While difficult now to distinguish the fast-growing and changing, 7-week-old goslings from their Mama when looking at the goose family at Turtle Pond from a distance, the experience is still a thrill. The gander (Papa goose) still, however, towers over the rest of the family and is extremely protective over them. While Mama and babies eat, Daddy keeps constant vigilance.
One hears interesting stories from some of the other bird watchers in the park.
There are at least several other (very nice) people who have been observing the birds longer than I have.
An elderly gentleman knows many of the ducks well and even has names for a few. A pair of mallards regularly wait for the man and take peanuts from his hand.
A 50-something-year-old woman seems to know the entire history of the goose family.
She tells me that once, when a large snapping Turtle threatened the family, Papa jumped on the Turtle and pushed it under the water. Another time, the babies huddled tightly together and "froze" when there was threat from another snapping Turtle.
Pretty amazing stuff. And it probably explains why Canada Geese are such resilient birds with high survival and reproductive rates. The tight family unit and devotion of the parents would put many humans to shame.
Papa goose walks with a pronounced limp. I wonder if that's from some encounter with a snapping Turtle or other predator, while trying to protect his family?
According to what the woman tells me, there were originally 7 babies, but one died very shortly after hatching from the egg.
I am still amazed that all six remaining goslings have survived so well with all the human and dog activity around Turtle Pond. It seems many people are looking out for them and yes, offering treats. This family of geese eat very well.
Fortunately fishing is not allowed at the pond and we (I and the other bird fanciers) are immensely grateful for that.
So-called, "catch and release" fishing is, unfortunately allowed at Harlem Meer. I personally believe this is one of the biggest reasons for the death and disappearances of several well known and cherished birds (cherished, not just by me, but many of the area residents), including the mated pair of swans, and two of the three white ducks.
Birds and Turtles can get caught in fishing lines or get injured via fishing hooks. Bird lovers at Prospect Park have reported freeing at least nine Canadian Geese from entanglement in fishing lines.
So far, "Clementine," the Mother duck at Harlem Meer is surviving. But, she has lost a number of the tiny ducklings who were first hatched. As of two nights ago, eight of the vulnerable little ducklings still remain.
But, Clementine has to be on constant alert.
The pretty brown mallard smartly seems to be aware of the dangers posed by fishing lines and quickly steers her babies away from them.
Clementine also seems to be aware of the dangers posed by Turtles and she can often be observed frantically wizzing her family quickly around the lake. They have to move fast to avoid the various threats.
So far, Clementine seems to be doing an incredible job of keeping her family intact. Ducks, like Canada Geese are tremendously resilient and "street/nature savvy."
Joey, the one remaining white duck (of the former three) seems now to be swimming with a small group of mostly female mallards.
I also notice that he seems a lot more cautious of humans and fishermen preferring to swim most of the time in the middle of the lake.
That is a good thing. It gives me some hope for his survival.
Its ironic and sad to be so worried about the survival of the birds over the beautiful seasons of spring, summer and fall as opposed to the "cruel winter."
But, winter was never so cruel to the fish, waterfowl and wildlife as the spring has been.
The raccoons are pretty much gone from the park now having been trapped and presumably killed by the Parks Department in collision with the Department of Health during the early spring. The coyotes are also gone, as are the swans and two of the three white (Peking) ducks.
Granted, the white ducks are not indigenous to Central Park. Either someone abandoned grown up Easter presents last August. Or, the ducks more likely were "rescued" from a live poultry market in the area and released to Harlem Meer. For almost a year, the rescue was successful in terms of the birds surviving all kinds of weather. But, once fishing season and spring started, the two female ducks were seemingly doomed and have now vanished.
So many of the beautiful animals have been replaced instead by the ugliness of long fishing polls, lines and hooks.
I fail to see how fishing is a "sport."
Even in "catch and release" are not the tiny fishes mouths injured?
One can be 90-years-old, barely walking, but still fish. One can be an overweight slob, unable to jog around the block, but still fish. One can be a 12-year-old brat who can't swim a stroke, but still fish.
It requires no skill, no smarts and no athletic prowess of any kind to sit or stand at the edge of a park lake and harass all the animals, whether they be the tiny fishes of the water, the birds of the sky or the creatures of the land.
I can't wait for the cold days of December to return. The animals have it so much easier then. -- PCA