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


No comments: