NEW HAVEN — They came in single file on a recent Friday morning, marching across the road without regard for their safety, grinding traffic to a halt during the morning rush hour on Addison County’s busiest highway.
For several minutes, they waddled one by one across the pavement, without an ounce of haste in their step. When they all safely crossed, the traffic, by then backed up a dozen cars in each direction, resumed.
It is a twice-daily occurrence for this gaggle of Canada geese that resides, seasonally, in the tall grass near the intersection of routes 7 and 17 in New Haven Junction.
Why the daily crossing? On the west side of Route 7 is a marsh, where the geese feed. They nest in the grass on the east side of the highway.
Canada geese are migratory fowl. They spend the warmer months in Canada and the northern United States, where they breed and raise goslings, and migrate to the southern U.S. during the winter.
Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife officials and those who work in the area say the geese return every year. This spring, the flock raised goslings, and marches them back and forth, in neat formation, across the highway. Now, the goslings have matured and grown flight feathers. They’ll head south with their parents when the weather turns cold.
Geese, who are monogamous, often return each spring to the same nesting site. There are about 50 birds in this flock, though residents say the size of the flock has waxed and waned over the years.
Lt. George Scribner, a game warden, said it’s not uncommon for geese to nest in the same place year after year.
“Generally, if they can nest successfully in a location, they’ll return over and over,” Scriber said.
He said he knows of the flock in New Haven and doesn’t believe they pose a threat to drivers.
“Most folks are used to them being in the area, and adapt to them,” Scribner said. “I’ve never seen one hit.”
Even if wardens wanted to move the geese to a different nesting location, Scribner said this would be impossible — the geese would simply return to their chosen nesting grounds.
The New Haven Post Office is across the street from the gaggle’s home. Postmaster Matthew Norris, who has worked there for nine years, said he sees the flock return regularly with the arrival of spring.
“They’ve been here every year,” Norris said. “They’ll be here right through the fall.”
Norris said he occasionally sees the geese stop traffic, though it is rare that a bird is struck by a vehicle.
Missy Pawul, who works at the Jiffy Mart at the intersection, said the geese are a familiar sight during the spring and summer, mostly in the marsh but sometimes on their way to the water.
“I see them crossing most days,” Pawul said.
Just up the road at Phoenix Feeds, Cory Paquin said the geese sometimes trot up Route 7 to pay the business a visit.
“On the weekends, they feed on the front lawn,” Paquin said.
Paquin said a decade ago, the geese used to sneak into the company’s warehouse to feast on spilled animal feed.
“They would come up with their hatchlings and eat the spilled feed near the loading docks,” Paquin said. “We had to take brooms and shoo them out.”
On a recent Wednesday morning the geese kept to themselves, grazing the dew-soaked grass by the intersection. Even along the edge of the highway they paid no mind to the cars that whizzed by, even when the air displaced by a northbound tractor-trailer ruffled their feathers.
At some point they’ll line up on the shoulder of the road and begin their daily parade, to the delight (or dismay) of motorists. Later, they will return to sleep in the high grass until tomorrow, when the cycle will begin again. Their daily commute, it seems, is not that different from many of ours.