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


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

really an eye opener for me.

- Robson