Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Family" and Other Avian Updates

(Pictures: One of the goslings from Turtle Pond, now grown, but still with family. The "family" now at Harlem Meer. Daddy goose still with head held high and maintaining position of "sentry" while family grazes.)
Its almost a month since posting in this journal.

Much time has been spent observing and photographing bird populations around the city, most notably, the Canada geese in Central Park. I have been posting many of the photos to Flickr ( and the special Facebook page devoted to the geese ( Facebook For the love of the geese in Prospect Park ). There have also been many articles and other information to keep up with, most of which are posted on the Facebook page.

I also recently started a Twitter page devoted to the Canada geese situation and regularly post to that: Patty Adjamine (LoveThemGeese) on Twitter.

To sum up some of the key observances and other information over the past month or so:

It was not just my imagination that the sparrow population in New York City was down dramatically.

A staffer for the Central Park Conservancy recently confirmed that the sparrow population is down throughout the entire state. The reason for this is not clear, however it was speculated that when certain animal populations get too big, there is a sort of "self-culling."
Presumably, illness or declines in breeding have taken sparrow numbers down.

I am still seeing very few sparrows on city streets, at least compared to what used to be.

However, I have been seeing more in Central Park in recent days. Healthy appearing clusters of the tiny birds have been spotted at the Great Lawn, the North Woods and Harlem Meer. Still, for a species of bird that was seemingly everywhere in the city and usually in very big numbers, the decline in sparrow populations has been sudden and quite dramatic.

Hopefully, the sparrows are making a comeback, so to speak. Its been good to see clusters of the lively little melody makers here and there.

Sparrows, like pigeons are such a ubiquitous part of New York City, it has been downright bizarre not seeing and hearing them on every street corner and every tree branch in the park.

Robins too, are rare to see these days in the parks. Perhaps a number of these birds migrated to warmer climates for the fall and winter, but I recall seeing the majority of them stay in NYC during recent winters. Can't help but wonder if all this means we are going to be for a particularly cold and brutal winter?

Do the birds know something the rest of us don't? I guess the next few months will tell.

On the geese front, the family of Canada geese who stayed at Turtle Pond over the spring and part of the summer and raised their six goslings there, apparently spend most of the fall and winter at Harlem Meer.

The now grown goslings are still with the parents.

One might wonder how I recognize these birds among the other Canada geese at the Meer? After all, Canada geese all look alike.

One of the very distinguishing notes about Turtle Pond "family" that was that the male gander walked with a very noticeable limp. Whether his left leg was ensnared in fishing line at some point or injured by something else is not clear. However, it was not an injury that went away.

His female mate, meanwhile was a bit smaller and darker than most other geese and also was somewhat recognizable.
Well, both of them have been at the Meer for some time now, along with their now five grown goslings. The family is a very tight knit unit and doesn't seem to mix that much with the other geese at Harlem Meer. They are always together and the papa goose particularly is always recognizable by both his limp and his tendency to always keep "sentry" watch while the rest of the family grazes or follows him on the water.

Along with me recognizing the family, they also recognize me. The goslings particularly swim up to me when I appear with my two dogs, Tina and Chance. It is readily apparent that they have no fear of my dogs even when just a foot or two apart. The parent geese are however, more cautious and "Daddy" particularly keeps careful watch of both the dogs and me. He and his mate have not changed at all in terms of "vigilance" since the time the babies were tiny little chicks.

The sixth gosling of the family, "Binky" who was unable to fly with the family due to having a condition called "Angel Wings" was rescued shortly after the family took off for Harlem Meer. Central Park Conservancy confirmed the rescue to me and even filled in some details. Apparently, Binky went to a good Samaritan who actually has an estate and according to new reports is doing "wonderfully well."

Well, for sure, Binky was a very well socialized Canada goose to people and I imagine would be a total joy to the person(s) who were kind enough to take him in and provide safe sanctuary. He was actually the sweetest and most trusting of the entire family -- perhaps that was because so many people took pity on Binky and offered him special treats.

There is a new and small group (family?) of Canada geese at Turtle Pond in recent days.

But, I knew immediately, it wasn't the original family returned to the pond.

For one thing, the new geese don't sleep on the "rock" at night with mamas of small ducklings settling down nearby.

I don't in fact, know where the new family of geese at Turtle Pond sleep at night. For now, they are keeping that information to themselves. ;)


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