Four years ago, the shopkeepers at the corner of 112th and Tejon in Westminster welcomed a pair of soon-to-be parent geese to a sidewalk grass patch outside their stores.
They went so far as to make sure the expectant parents — and their brood, once they hatched — had water and food and were kept safe.
They even helped construct a ramp over the curb when the family was finally ready to abandon the nest.
“That first year, we were excited,” said Alice Peterson, a stylist at Shear Dimensions salon. “It was a big party around here when the babies hatched. And then we realized they were coming back.”
And they have, year after year.
Once more this spring, the pair the shopkeepers have dubbed Gracie and her gander Gary have made the sidewalk in front of their stores the place for their nest — hissing at people as they walk past, occasionally chasing customers and blocking traffic.
One of their co-workers used to feed and water the pair regularly.
“That was,” she said, “until they flew into her and scared the crap out of her.”
It’s not so much fun anymore, Peterson said.
“Now, it’s a pain,” Peterson said. “They don’t let people go past, especially when they are getting started. They get behind cars in the parking lot and they don’t move. I talk to them and tell them to leave and they just look at me.”
About all you to them, local wildlife officials said. Geese are protected waterfowl and harassing or harming them or their nests requires a special permit.
“If they are starting to build a nest, you are allowed to discourage that,” said Chris Branigan, Westminster animal control officer. “But once they lay their eggs, you can’t touch it.”
Branigan said she doesn’t know why the birds picked that lot, but said it’s possible they were there before the shops.
It’s a situation wildlife officials see again and again this time of year.
“The geese tend to nest in the same area ever year,” she said. “We have areas they pick all over that are in weird places. We have ducks that nest every year in the medians of the roads, and every year we have to try and get their babies out of the intersections.”
Usually, officials try to monitor the situation. They don’t want to do something to scare the parents away and abandon their brood.
“We don’t want them to fly into traffic or fly into buildings,” she said. “We don’t want them to cause problems, or accidents on Highway 36. And, sometimes, if we are not there, people stop and try to do something unsafely to help them. So, we try not to harass them too much. But we need to be there if there’s a safety problem for the public.”
For Haroon Rashidi, owner of Afghan Kabob, the geese are not a hazard. But they can be an annoyance.
“The gander was kind of a jerk,” he said. “When they were first starting to nest, he was protecting the territory attacking customers and attacking cars.”
The gander is around still, but not as much as he was, said Rashidi, who occasionally leaves some leftover bread for the birds.
Back at the hair salon, owner Lindee Montemayor said she thinks some of the past broods have stayed in the neighborhood, occupying a vacant lot east of their stores.
“We watched a different goose come in and try to sit on the eggs one time,” Montemayor said. “They both came along and chased that goose away.”
They expect the pair will call their parking lot home for another couple of weeks. The small family moves along quickly, once the goslings hatch.
“Within a day or two of hatching,” Montemayor said, “they are gone.”