On the way to work the other day on a back country road. No other cars in sight when I spotted a Canadian Goose by the side of the road peering out from the bushes. I slowed down and he/she stepped briskly into the road. I stopped, put my blinkers on and watched in amusement and awe as the first goose was followed by about 20 others including both adults and babies. All perfectly in line, one after another, marching across the road. Every few babies there would be a protective adult making sure everything was safe and secure. I kept glancing into my mirrors to make sure we were all alone but no cars appeared on the horizon and the parade continued at a steady pace. Finally the last baby,still down-fuzzy and a bit unsteady on its feet, popped out between the bushes onto the road. It was immediately followed by the last adult, clearly urging it along, with wings outstretched. I waited until the road was clear of geese. Another car appeared in the distance and I turned off my blinkers and continued on my own journey. Once again struck by the remarkable parenting displayed by a creature seemingly so commonplace yet clearly so committed to shepherding its babies safely through a treacherous youth. The adults quite willing to get in between their young and my car, to protect their fragile charges.

Anthropomorphic thinking? Maybe. But to my eyes there is something more at play here. After all, geese commit to lifelong partnerships and are known to mourn the loss of a mate. So perhaps their commitment to their young, at least at this stage, is about much more than simply a biological need to protect their genetic legacy.