Saturday, March 5, 2011

Battle for the Skies

Lots of geese calls last night.
Particularly around the Reservoir in the evening, one can hear gaggles of the geese flying in, out and overhead. 
So much fantastic movement this time of year.  However, it is  difficult to know which of these birds are migratory (probably most) and thus, just passing through or which might stay around a while.
Interesting to note on occasion, the groups of mallards that sometimes fly with the geese. 
First one sees and hears the geese.   And then not far behind, the mallards.
For all the accusations against Canada geese that they "chase off other birds," I have always found the contrary to be true.  Many species of birds actually prefer hanging and even flying with the geese.  It has even been reported that sometimes among the large gaggles of Canada geese, one can often spot some rare species of bird, who, having been separated from its own flock, flies with the geese. 
Geese provide a sense of safety and security for many birds, including, but not limited to, mallards.
I recall vividly an evening last year around this time:
Despite threat of a severe rain storm later that evening, I walked with my dogs around the Reservoir. The night was warm, still and lovely. No hint of rain or storms anywhere around.
There were significant groups of geese and mallards peacefully in the water.
Suddenly, the geese began to honk loudly. Their calls springing up through the night air like sirens announcing a fire or some other emergency.  I watched in awe as the geese quickly gathered themselves, organized for flight and suddenly took off. 
One by one, gaggles of the geese took to the air, each group containing about 10 to 15 geese.  They were like planes carefully leaving an airport in two minute intervals.
But, then immediately after the geese departed, the mallards suddenly took to the air following the geese closely behind!
Within mere minutes, there were no birds remaining on the open Reservoir!  All had vanished like the lightening that was on its way to the city.
Not long after that, I heard the first clap of thunder far away.
Oh, oh, I thought.  
Practically, running home with my dogs, I was not fast enough.
A few blocks from home, the skies opened and rain bolted down in a torrent rarely experienced in New York City. Lightening crashed in the sky and the winds were so hostile, I had trouble standing upright. By the time we reached home, both my dogs and I were so soaked it appeared we had all been swimming.  
I remember thinking, "I should have paid more attention to the geese!" and left the Reservoir when they did.    Forget the weather reports that had predicted the storm wouldn't get to the city until around midnight.
Almost all the ice has melted away on the Reservoir now which makes it kind of a quiet, safe resting place for many of the birds at night. 
Harlem Meer by contrast is still almost half frozen despite the warmer temperatures in New York this time of year.  But, that doesn't deter the birds at the Meer from acting like it is already spring.
Brad, of the BrAdgelina couple, has resorted back to his old ways of pecking, pushing and intimidating the other birds of the Meer.  No longer having to rely on Joey or other ducks to help keep a tiny pool of water from freezing over, Brad and Angelina have once again established themselves as the top birds of the lake that no one dares mess with.  For all his dominance, I have never seen another bird challenge Brad in the slightest.  Even Joey who was almost double Brad's size, always took the punches and never once attempted to land one or fight back.
It is amazing that for two, flightless domestic ducks, Brad and Angelina rule as though they had some type of mystical or hypnotic powers.  Even the geese don't dare tread on their parade.
Then again, I guess that is how these two wonder birds have survived all these years despite their "handicap" of not being able to fly.
Walking back from Harlem Meer last night, scores of planes flew overhead, some of them so low to the park, one could imagine they were landing at the Apollo theatre just a few blocks away.
It kind of became clear what this battle for the geese and the skies is really all about. -- PCA

No comments: