Taking a Gander ~ Along the James River Wetlands

This spring I’ve been enjoying long walks to our local wetlands along the James River.  Seeing the marshland at various stages of low and high tide, the same area can look totally different one trip to the next.  The one given each outing was the presence of a pair of Canadian geese on the west end of the marsh and a pair on the east side.  

 Gander in Flight, 10 x 12, Oil on Board by William R. Beebe

Gander in Flight, 10 x 12, Oil on Board by William R. Beebe

Watching them in their natural habitat inspired me to produce this painting, Gander in Flight.  This proud male bird (gander) was a short distance from his mate, who was enjoying the marsh mud and grasses.  Always together, this pair piqued my curiosity about the habits of the species.

Turns out, geese mate for life.  They are monogamous birds, only finding a new mate if the other one dies.  They are migratory birds, but large flocks have established a permanent residence here on the Chesapeake and along the James River.  After a period of over-hunting in the late 19th century and the early 20th century, through conservation protection efforts, geese have become the most common waterfowl species in North America.  

When I took this picture, the marshland had been relatively quiet.  I was just about to head home and was putting my camera back in the bag, when I heard a little activity. I turned around and took this last minute picture of the gander flying over the marsh wetlands.  

I liked the way the sunlight was highlighting the tips of the flight feathers on the rear of his extended wings.  Graceful and yet strong in flight, the large bird is captured in a brief moment of suspended animation.  I found a peacefulness come over me while painting it; that same feeling I had while standing, watching and waiting for just such a moment.