Although my last post about the famous goose of Olafsjordur was lighthearted, today’s news is not so great. When I went out for a walk early this afternoon, I found the goose sitting, or really flopping on the footpath next to the main street.
As I walked up to it, the bird took a look at me and then put its beak in the feathers on its back, as if it was going to sleep, although it kept its eyes open. It seemed to me to be a deliberate gesture of helplessness. I looked carefully but could not see any sign that it had been hit by a car, such as stray feathers on the road, or blood on the goose. With the goose still keeping an eye on me, I gently lifted it on one side and the other to see if there was any sign of injury, but there was not.
Finally, lacking any other idea of what to do, I lifted the bird up and help it to me, noticing some ace accumulated in the tips of its wing feathers. A woman passing by told me it had been sitting there for some time today. I was out of ideas still, however I asked her what they ate and she said that they like bread. I thought at least I might go the supermarket, get a box for it to sit in, and try to feed it. I set off for the market and the guesthouse nearby that I am staying in.
As I walked up the street with the grey and brown bundle in my arms, I noticed a couple of women in front of the bank watching me and talking about the goose, or so it seemed. I crossed the street to them. I said that I had found the bird sitting helpless and it seemed to be sick, or starving. One of them began to feel the bird’s ribcage gently and drew back in shock. It was apparently extremely malnourished.
It turned out that of all people I might have bumped into, one of these women was the best one in Olafsjordur to find. She kept ducks and would be able to take care of the goose, to see if it could be brought back from what seemed to be the literal brink of death. I was happy to hand it over to her, having as I did only a single room to live in and no real way to take care of it for more than a few hours. As I passed it to her, it reached out and nibbled gently at my jacket where it had been resting, somehow, I thought at the time, a gesture of comfort.
She departed, goose in arms, to her car and home. I was relieved that it would taken care of, but a little distraught at the idea it may well die anyway. It was plainly well past normal endurance for any animal.
I happened to go into the local junior college, and mentioned the goose to Úlfar, who told me that if I had saved the goose I would be a local hero, as the people living here felt strongly attached to the bird. I asked what they ate; bread and salad greens was the diet of choice, apparently, the latter being better for them. Later I realised this was probably the problem – there had been a good deal of snow and wind lately, and the goose wold have had great trouble grazing on grass.
Some hour or so later, as I walked back past the place where to goose had lain waiting to be saved, I was explaining to a friend what had happened when the same woman who had taken the distressed bird from me walked past. It turned out that she and my friend knew each other, and the goose’s potential saviour was known as the ‘bird lady’ locally; she said – I think jokingly – that in the local phone book she was in fact listed under that title – ‘bird lady.’
News was at best equivocal. Our goose friend was at her home, warm and swaddled in towels, but had shown no immediate impulse to eat or drink. She was not sure if it would live out the night. I was quite downcast at the prospect it might die, but happy that at least it would be looked after, whatever happened.
I found out some more about the goose’s life, and at last solved the mystery of its refusal to migrate with the other geese that had been here earlier in the winter. It had, in fact, been raised by ducks in the local pond, across the road fro where I had found it that day. It clearly thought it was a duck, to the degree that when some other geese had shown up, it had shied away from them, afraid of the strange new birds that had invaded the pond. And, as I had already seen, it stayed with the ducks from then on.
I’m not sure if I will find out how the goose gets on; sadly I feel the bird lady is probably right, given her experience with these things, but I am hoping that it will recover and return to its duck family.