A male Canada goose, left, keeps watch for his nesting mate, far right, at Tysons Corner Shopping Center. (Cathey Frei)

Having lived in Northern Virginia most of my adult life, I’m used to coming across Canada geese pretty much everywhere. We hear them honking as they fly over our house each morning on their way to Lake Fairfax. And whenever I walk in our neighborhood, I know I have to be careful not to step in the evidence that they’ve been on a nearby street that’s adjacent to a holding pond where they swim and forage. Nonetheless, I was taken aback a couple of weeks ago while walking to work at Tysons Corner Shopping Center, when I spotted a gander sitting on the wall next to the Macy’s entrance as though he owned the place.

I first figured it was a fluke, that he was probably resting on his way to another destination. But then I saw, about 25 feet above and to the left of the gander, another goose’s head protruding from behind a retaining wall. I realized the gander was standing guard for his mate as she sat on her eggs.

He has become quite the conversation piece for people walking across the elevated crosswalk from the Macy’s garage to the side entrance of the store. Unflappable, he remains in the same spot every day, doing his job. Occasionally he will crane his long neck to observe the pedestrians approaching the store. He watches them stop in their tracks, mouths agape, when they see him there — a devoted, feathered sentinel on the wall of one of the busiest shopping centers on the East Coast.

One recent afternoon, on a beautiful, cloudless spring day, I stopped in Macy’s as I approached the exit. Outside the glass door, the gander was moving from side to side, nipping at his own reflection. I shared a laugh at the spectacle with someone coming in. My first thought was: I know geese are known to mate for life, but maybe this guy is being flirtatious, if only with his own reflection. Then it occurred to me that perhaps he was doing his best to ward off a fowl he perceived as a threat.

I do wonder what will happen when the eggs hatch so high off the ground behind that retaining wall. I have a feeling, though, that if those geese were smart enough to build their nest where few predators, including people, could get to it, they are clever enough to protect their goslings once they hatch.

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