Monday, November 8, 2010

Still a Mystery

Photo: My dog, Chance quietly watching the birds who, even after all this time, are still a mystery.
The National Geographic channel is airing a fascinating documentary series on exotic migrating animals.

The first two parts ran last night.

The photography is of course, brilliant and stunning.

But, personally, I could do without all the graphic prey/predator footage.

Sure, we know nature can be harsh and violent. A documentary certainly should not "sugarcoat" the realities. But, I wish they would just tell us the brutal truths rather than showing so many of them.

Although this is an important, fascinating and highly informative series, due to the often harsh footage, I would not recommend it for young children.

Of course, I am still waiting for National Geographic or Animal Planet to do a documentary series on animals who actually live with us. -- You know, the 'common" pigeons, sparrows and yes, the Canada geese.

Fire ants just don't ring my chimes.

Yet, its amazing that due to informative documentaries like these, most people probably know more about fire ants and rare African insects than the animals under our noses!

I personally feel I know almost nothing about pigeons, sparrows and even the geese.

I know of no detailed documentaries or TV specials about them, and it is difficult to find pertinent information (or at least stuff we don't already know) in books.

Recently, when trying to learn what might be the cause for the sudden disappearance of tens of thousands of sparrows in Manhattan, I was unable to come up with any substantial explanation, other than what a staffer at the Central Park Conservancy told me. And even that was mostly speculation, rather than proven fact. ("The sparrow population has declined in the state, but we don't know exactly why.....We are speculating a self-cull due to over-population.")

Perhaps documentaries about the common pigeon, sparrow or Canada goose would not draw big ratings? After all, we see these animals everyday!

Yes, we see them everyday. But, what do we actually know about them?

I've spent almost two years closely observing and photographing Canada geese and ducks.

But, I know next to nothing about them!

I don't even know where the "family" of Canada geese I followed so closely over the spring and part of the summer at Turtle Pond flew off to once the goslings could fly.

True, I have recently been seeing them at Harlem Meer.

But, there was a period of more than two months that I did not see them at all and had no idea where they had gone to.

Even if not "migratory," Canada geese do tend to move around. They raise their young in one place. They may molt in another. They may go to one area in late summer or early fall and then another location to officially "winter."

Some geese even go to different locations to sleep at night.

I remember the large flocks of Canada geese at Harlem Meer totally disappearing in the spring and then returning in late summer. Where had they gone during those few months?

Even now, sometimes the geese are present at the Meer in large flocks and other times there are hardly any there at all. -- Even the goose family.

For all the time I have spent studying these birds, they are still largely a mystery to me.

But, thanks to "Nat Geo," we at least know all there is to know about monarch butterflies and fire ants now.

Just don't ask me about pigeons, sparrows or even Canada geese.

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