.
While these birds are known for being somewhat aggressive and territorial during the nesting period, they don't have a thing on my wife -- or some of my neighbors. So, Mr. And Mrs. Egyptian Geese, or whatever your names are, for your own sake you might want to hustle off to some other place. Susan has squatter's rights in Willow Point. It has been nearly a quarter century since we had goose for Christmas dinner, but I can tell you that she isn't above cooking another one.