In 1943, Betty Smith published a novel, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” that mentions a little tree thriving against the odds in its urban landscape. I think about Smith every time I see some wild thing trying to make a go of it in a city setting.

Like many in Louisiana, I sometimes notice an egret picking his way along the drainage ditch near a bustling thoroughfare. Smith came to mind one summer when I spotted a box turtle crossing five lanes of traffic. Sensing doom, I pulled over, picked him up and ferried him to my backyard — an act of mercy that he rewarded by peeing on my floor mat.

Smith would have smiled, I think, when I parted the curtains one morning and saw a mallard on the diving board of our swimming pool.

My most recent Betty Smith moment happened this month, when I pulled into the parking lot of my office and found two Canada geese patrolling the pavement, not quite happy to see me. Though I work in a city neighborhood, a nice pond behind the office attracts geese. Even so, they tend to stay pond side and not take up residence out front.

I suppose this is the part of the story where I should rhapsodize about my great communion with nature, but truth be told, geese are not the touchy-feely sort. They go to the bathroom a lot, except that when they go to the bathroom, they don’t report to the bathroom. A fertilizer salesman could have made a mint from these two.

In the interest of corporate decorum, a co-worker tried to shoo them off, but they wouldn’t budge. Soon, we learned the reason for their loitering. The couple was guarding a nest in the flowerbed — a lovely mound of straw, topped with a few feathers to blanket the three eggs visible inside.

This seemed an unpromising place to raise a family, and the nest now seems abandoned. I wondered why the geese had tried homesteading there. A Humane Society website notes that Canada geese often like to nest near buildings because that's where they feel more protected. Parking lots sometimes appeal to them because the open space provides a clear view of predators.   

I found other gossip about geese. My Peterson Field Guide notes, with arched eyebrows, that Canada geese “released on ponds in parks and golf courses” are “causing problems.” “The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior” mentions that after they mate, Canada geese “will usually stay together until one of the birds dies, although divorce in unsuccessful pairs occurs occasionally.” Considering how much they squawk at each other, the low divorce rate among Canada geese surprised me. Author David Allen Sibley lists several solutions for strained relationships with Canada geese, including “using them as food for needy people.”

With friends like Sibley, the Canada goose has his work cut out for him. Even so, I am betting on the geese.


Follow Danny Heitman on Twitter, @Danny_Heitman.