Sunday, August 29, 2010

Just Something About Canada Geese

(Pictures: Sweet reunion. Binky's family, now at Harlem Meer. Daddy, front goose facing water. Easily recognizable by his limp. Presumption is that they returned to Harlem Meer to possible reunite with other family members? "Grandparents," aunts, uncles, grown kids from past matings?) All the resident Canada geese seem now to be concentrated in the one area.)

This morning, I took the dogs to Harlem Meer to spend time with the geese as there are seemingly no (or, at least very few) Canada geese anywhere else in Central Park these days.

There are at least 8 or 9 different families of geese at Harlem Meer now. One of them, I am quite sure, is the family that used to be at Turtle Pond. -- "Binky's" parents and siblings.

How do I know this?

I recognize Daddy's bad left leg. He limps profoundly.

Several of the goslings recognized me this morning and came up to me. They ate some cracked corn from my hand. But, the parents maintained their usual safe distance. Its definitely the same family.

I am relieved to know the family did not fly to Prospect Park or anywhere near the airports.

However, there are a couple of things of which to be concerned: 1-- That Central Park Conservancy might employ the Border Collies to chase all the geese away. 2-- One of the goslings had a fishing wire entangled around one of his feet. (I wonder if this is how Daddy's foot was injured?) Even though the gosling came up to me, I could not get close enough to try and remove the wire nor did I have anything to cut it with. I was upset with this.

As soon as I got home, I called the Park Rangers and Dana Discovery Center. to complain that they are not properly monitoring the people "fishing" at Harlem Meer. Since the so-called "catch and release" fishing started in spring, two out of three of the white ducks disappeared. One swan died of Botulism (probably from the dead or dying fish that are routinely thrown back into the water), the other swan disappeared and now the gosling with the fishing wire around his leg.

The next time I go swimming at the pool at Harlem Meer, I will bring scissors with me and hopefully if I can get close enough to the gosling, I will cut the wire. I know the little guy trusts me, though something like this could be tricky and difficult. Its one thing to pet the geese. Its another, to try and hold down a frightened animal long enough to cut a wire.

I realize many people enjoy fishing. But, what goes on in our public parks is disconcerting and I am sure, nothing comparable to those who might fish for "food." The other day I saw two dead fish floating on top of the water at Harlem Meer at the spot where most of the people fish.

Now, I think I know how the female swan died of Botulism. The swans sometimes ate fish.

Still, it was wonderful to see the geese. -- Especially, the family from Turtle Pond!

I sat on a small rock and took pictures. Another woman took photos with what looked like a professional camera. A group of young people parked their bikes and sat for a while, just enjoying the geese and taking photos. There were even three cops who stopped to stand for a while, watch and chuckle about the geese.

There is something unique about Canada geese. This sense of peace and serenity they engender in anyone sitting and watching them (including the ducks who like to hang around the geese). The way they come up to you. The way they keep their family units together. The ways they communicate with each other. The beauty of them flying across the lake and landing in the water like human water skiers. Their regal and majestic ways. -- Especially, the magnificent ganders -- always on watch.

I just love these birds.

Canada geese are very special. I hate the ways they are being so maligned, persecuted and killed these days.

For the life of me, it is something I will never, never understand. --PCA


Thursday, August 26, 2010

"We Are Family!"

(Pictures: 1-- A confident and somewhat brazen, Joey coming on to the grass at night now that the Canada geese have returned. 2-- A young boy taking delight in the geese and ducks. 3--A female goose with a mallard swimming closely by.)
The water at Lasker swimming pool in Central Park was icy cold last night, but the action in the surrounding Harlem Meer was hot!

Several families of Canada geese have returned to the lake in recent weeks from wherever they went to breed or molt over most of the summer.

The presence of the geese has brought about a sense of celebration and brazenness, particularly among the lake's normally shy and retiring mallards who now routinely come up on the grass and even sleep on the open embankments near the geese at night.

Even "Joey" the lone white duck on the Meer now trots confidently on the grass at night as opposed to swimming constantly and aimlessly on the water. So brazen is Joey now that he will even chase and harass some of the younger goslings, as if to say, "Hey, don't overstep your bounds! I was here first!"

But, then the two dominant ducks of the Meer, "Brad and Angelina" will quickly put Joey back in his subservient place. He may be "above" the Canada geese, but he is still "below" most of the other ducks.

There is, in fact a lot of jockeying for position at the Meer among both, the geese and the ducks, but it is all in good peaceful fun, no matter how ornery or crazy it may appear at times.

The return of the geese has also prompted and brought out the nature lovers once again to the Meer. People shooting pictures with cameras or cell phones. The wide smile on a young boy's face as he tossed some treats to the birds and delighted in their coming up to him. As noted, even the ducks are far more outgoing and trusting towards people now that the geese are back.

The entire atmosphere of Harlem Meer has, in fact, radically changed over the past couple of weeks since the return of the Canada geese.

To describe in just a few words: Celebration, vitality and energy, confidence and just a wee bit of posturing and feather pecking.

Guess you can't have everything, but what we do have right now is really, really good for all.

Like the cheery old rock song, "We Are Family!"


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Coming of Winter

(Picture Left: Geese and ducks huddled on ice of Central Park Reservoir over the winter.)

Apparently, Binky has gone to a credited farm in the Adirondacks that has taken in similar flightless birds to live out their lives. Binky will be outside during the day and brought into a barn at night for safety. I was given this information a couple of days ago from one of the Central Park Rangers.

Part of me wishes I had known this information before Binky was actually rescued. It would have been reassuring to say "good-bye" to him and give a comforting pat along the feathers of Binky's back. He was such a sweet and endearing gosling. And he knew me. It would have been nice to say to Binky that everything was going to be OK, though we would never see each other again.

I think he would have understood me.

I greatly miss seeing Binky now at Turtle Pond (and the rest of his family), though I know that is pure selfishness. The family had to follow its normal migratory and life paths. And Binky needed to be rescued. Everyday was a lucky one that the young gosling was able to survive on his own in a public park without the use of his wings or the protection of his family.

Last night, the weather turned suddenly cooler in New York after what has been a miserable and hot summer.

A brisk wind blew through the trees causing them to rustle and protest. It reminded one that fall is now about six weeks away.

As I walked around the deserted Reservoir with my dogs (only saw one runner last night and no birds on the water) I remembered back to how it is in winter.

Many migratory Canada geese take up residence in New York City over the winter.

Although most of the ponds and lakes entirely freeze over, for some reason, the Reservoir doesn't. There are always patches of the Reservoir and Harlem Meer that remain unfrozen and those are the two places where most, if not all of the Canada geese and ducks in this area hunker down during the coldest days of winter.

Over the past couple of winters I've observed the Canada geese, ducks and sea gulls that huddled closely together on the mostly frozen ice. There is probably some truth to the adage that "misery loves company" because these birds have it tough over the frigid days of winter. But, the different species seem to take solace in the company, cooperation (and warmth?) of each other. Some of the geese and mallards would swim in the still unfrozen water, but most would sit stoically on the ice, bracing themselves against the cutting winds and biting cold and seemingly trying to conserve energy.

Those times when snow covered the ground and I reasoned food was hard for the birds to get to, I brought bags of bird seed and cracked corn to try and sustain them. It took no time at all for the Canada geese and mallards to recognize me and my two dogs. As soon as we appeared, dozens of geese and ducks would immediately put their fear of dogs aside and "skate" across the ice to quickly get to the snow banks where I tossed the seed.

Within minutes, the sustenance would all be gone. I never had enough seed for all the birds, but it was amazing that there was never any fighting or pushing away among them as we see more typically in the warmer months.

They had to save their energy for the mere act of survival.

I remember one particular evening in late February going to the Reservoir shortly before a predicted, heavy and severe rain storm.

But, the Canada geese didn't need a weather report.

When I got to the still mostly frozen and open Reservoir, the geese were honking to each other frantically.

You could almost imagine them squawking: "There's a major storm coming! We gotta get outta here. Seek cover!"

All of a sudden, they started taking off from the ice in groups of about 6 to 15 geese. Within seconds, all the geese were in perfect "V" formations, the lead geese seemingly choosing destination and the geese towards the back honking encouragement or agreement as they sped along.

Eventually, I lost sight of the geese, but could still hear their haunting, but beautiful calls echoing in the far distance.

It was one of the most incredible things I had ever seen.

Especially since, by the time I and the dogs arrived home, it had started to pour rain with heavy bouts of thunder and lightening.

But, I knew by that time, that the geese and the ducks who followed them were perfectly safe.

A couple of days later, all of the ducks and geese had returned to the Reservoir. The weather had warmed and most of the ice was beginning to melt.

But, the birds would not remain for long.

By the early days of March, all the Canada geese and the ducks were gone from the Reservoir.

They had apparently set out on their spring migrations.

I thought about all these memories last night, while walking my dogs around the then quiet and deserted Reservoir.

I realized that as frigid and unyielding as winter can be, I greatly missed it. I missed seeing the flocks of Canada geese and ducks and seagulls along the water and ice. I missed hearing them call out and take off if there was an impending storm. I missed the safety net of winter.

The question is, will the migratory geese who were here the last two winters be able to make it through and survive the "expanded hunting season" awaiting them when they attempt to fly over New York state skies in just a few weeks?

It is not after all, winter that is the cruelest season despite its biting winds, frozen waters and bitter storms.

It is actually stiff competition among the other three with perhaps fall being the cruelest season of all.

"The guns of Autumn" less than six weeks away.

I can only pray that the geese and ducks I have come to know over the past two years make it through the hail of bullets lying in wait and bruising and puncturing the autumn skies when launched.

Hopefully, there is an angel of mercy who will safely guide the birds along this way. -- PCA


Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Protector Needing Protection

Yesterday (Saturday) after running some errands, I returned home and noticed some messages on my phone.

Will get to those later, I thought to myself. More important now to get to Central Park and check up on Binky.

I tossed some wild bird seed in a plastic sandwich bag and headed to Turtle Pond with my dogs, Tina and Chance. Old rock tunes, compliments of CBS radio played through my headphones. "We set on the Sloop John B, my grandfather and me," the Beach Boys sang as I closed the door behind us.

The sun had just set and I therefore expected to find Binky and most of the pond's mallards on the large, open public rocks at the east end of the pond. That seemed to be the pattern of late. Binky was, after all, well on his way to becoming a duck!

But, as we began to approach the patch of rocks on the dark, muggy, Saturday night, I started to get a sinking feeling.

Everything seemed eerily quiet -- as if all the energy had suddenly been sucked from the air. A sense of foreboding came over me.

And there, in the short distance, I could finally make out that the rocks appeared mostly empty. Only the two duck families were on them. Marina and her three older ducklings and "Juno" with the four younger babies.

Where's Binky? Where are the rest of the ducks?

After a few minutes, Marina and her three ducklings took to the water, swimming away in what seemed some sort of mission. Juno, meanwhile stayed on the edge of the rock looking out towards Marina. Did Marina give the younger mother orders to remain while she went off to look for Binky? "That crazy goose. Where the hell is he? He's supposed to protect us!"

But, there was no sign of Binky anywhere or for that matter, all the other ducks that typically reside at Turtle Pond. Where were they all?

I took Tina and Chance over to the small pier at the west side of the pond. Perhaps Binky had returned to the smaller rocks that were actually situated in the water and isolated from the public areas of the park? They of course afforded better general protection and I had seen Binky there before.

But, those rocks too, were completely devoid of any birds.

I then became worried and uneasy. Binky wasn't in his usual places and he wasn't swimming on the pond. Where could he be?

We returned back to the main, public rocks on the hope that we had perhaps missed Binky before. But, of course he wasn't there. Only Juno and her babies were still there at the rocks edge, mere inches from the water. Juno appeared nervous and ready to bolt, so I did not approach the anxious family.

I sat for a while, looking over the then, desolated and empty rocks. T

This was the place that only a couple of nights before was so alive with clattering ducks and a young, flightless goose who was just trying to figure out his way in this new and foreign world. -- a world without his family. A world with this new group of feathered friends who both welcomed Binky and squawked at him as if to remind that Binky was the bottom bird on the totem pole -- the "odd duck out" so to speak.
And yet, the mallards obviously liked hanging out with Binky has they had, the rest of his family. It was a bizarre relationship to figure out. One of mutual need, but also, disdain. "We really like having you here, but don't get in our face. Know your place!"

But, now there was no squawking, clattering or jockeying for position.

There was no family of geese taking their position at the top of the rocks, while the mallard moms and ducklings rested towards the bottom seemingly happy and peaceful to have the protection of the geese -- especially the ever vigilant papa goose.

There was just darkness, an eerie silence and an obviously nervous mother duck seemingly waiting for something -- the return of Marina and her family, or better yet, Marina, ducklings and Binky?

For some crazy reason, I too, felt less safe in the park than I normally do, especially when the geese were there. There was just something less welcoming and more foreboding about it now.

A large bird took off from somewhere around the pond and flew towards the skies. I could only make out its hazy silhouette against the background of dark clouds. It was either a night heron or red tailed hawk on the prowl.

Suddenly, "Love is Blue" came over the radio and I found myself once again tearing up.

I had really loved the family of geese and especially their wingless child, Binky. Where had they and it (the love) all gone?

There was no question about it now. Both, the family of geese and Binky were gone. -- Perhaps forever. Even the ever-cautious and wily ducks seemed to know that. I figured most of the mallards were probably hiding out in the long grasses and marshes surrounding the pond. The open rocks, without the geese (or even one flightless gosling) were no longer safe for them.

The walk towards home with the dogs seemed long and deserted. There were even very few runners on the running path surrounding the Reservoir. A part of me considered walking north to Harlem Meer, just to enjoy the Canada geese and ducks up there. Since the return of the geese, life at the meer had suddenly become one big, lively party! So much "life" as contrasted to the now disquiet of Turtle Pond and the Reservoir -- especially without the geese.

And without the geese, the ducks too, seemed to disappear or at least, maintain a very low and quiet profile. A few ducks swam lazily upon the water of the Reservoir seemingly without direction.

But, the hour was late and my dogs were showing some fatigue from the warm, sticky weather.

Bobby Fuller Four sang, "I Fought the Law" (and the law won) on the radio. How appropriate, I sadly thought.

We returned home.

I went to check messages on my phone, expecting to hear the usual. "I'm calling about a dog we saw on Petfinders" or, "I'd like to know if your shelter can take in any cats?"

But, the first message was from an urban Central Park Ranger named, Sunny.

"I'm calling about the goose with Angel Wing at Turtle Pond that we spoke about a couple of weeks ago. We finally connected to the sanctuary and he was relocated Saturday, the 21st....If you have any questions, feel free to call us........." The voice sounded open and cheerful.

How ironic that I did not listen to messages before leaving for Turtle Pond! Binky had apparently been rescued!

I sat down to consider the new and startling information.

Although Binky was showing amazing resilience, courage and adaptability to his situation and though he might well have been able to survive throughout the rest of the summer and into fall, there is little question that Binky would not have survived the winter when Turtle Pond would inevitably freeze over and the ducks would have to leave to find unfrozen waters.

It is better that Binky is rescued now before getting too comfortable and cozy with the ducks who would only be forced to desert him later. Binky is only three months old. There is plenty of time for him to adjust to a new environment, new people and new animals. Hopefully and presumably there are geese at the sanctuary. Binky can return to being a goose.

But, while the missed call represents good news for Binky, I am not so sure about the ducks at Turtle Pond.

Remembering Marina swimming determinedly on the pond last night with her three surviving ducklings behind her and Juno waiting anxiously at the rock's edge, I can't help but wonder if they too, were seeking Binky?

"Where the hell are you?" I could imagine Marina squawking in avian language. "Get your butt over to the rocks!"

Hopefully, other geese will arrive soon as they did at Harlem Meer to both protect and amuse/annoy Marina and the rest of the mallards. Yes, the ducks both seem to love and hate the geese and I think the reverse is also somewhat true.

The geese say, "These ducks are pains in the butt. But, they know their way around the turf and they know the good guys and bad guys here."

The ducks say, "Yeah, we like having the damned geese here. They help us feel more safe and secure. But, they are so full of themselves and they think they own the lake! We'll show them who's boss!"

Actually, I don't think either the ducks or geese will ever admit to actually liking each other.

But, they sure as hell seem to need each other and do much better when the other is around -- "pain in the ass" or not.

As for Binky, I am just glad to know that he is at long last, safe.

Sometimes, it is the protective Canada goose who in fact, is the one who most needs the protection. -- That only we could explain that to the ducks. --PCA


Friday, August 20, 2010

An Avian Party on a Summer Night!

(One of the two dozen or so Canada geese at Harlem Meer last night. Did they invite the ducks to an avian party?)

Last night, there was a seeming "avian party" at Harlem Meer.

When leaving Lasker swimming pool, I discovered several families of Canada geese near the edge of the south side of the meer.

Along with the geese, were seemingly all the ducks of the meer!

The ducks seemed in especially high and energized spirit, scooting around on the grass and occasionally chasing each other as they do in early spring.

Even Joey, the lone white duck (or goose) abandoned his usual swimming spot in the lake to come up on the grass and investigate what was going on. He walked and frolicked around quite cheerfully and confidently on the grass.

For all the bad raps that Canada geese take for "chasing out" other water fowl in the parks, the facts don't bear out the accusation.

Both, at Turtle Pond and Harlem Meer, the mallards seem to enjoy and actually gravitate towards the Canada geese!

For their part, the geese don't pay much attention to the ducks. They are too busy watching out for any potential dangers (such as people walking by with unleashed dogs), nibbling on the grass and occasionally chasing and nipping each other in what seems playful displays of establishment of order and hierarchy.
I sat on a nearby bench for about a half hour just taking in the whole amusing scene in a kind of awe. However, at one point, I went to gently "chase" Joey closer to the water. Unlike the other birds, Joey cannot fly and it worried me a little to see him bravely (or foolishly?) venturing far into the grass area. Though Joey might feel more confident with the geese around, the fact is, the geese are mainly concerned with protecting themselves from any perceivable threat. Their "job" is not to watch out for the ducks -- especially a flightless one.

Indeed, there was such a large congregation of happy, seemingly dancing birds on the south side of the meer last night, human passers-by, whether on bike or foot, took slight detours so as not to "crash" or disturb the party.

Indeed, the only thing missing was the music! -- PCA


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sex Discrimination Among Ducks?

(Picture Left: Binky making his way with the mallards at Turtle Pond.)

Well, as said the other day, Binky is well on his way to becoming a duck.

Last night, when walking with my dogs near the open rock patches at the east side of Turtle Pond, I was surprised to find seemingly all the ducks of the pond scattered around the rocks -- and right in the middle of the bunch was Binky!

This was both good news and bad news.

The good news was that Binky was not alone and had company. Canada geese are flock birds who need to be in a family, group or pair. They generally will not do well as "loners."

The bad news is this particular rock area is open to the public and that could leave Binky, who, after all, cannot fly vulnerable to dogs or human thugs.

I didn't worry about this when Binky had the protection of his family on the rocks at night. But, I don't feel so confident about a flock of mallards being able to "protect" Binky should something go wrong. The ducks would simply scurry in the water quickly or be able to fly away if necessary. Generally too, ducks are more wary of humans than Canada geese. I hope Binky picks up that caution from the ducks.

Marina, the mama duck with three mostly grown ducklings seems to be the "alpha" bird in this group of all female ducks and the one Canada goose. (Marina was the duck who seemingly summoned the entire goose family over the weekend to return to the rocks as the coast was clear). She squawks orders to the rest of the flock and is the first one to eat.

Even among ducks, there is a hierarchy with presumably, the oldest "mama" at the top of the heap.

A friend told me recently, that after laying eggs, female mallards will chase the drakes away.

That seems to be true as I have never seen a mama duck with a mate, so to speak. They are very different from Canada geese in that way. The geese mate for life and both parents play critical roles in raising the young. But, it seems all the female ducks chase the males away during the "child rearing" season. There are very few drakes to be seen these days either at Turtle Pond or Harlem Meer.

Presumably, the drakes will be allowed to return during the fall and winter. ;)

I don't know if Binky is a boy or girl, but if a male, he seems to have a "harem" to hang out with and enjoy -- even if they are not his particular species.

And at least for their part, the female ducks are not chasing the goose away. -- Perhaps Binky really is a girl. -- PCA


Save the Geese! -- IDA New Website

In Defense of Animals has just launched a new website especially devoted to saving the geese.

Please go to the site and support in whatever way you can:

Thank you!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Goose who would Become Duck?

"Binky" -- Alone again, naturally.

Well, apparently once the show was over at the Delacourt Theatre, Binky's family took flight once again.

Binky was alone yesterday at Turtle Pond -- well, except for the company of the ducks.

It is not clear whether Binky's family will be making regular visits to Turtle Pond either to check in with their disabled child or just to catch the shows at the theatre.

But, in any case, Binky seems to be "adjusting" or at least as well as one could hope for a young Canada gosling who is unable to fly or know the steady protection of his family.

Binky seems to sense he is vulnerable. When the family is not around he is careful to keep a safe distance from people and other activities of the park. He mostly stays swimming on the pond with the ducks or takes a rest on the protective rock that lies directly surrounded by water.

Though Binky is only three months old, it is amazing how smart these birds actually are. They have incredible survival instincts.

Binky might actually be quite capable of surviving at least through part of the winter. The problem is that Turtle Pond always freezes over once the temperatures drop below freezing and that would certainly spell big trouble for any waterfowl that is unable to seek out refuge in unfrozen waters (usually at the Reservoir that is not too far away). Turtle Pond is completely devoid of waterfowl in the dead of winter. Even the ducks take leave. Binky would not be able to survive that.

But, once again at least for the moment, there does not seem need for panic for Binky. He and the ducks seem to enjoy a peaceful co-existence, though it is obviously not the same has having family there.

Binky could well be the goose who eventually becomes "duck" so to speak. He is more or less taking up the lifestyle of the ducks and following their leads.

I should probably be more concerned about the rest of Binky's family who have already lost one gosling soon after taking flight.

I don't know where mom, dad and the four surviving goslings go when they "take off" and if they fly anywhere near an airport they will soon all be dead geese.

And should they fly over rural areas of the state?

The "expanded hunting season" will begin next month.

The irony of this whole saga could be that the disabled gosling with the "Angel's Wings" might actually be the safest and most protected goose of all.

No hunting, fishing or gassing at Turtle Pond. And Binky's got the wisdom, company and wileness of the mallards to help get him through.

He is the Canada goose who might become duck. -- PCA


Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Unmistakable Lure of Shakespeare in the Park

(Picture left: Binky [top] with Mom [front[)

I have spent hundreds of hours watching and observing them. I've written thousands of words about them and taken many dozens of photographs of them.

But, you know what?

I don't know a damn thing about Canada geese!

Early last night, I went to Turtle Pond to check on Binky, the gosling with Angel's Wings alone since his family left the pond last week.

I was able to spot a lone goose on the pond, through the trees and marshes almost as soon as my dogs and I got to Turtle Pond.

There he is! I thought as Tina, Chance and I quickly headed to the small pier that overlooks the pond to get a better look at Binky.

But, when we got to the pier, I was in for a shock!

There wasn't just one goose, there were several! And in the middle of the group was Binky!

Did a new flock arrive? I wondered.

But, as I looked closer at and counted all six of the "new" geese, I soon realized they were not in fact, new at all, but Binky's family!

Oh my God, they're back!! They've come back for their disabled baby!

I could not believe my eyes!

A small group of animal lovers were on the pier watching the turtles, ducks and geese and tossing a few tidbits to the menagerie.

Binky's family acted like they had never left. They swam lazily around the pond, grabbed a couple of treats and then moved on towards the east side of the pond.

The sun had just set and I imagined the goose family was heading towards the large rock situated at the east side of the pond where they always stayed at night.

Just like old times! I thought as I quickly scurried away with my dogs to head towards the large rock formation that bridges the water to the land side of the park.

Wow, I would have loved to have been here for the family reunion! I thought while on the way to the rocks. How wonderful must that have been for Binky to see his family once again?

When arriving to the patch of rocks at the east side of the pond, Marina and her three surviving ducklings were there, along with the other mama mallard and her four babies. But, the geese had not yet arrived. They were taking their sweet time sauntering across the pond.

A few people were lingering along the rock formation and at least one man was taking pictures of the duck families. Perhaps that explained the geese' caution in immediately coming to the rocks where they typically settle down to sleep?

After a while the people slowly left and I settled down on a step to wait for the geese who I knew would eventually show up.

But, Marina was less patient than I.

She suddenly gathered up her three mostly grown ducklings and headed into the water with seeming urgency and determination!

Hm, that was unusual, I thought. The duck families always stay on the rock at night. Were my dogs and I scaring Marina? We weren't that close to them and Tina and Chance were on their best behavior. I couldn't figure it out.

But, low and behold, less than five minutes later, suddenly the family of geese swam towards the rocks, followed closely behind by Marina and her three ducklings!

Once again, my brain couldn't seem to assimilate what my eyes were seeing!

Did Marina suddenly take to the water to summon the goose family that it was OK to return to the rocks? I didn't know, but it sure seemed that way!

Daddy goose and four of the grown goslings were the first to come out of the water and saunter up to the precipice of the rock formation, their favorite spot for sleeping at night.

Binky and his mother stayed at the lower set of rock, nibbling at some cracked corn left for the duck families.

Securing my dogs to a nearby wire fence, I approached Daddy and the four goslings with some bird and pumpkin seeds in my outstretched hand.

"Welcome back guys! Where the hell were you over the past week? Didn't you care what happened to Binky?"

But, of course the birds didn't answer me.

Daddy was on vigil of with his head held high watching out for any threats from the land side of the park. But, the goslings were making their familiar soft "googling" sounds as they happily munched from the flat of my hand. They are like little vacuum cleaners, their serrated mouths tickling as they efficiently sweep up the seed. After a few minutes, Daddy took a quick break from sentry duty to also take some morsels from my hand. I then petted two of the more confident goslings.

All kinds of questions ran through my head in those few precious moments with the family.

Where had they gone? What made them come back? Were they chased away from the new location? Did they return to check up on Binky? Was the food not as good as Turtle Pond? I could not figure out what had happened over the past week. Where the family had gone and why they had suddenly returned.

I just knew it was damn good to see them back. It was especially good for Binky who was once again reunited with his mother, his daddy and siblings. For now, no more lonely calling on the pond and no hiding out on the small rock surrounded by water at the west side of the pond. Binky was still enjoying the private time with his mom at the lower set of rock.

Slowly, I left the family and returned to my dogs.

As we retreated, I noted Binky and his mom finally going to the top of the rock to join the rest of the family in their usual place. Both duck families settled on the lower portion of the rocks -- within mere feet of the geese.

Mama goose took over the "sentry" position from Daddy looking over the land part of the park. Binky meanwhile settled in with his siblings and Daddy looking west over the pond and towards Belvedere Castle and the Delacourt Theatre.

There was a show going on at the theatre.

And then, as Tina, Chance and I began to leave, it suddenly occurred to me the real reason Binky's family had returned!

The colorful bright lights, the music and the evening shows at the Delacourt theatre!

Where the hell else were they going to find "Shakespeare in the Park?"

These are sophisticated geese with a taste for music, lights and the classics. -- PCA


Friday, August 13, 2010

In Search of Canada Geese Truth

(Picture Left: Binky and family during sunnier days last week on small rock path at Turtle Pond.)

"When I think back on all the crap I learned in High School, its a wonder I can think at all."

So goes a line from the Paul Simon song, "Kodachrome."

I never went to college, but I did graduate high school many years ago.

And yes, most of what I learned was crap that I have never used in adult life.

But, these days I find myself wanting to learn certain truths, but am unable to find the information I seek. So much for "information highways" and college degrees, I guess.

Its been an eventful few days:

It seems all or most the geese who resided at Harlem Meer over the winter and early spring have returned.

Its not clear whether these are migratory geese or residents who simply move elsewhere to breed or molt through the months of May through July.

Among the new arrivals are a number of what appear to be young goslings around three months old. Though fully grown, there seemingly is a slightly lighter hue to their feathers and a more spritely appearance than the more mature or parent geese.

Some of the goslings are a bit shy, trying to figure out their new lives and digs. Others are more confident and seemingly bolder, easily following the lead of their parents and quickly settling into their new location.

Even among Canada geese, there are differences in personalities.

My guess is that the entire group consists of possibly three or four families.

They were all scattered in a loose net group the other night, resting around the east end of the Meer.

A few were so friendly, I could actually pet them.

"Hi, guys, it's really good to see you back!"

Yesterday, more than a hundred of us "goose huggers" gathered at City Hall to protest the gassings of more than a thousand Canada Geese throughout city parks and recreational areas this summer.

The rally and press conference was organized by In Defense of Animals, though it was also attended and supported by Friends of Animals and The Humane Society of the United States.

It is truly good to see three major organizations working together and supporting each other in a worthy and necessary cause.

Two City Council members and one state Senator also spoke at and supported the rally, the most impressive being Senator Eric Adams who also spoke eloquently at the vigil held at Prospect Park last month. He has been a wonderful ally on our side.

In Defense of Animals provided attendees with free Tee-shirts and colorful posters to display at the rally.

But, as uplifting as it was to note the enthusiastic crowd turnout and array of informed, dedicated speakers, it was disappointing that little media actually turned out to cover the event.

It was, in essence, a press conference with scant press presence.

That shows we have a very hard struggle ahead of us.

Part of me was surprised, but the other part wasn't.

I have been aware for some time that Canada geese (like so many others) are animals that people either love or (more often than not,) hate.

Unfortunately, because so few humans actually get the time or opportunities to get to observe and know Canada geese closely, the general populace view seems to be far more negative than positive.

"They poop! They make a mess. They fly into our planes. They are vermin! They are mean. They chase away other birds. Shoot 'em. Cook 'em. Give 'em to the poor!"

The above are comments one typically sees repeatedly on news media boards, following some article or coverage of the issue.

In some cases, public comment will run as high as 70-30 in favor of killing the geese. I recall even one comment from a Canadian who resented the fact the geese were called, "Canada" geese. "Call them BP geese!" the hostile commenter wrote.

All of this is quite disturbing and worrying to those who so love and admire Canada geese -- and want to learn the truth about them.

When attempting to seek more information on Canada geese, mostly everything one finds is how to hunt them!

It seems Canada geese have few friends among humans aside from those in the animal protection and animal rights movements.

Even with all the new media these days, it is hard to find good documentaries on Canada geese with possibly the lone two exceptions being the beautiful, "Winged Migration" and "Fly Away Home."

But, both Winged Migration and Fly Away Home were documentaries mostly about migratory and flying patterns of Canada geese, rather than behavior and life patterns.

Canada geese, after all, spend most of their time on the ground and in the water.

One can of course learn a great deal about these birds through simple and consistent observation. But, with little to confirm and back up one's "hunches" or speculations, observation is mostly guess work.

And so, I continue to guess and speculate.

Last night, I returned to Turtle Pond to check up on Binky, the "Angel's Wings" gosling left behind last week when the rest of his family returned presumably to their fall and winter habitat (just as the geese who normally reside at Harlem Meer most of the year returned this past week).

Although only three months old, Binky is surprisingly holding his own in the face of such adversity and seeming abandonment.

But, of course Binky's parents and siblings didn't just suddenly "abandon" him.

They, in fact, made several small trips and returns from and to Turtle Pond before finally departing the pond and the gosling who would never be able to fly. Its almost as if the parents prepared Binky in advance to ultimately be on his own. That necessary choice must have been very hard on the parent geese of Binky.

But, geese cannot and do not alter their normal migratory and life paths. They ultimately have to do what is best for the entire group and family. The other goslings had to learn to fly and they had to learn the normal seasonal migration and habitat. Apparently, Turtle Pond is the nesting and molting site for this particular family. The normal yearly residence is some place else. (I have no idea where -- hopefully not Prospect Park or any site within 7 miles of an airport.)

I did not find Binky last night on the large, open rock at the eastern side of the Meer where his family always stayed each evening. I did however, find the two mama ducks and their ducklings who always rested near the geese family and still remain.

To my great sadness, Marina, the mallard with the four older ducklings apparently lost one of her babies this past week since the goose family left. That is surprising considering Marina's babies are now almost as big as the mother and would presumably be safer.

I guess its now very understandable why these wise mallard mothers chose to stay so close to the goose family at night.

That protection is however now gone and there is already one casualty.

Most ducks, in fact, choose to stay close to Canada geese when there is space and opportunity even though some people claim the geese "push out" the ducks. Though the relationship between mallards and geese can sometimes be an uneasy peace, security, company and protection seem to trump everything else for the ducks. For their part, the Canada geese accept the mallards, though yes, they can sometimes be "pushy" especially if the ducks try to steal their food. (then again, what animal or human isn't protective of their food?)

I found Beaky last night resting all alone on the small rock directly on the water at the west side of the pond. Its the same rock his entire family used to sun themselves on during most summer mornings when dogs would be allowed to run off leash around the perimeter of the Great Lawn. The particular rock in the middle of the water offers total protection from dogs and people.

Seeing Binky there all by himself in the dark last night suddenly brought tears to my eyes as it was in such sharp contrast to the sunny memory of him and his family together on the same rock.

Yet, a part of me felt relief because the small rock truly is the safest place for the flightless gosling to be at night.

It is very sad to see a Canada goose alone since they are a species that so seems to need group and family. And in this case, the goose is actually a three-month-old gosling without his parents and siblings. I wondered to myself, how many three-month old kittens or puppies (or for that matter, any infant animal or human) could survive entirely on his/her own? My guess is not many. Canada geese apparently grow up fast -- perhaps because they have to?

One wonders of course, how Binky knew enough to find the safest place to stay at night?

Did his parents somehow communicate that to him when they were there?

More information I would love to know about Canada geese, but cannot find anywhere.

But, one can find plenty of information on how to hunt them.

I gently called to Binky last night from the pier and he responded by ambling off the rock and swimming towards me. I tossed a small amount of pumpkin and bird seed to him which he enthusiastically ate. Almost immediately, a group of mallards came swimming over. But, Binky held his own with them and managed to get most of his food. I felt comforted by that and after a few minutes bade a good night to Binky and left with my two dogs, Tina and Chance.

We walked around the perimeter of the Great Lawn and sat for a while on a bench at the north side of the lawn just staring over the park.

The city looked beautiful in the distance with its blinking lights -- like a cascade of sparkling diamonds.

Up in the sky, a plane flew directly overhead, so low, one could almost see the cocktails passengers were drinking.

And then suddenly, without warning, I started to cry again.

I cried for Binky's plight, but also that of his brethren, so many of whom have been cruelly and callously rounded up and gassed over this and last summer.

I cried for all the birds being replaced in the skies by low flying planes.

And I cried in thought of all those Canada geese who will soon leave their far distant northern summer residences to migrate to New York City only to get blown out of the skies by guns, just as they arrive to this unwelcoming and seemingly hostile state with its twinkling, cheery lights.

Why is it that when seeking information on Canada geese, almost all of it is how to hunt and kill them?

Is our main "appreciation" and knowledge of wildlife and animals, how to hunt, harass, chase, cage, oppress, abuse, gas and kill them?

Yes, all I write here is pure guess and speculation based only upon personal observation and no actual science, documentary, book readings or formal education.

All the crap learned in high school (and later) does not help now.

Indeed, I don't even know if Binky is a boy or in fact, a girl and I don't know how to tell. -- PCA


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Canadians Have Landed! -- Geese, that is.

(Not sure if this cheerful fellow (or girl) was among the new arrivals at Harlem Meer last night, but he might be. The new gaggle seemed very familiar with the turf and the people. They seemed happy to be back.)
Ever since last weekend, I have been searching around Central Park for any sign of the mama and papa goose and their four remaining goslings from Turtle Pond.

But, there has been so sign of them at the lake, the surrounding areas to the Great Lawn or the Central Park Reservoir.

Last night, I returned to Harlem Meer.

To my amazement, there was a gaggle of new geese!

Is that them? I wondered while slowly approaching.

But, as I got closer to the new group of geese, it was clear that it was not "the family."

There were about nine very social geese all together and they were obviously quite comfortable and familiar with Harlem Meer.

My guess is that they are the same group of geese who have congregated at Harlem Meer throughout the winter and part of the spring. Then, around the beginning of summer, they either were chased from Harlem Meer or took off on their own, perhaps to molt some place else. Another group of geese was at the Meer for a few days last month, but again, either were chased away or left on their own accord.

A man took pictures on his cell phone of the new arrivals who came right up to him looking for a snack. The birds all seemed a bit skinny from Canada geese I am used to seeing. Perhaps they had been traveling quite a lot or migrated in from some place far away?

They seemed quite happy to see people.

I was thrilled to see the geese as I have missed them at Harlem Meer, as I am now missing the family from Turtle Pond.

It is really hard to find any Canada geese in Central Park right now. Its too early for most to be migrating here from northern locations like the Arctic. And considering the many hundreds or more likely thousands of resident Canada geese who have been rounded up and gassed throughout the New York Metropolitan area (with the exception of Central Park) over the summer, the resident population of these beautiful and whimsical birds has greatly dwindled.

New geese have however arrived at Prospect Park where one of the biggest Canada goose slaughters took place just a month ago. (368 geese and goslings rounded up, bound and gassed.) One person reported seeing as many as 40 new arrivals yesterday.

I really have to hope that among the new Canada geese at Prospect Park, the family from Turtle Pond has not flown there.

We have gotten no assurances from the Prospect Park Alliance that the massacre that occurred there on July 8th would not happen again next year to new geese.

So, I will keep looking around for daddy, mama and their four now grown goslings.

Its easy to recognize them. Daddy walks with a pronounced limp and mama is rather small, dark and round. Her goslings are now bigger than her. I would know the family anywhere.

For now though, to keep an eye on Binky who still remains at Turtle Pond, "Joey," the remaining white duck at Harlem Meer (from an original three) and the new gaggle of geese at Harlem Meer.

I truly hope the "Canadians" (are allowed or choose to) stay a while. -- PCA


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hopeful News on Binky, The Central Park "Angel's Wings" Gosling

(Binky, holding his own on Turtle Pond last night. Brave little fellow -- or girl!)

There is some, what I hope to be very good news on Binky, the gosling with Angel's Wings at Central Park.

I spoke with a Park Ranger earlier from Belvedere Castle who assured me that they do now have a sanctuary lined up for Binky, but wanted him to stay as long with the family as possible. Now that the parent geese and four remaining goslings have left Turtle Pond arrangements will soon be made to rescue Binky, take him to Animal General and then presumably to the sanctuary that apparently already has a number of similar birds who are unable to fly. The ranger told me that Binky's wings will most likely be clipped, so they don't continue to drag and cause discomfort.

I went to see Binky yesterday morning and last night.

He was not quite so distressed as the first day and night he was alone. While Binky still swims around the pond calling out for his family, the honks are fewer and shorter. He seems to be holding his own with the sometimes overly assertive mallards and he is eating.

I think it is good that Binky spends most of his time in the water as he could be vulnerable to free roaming dogs during off leash hours. Fortunately, Turtle Pond has nice protected grass areas that are closed off to the public and dogs and the ranger told me she saw Binky on one of them this afternoon eating safely.

Many people are looking out for and are concerned with Binky. This too, is good news.

In fact, I think when Binky's rescue is accomplished, this could make a real nice media story as so much of the news on Canada geese lately has had do with their killings and gassings throughout the state and many of our city parks. Binky could well be the only "feel good" story we have. But, of course that is up to Central Park officials to decide whether they want to pursue press on this or not. I just think it would be a neat idea and I think the press would jump on it. It would also comfort all those people like myself who have followed Binky and are concerned for him.

As far as the rest of the goose family, it seems they have sought another area to continue rearing their young. The park ranger was aware that one of the goslings disappeared over the past couple of weeks, but told me that the Geese Police had not been scheduled to chase the geese from Turtle Pond.

Its of course hard to know what happened to the missing gosling. Perhaps when training the goslings for flight, something went horribly wrong. My understanding is that the process of learning to fly can be treacherous for many young birds.

Meanwhile, the parent geese did their part to try and prepare Binky to be on his own. Those short trips away and back to Turtle Pond last week seemed to confirm that. They just didn't totally desert Binky.

But, it does seem that the family is not returning now.

And though very hard on Binky that first night alone without the family, it seems that matters are not quite so distressing now.

He is slowly acclimating and yes, many of us are looking out for him. ;) -- PCA

Monday, August 9, 2010

On "Angel's Wings" a Lonely Goose Calls

(Picture left: "Angel's Wings," Binky alone on Turtle Pond yesterday.)

One thing I was not aware before writing yesterday's entry was that the family of Canada geese at Turtle Pond were apparently already flying.

That is, all the geese but, "Binky."

That is because, Binky can't fly and probably never will.

Binky has "Angel's Wings," a condition that causes both wings to stick out at peculiar right angles and droop towards the ground.

Binky was most likely born with the deformity which is said to be caused by malnutrition to the mother. Some claim that a diet with too much white bread will cause the defect in the young, while others claim a diet too high in protein will cause the condition.

I don't know as I am neither a veterinarian nor even an expert on Canada geese.

But, I have known of Binky's condition for a while and discussed it with Matthew Brown from Central Park Conservancy. Mr. Brown assured me that both, the park rangers and the Conservancy were aware of Binky's plight and were planning to pick up the gosling with the wing disability and bring him to Animal General (a veterinary hospital in NYC).

I asked Mr. Brown if they had a sanctuary or bird rescue that Binky could go to assuming the wings could not be medically fixed? He told me they did not at that point, but would look into it. I told Mr. Brown to let me know if they needed help in finding a rescue to take Binky and also sent a donation to help defray probable costs.

That conversation took place more than a month ago.

To this point, Binky's condition was not one for immediate alarm, because aside from the wing deformity, Binky was healthy and his family accepted and protected him.

But, that has changed over the past few days.

Yesterday morning when I went with my dogs to Central Park, none of the geese were there -- at first.

I circled all around Turtle Pond and could see no sign of the family.

But then, swimming alone on the pond, seemingly somewhat frantic, was Binky!

He swam in circles, periodically honking a loud, long, plaintive call.

Poor Binky was obviously calling out to his parents and siblings, but they were no where to be seen.

It was the first time I had ever heard Binky, or for that matter, any member of the family of geese, "honk."

I felt heartsick. "Oh no, what is to be done?" There was no way to ease the deserted gosling's obvious distress.

I walked with my dogs around the Great Lawn and the Reservoir, hoping to see some sign of the rest of the family, but to no avail. Of course, the action made no sense in terms of practicality. If I saw them what would I do? Order them to return to their distraught child who can't fly?

I returned back to the pond and stood on the pier looking at Binky who was then perched on one of the rocks that his family frequently relaxed on. He was still alone.

Then, I heard a voice from behind me.

"There you are, poor chap!"

The woman was walking her Goldren Retriever and motioned to Binky.

Binky slowly swam over and partook of some treats the woman tossed to him. But, a small group of ducks were quick and aggressive to steal most before Binky could get to them.

"He seems so shy and forlorn now that his family is gone," the woman said to me. "He can't fly, you know."

"Yes, I know," I answered dejectedly. "But, I am sure the family will come back. They were here yesterday afternoon and last night."

"Really?" the woman questioned. "I have seen him alone since last Friday. I don't think he is going to make it here by himself."

"Perhaps the parents just have the other goslings out on a flying run," I replied. "They will be back later, I am sure."

"Maybe, I hope so," The woman answered and then bade good day and left with her Golden Retriever.

But, the exchange with her gave me some sense of solace.

Apparently, the family had left Binky alone before to go flying! But, surely they would be back!

I of course, have always dreaded this day.

The day when the parents would have to teach the goslings to fly and Binky would inevitably be left behind.

But, the day came sooner than I thought. I had not witnessed any of the geese actually flying in the air -- just some tiny trial flights across the water or up and down the rocks.

I figured to come back in the evening with my dogs. Surely, the family would be back and all would be happily huddled on the rocks together, along with the mama ducks and their ducklings! I felt comforted by that thought on my way home with my two dogs.

But, last night when I and the dogs returned to the place where the geese family always rested at night, to my horror, there was only Binky! -- Binky and the ducks, that is.

Oh my God, where are they?

I commanded my dogs to "stay" at a safe distance and slowly tried to approach Binky.

Binky stayed, but to my added shock, both mama ducks and their babies immediately plunged into the pond and swam away! It was obvious they did not have faith in the disabled gosling's ability to "protect" them from possible dangers as the parent geese.

Poor Binky. He did not even command the respect of the mallards.

Feeling bad that I had panicked the mallard families, I tossed a small amount of bird and pumpkin seeds towards Binky, and then retreated. But, Binky didn't seem too interested in treats.

As Tina, Chance and I left the pond I could see Binky forlornly sitting and looking out over the empty pond like a jilted lover.

Some moments later, I could hear the long, haunting and distressing calls of Binky as he once again swam fruitlessly in circles around Turtle pond crying out to his missing family.

The sounds seemed to echo and pierce the still and dark and unforgiving night:


Like the SOS calls of a sinking and forgotten ship.

There was no one to hear them.

As I returned home with my dogs, I went over the past week in my head.

Last week, three of the healthy goslings had gone missing for about three days.

But, then later in the week, two returned.

Had one of the goslings simply elected to stay in whatever area the family was flying off to everyday? No, I decided. While possible, it just did not make much sense.

Did something terrible happen to the missing gosling at Turtle Pond and did the parent geese then decide this was not a safe area for the family to stay?

That seemed possible, especially in view of the slightly more anxious and wary behavior of the parent geese over the past week. Though the difference was subtle, it was noticeable. There is a lot of human activity in that area of the park and though the geese family has seemingly adapted to all of it, perhaps the one thing they could not "adapt" to was actual harm to one of their goslings?

I don't know what happened or what is happening now.

I will return to Turtle Pond again this morning on the chance that the family once more, hopefully returned.

But, even if they did, I was told by Central Park Conservancy that plan was in place to "chase the geese away with Border Collies in August."

Its August now, obviously. But, while I really don't think the occurrences of the past week are result of park harassment methods, they are nevertheless troubling.

For sure, Binky is going to need rescue soon. (But, can or will anyone take the friendly, sweet gosling?)

I (and apparently other visitors to the park) can't see Binky surviving on his own very long without the family.

The long, pitiful and plaintive calls in the night seem evidence of that.

And even the crafty, wise ducks don't believe Binky will survive on his own. -- PCA


Sunday, August 8, 2010

We've Only Just Begun

(Two of the three missing goslings have returned to Turtle Pond. But, sad news for the one who didn't return)

There is good news and bad news regarding the family of Canada Geese at Turtle Pond.

The good news is that two of the missing teenage goslings have returned to the family.

The bad news is that one gosling is still missing and after more than a week now is presumed dead.

This chain of events seems to affirm the assertion that when flying in a group, if one goose falls, two others will follow and stay with the fallen goose until he either recovers or dies. The remaining geese will then either catch up to the original group or join a new one.

In this case, the two surviving geese returned to the family.

Meanwhile, a new mama mallard with four tiny ducklings has joined Marina and her adolescent ducklings on the rock at night where the geese sleep.

Three families of birds on one rock.

Isn't it amazing how the mama ducks seem to take comfort in having the geese family so near? Obviously, that is for the protection that the parent geese offer, even if not intentional to the mallards.

I say, "amazing" because of the false way Canada geese have been portrayed by those who malign them and seek their destruction. No, Canada geese don't "push out" other birds. Quite the contrary, other birds, particularly mallards, seek them out.

There are two major protests this coming week in defense of Canada geese.

The first one is this Monday, (August 9th) from 6:PM to 8:PM at Mayor Bloomberg's mansion, 17 East 79th Street. It is being organized by Friends of Animals and we need a great turnout. Media coverage is expected.

The second protest is this coming Thursday (August 12th) at Noon. This one will be at City Hall and is being organized by In Defense of Animals. Heavy media coverage is expected at that rally as well.

It is good to see the major organizations getting together in a common and worthy cause.

We now have more than 520 members on the For the Love of the Geese In Prospect Park Facebook page. Facebook For the love of the geese in Prospect Park This is in fact where I spend most of my online time these days.

I urge everyone reading this blog to go to that FB page for the latest news articles, dialogues, photos and videos. And of course to attend both rallies if at all possible.

We have only just begun. -- PCA

Friday, August 6, 2010

Protest Geese Gassings at Mayor's Mansion This Monday Night.

This rally is being organized by Friends of Animals:

When: Monday, August 9th, 6PM -- 8 PM.

Where: Mayor Bloomberg's mansion -- 17 East 79th Street. (bet Fifth ave and Madison).

Why: Protest NYC plan with USDA to "reduce" 80% of Canada Geese within NYC Metropolitan area. On July 8th of this year, 368 geese and goslings were rounded up, bound and gassed at NYC's Prospect Park in Brooklyn. This, despite the fact there were no non-lethal alternatives implemented before slaughter and there was no notification to the community. Almost 100% of the geese at Prospect Park were exterminated despite government's call to "reduce" populations by 80%. According to Audubon Society, that is "management to extinction." -- PCA

For more information, please go to:

Monday, August 2, 2010

No Safe Place -- For Canada Geese

(Mama Goose yesterday; that only she could voice in words what her eyes seem to say.)

Since they were only two weeks old, in mid May of this year, I have been closely monitoring the family of six goslings and their parent Canada Geese at Turtle Pond.

It has been a wondrous and educational experience.

Most fascinating has been the "Father Goose."

One can always recognize Daddy immediately.

He usually stands a few feet from the rest of the family, his head held very high and moving in all directions. He is on the constant look-out for any threat, big or small to his family.

So intent on vigilance, the gander rarely relaxes or even takes significant time to eat.

Meanwhile, Mother goose usually stays back with the goslings, watching and carefully guiding their every move.

From the instant I first saw them in a grassy patch near Belvedere Castle in Central Park, the family of geese came immediately to me, though the gander stayed a few cautious feet back, watching. -- Always watching.

Eventually, I won his trust too, with some snippets of pumpkin and bird seeds held flat in my hand.

He would gently swoop them up like a mini vacuum cleaner. Mom, on the other hand, could sometimes be a bit rougher.

The goose family has enjoyed literally thousands of admirers. From small children, to passing lovers, to joggers stopping for a breath, to photographers, mostly amateur, simply seeking beautiful and interesting things to photograph. What is more beautiful and interesting than a mated pair of Canada Geese and their growing babies?

I too, took many pictures.

The babies have grown fast. In fact, they were fully grown with adult coloring by mid July, just slightly more than two months after being born.

But, they still had the baby "peeps" and google sounds of tiny chicks. The goslings are in fact, very chatty. They seem to talk non-stop -- perhaps not too unlike human children.

Canada geese are extremely social birds -- especially with people and kids.

And that is the one thing that has always concerned me about them. -- their trust of humans.

Although the parent geese always remained somewhat cautious and hanging back (especially the gander) the goslings were already freely walking up to people within a matter of weeks from their birth.

While everyone I saw delighted and rejoiced in the geese family, I always worried, "What if one day...?"

Ah, but that is something one does not want to think about.

If the geese family was fascinating to observe during the day time, they were even more intriguing at night.

Their resting spot was always the same: A large, open rock formation at the far end of Turtle Pond. It allowed the parent geese full view of all surroundings.

There, Mom and goslings would settle down in a kind of heap, while Daddy, as always took the sentry stand a few feet away. On one occasion, I however, observed Mom taking the sentry position as Dad apparently needed at least one evening of rest, settling down close with his goslings. Apparently, in the geese world, Mom and Dad sometimes switch duties.

But, what was most amazing about the evening observations was the Mama duck (whom I named, "Marina") and her four tiny ducklings who, each night, settled down within mere feet of the goose family. Apparently, Marina appreciated the protection that the goose family -- especially the gander offered (even if not necessarily intentional).

This observation flies in the face of those who claim that Canada Geese "chase or push out other birds." Nothing could be further from the truth. From what I have personally observed over at least two years is that most of the mallards appreciate having the geese around even if there are sometimes scrambles and some pushing away for food. -- Perhaps the ducks and geese have a kind of "love/hate" relationship, though in the end, protection and security seem to trump everything else.

At least that's what a mama duck and her ducklings seemed to indicate. And, quite frankly, who should know better?

But, if Turtle Pond in Central Park seemed to be a "safe haven" for parent geese and their goslings, all of that has seemingly come crashing down in the last couple of days in a summer that has spelled almost constant death or disappearance of resident park birds.

First, there were the beautiful mated pair of swans who lived at Harlem Meer over the fall and winter.

In the first days of spring, the female swan was found dead in the lake. An autopsy later revealed she died from botchulism (sic). Her companion mate frantically searched for her for more than two weeks at the Meer, even wandering in the empty Lasker swimming pool one day. Park Rangers had to guide him out. But, soon after that, he vanished, never to be seen again.

As spring proceeded, two of the three white Peking ducks at Harlem Meer also disappeared. Considering these birds cannot fly, suspicion was that the birds had met with fowl play by humans.

"Joey" the lone surviving white duck has since teamed up with the older, mated pair of resident mallards at the lake. "BradAgelina" as I call them are the alpha ducks who rule everyone else, including Joey. But, Joey seems to feel secure with them, so he stays and puts up with the abuse from the drake. It is so sad that he lost his siblings.

But, these deaths and disappearances pale compared with what happened on July 8th when up to 400 Canada Geese were rounded up and gassed at Prospect Park under the auspice of the USDA.

To quote an 80's song from Bannanarama, "Its Been A Cruel, Cruel Summer."

But, still I thought through all this, that the Canada Geese family at Turtle Pond was "safe."

That all changed this weekend when I discovered to my horror on Saturday afternoon that three of the goslings are missing! I searched all over for them, but they were no where to be found.

And yes, even going back to the park last night, there was just Mom, Dad and the three surviving goslings. -- Oh, and of course, Marina and her now grown ducklings resting nearby.

The whole family of geese seem much more guarded and wary now. They did not approach me in their usual gregarious manner.

Something happened. Something very bad happened.

Canada Geese goslings normally stay with their parents for a full year. These are extremely tight family units.

I will check into matters today, but I am quite sure that neither the park nor the government had anything to do with the gosling disappearances.

Like the white ducks and at least one of the swans at Harlem Meer, I am quite sure they were victims of human cruelty.

There is no way any kind of animal "predator" got them, nor a dog. These geese always rested very close to the edge of the pond, allowing easy escape from a dog.

But, perhaps a band of sadistic thugs entering the park at night? Would the trusting goslings not walk up to them and potentially be grabbed?

I don't know. I just know three fully grown goslings are suddenly gone --despite the constant vigilance and protection of the parent geese.

Bottom line: In the summer of 2010, there is no safe place for Canada Geese and quite frankly, many of the other resident birds of our city parks. -- PCA