Monday, March 21, 2011

Rites of Spring

(Photos: New family of geese at Turtle Pond, people snapping photos in background.   Papa goose, "shooing" new family and goslings away.  Papa and Mama.)
Those warm, spring-like temperatures of Friday did not hold up through the weekend.
It was so chilly yesterday, I regretted not wearing gloves.
But, though temperatures have dipped down to 30's and 40's over the past couple of days, the early signs of spring are all over Central Park!
Green sprouts are bursting through piled up brown leaves on the ground. In a few short weeks, these will transform into masses of brightly colored flowers.   In fact, there are already small bunches of flowers that have "early bloomed" in a few areas of the park.
Though the trees are still mostly bare, they are replete with the buds that will soon turn the park into a royal majesty of bursting pinks, whites, yellows and greens.  Already some cherry blossoms are starting to show their early buds.
It is all part of the wondrous rites of spring. 
A rite that includes a new family of five geese who recently showed up at Turtle Pond!
This new "family" was not initially welcomed by the established, "Papa, Mama and their four grown goslings" returned to Turtle Pond a few weeks ago.  
 In fact, Papa goose aggressively went after and attacked the new geese upon their first few days at the pond.
But, the territorial and "status" squabbles that occur among geese and mallards, though they can sometimes appear quite violent, in fact are more honk than hurt. 
Its more about establishing order than anything else.
The new geese seemed to have quickly gotten the message, that while they are allowed to hang out at Turtle Pond, they are not to approach anywhere near either Papa or Mama goose.
But, they can safely mingle and swim with the four grown goslings who were recently "tossed from the nest" by the parents who once again require their alone time.
It was fascinating yesterday watching the four goslings and new family of five geese, sunning themselves peacefully on the same rocks and later swimming in the water together.
However, when they got too close to Papa goose and his lady near the small pier, Papa simply made a motion towards them and all nine geese rapidly scooted away!
Papa merely has to look at them now for the youthful geese to quickly paddle those powerful feet and move. 
I am guessing that the new gaggle of geese might similarly be juveniles like the other four and are not likely to breed.
It is hard to imagine Papa goose tolerating another goose pair attempting to breed and challenging him and Mama for top position at Turtle Pond.
But, if young like the grown goslings from last year, the new family poses no real "threat" to the established parents and in fact, provide some extra company for the goslings.
I am of course, "speculating" on all this stuff, but so far haven't been wrong.
Much was learned over this past year, both from observing the "family" at Turtle Pond, as well as the brutal initiation and "hazing" that Joey, the white Pekin duck had to suffer this past fall when trying to be accepted by Brad and Angelina, the top "status" ducks at Harlem Meer.
For those birds that make it through initial status and territorial initiations and are finally accepted, the going is usually smooth and loyal.  (Once again, the geese and mallards seem to be a little like humans in that regard.)  
In essence, the scene was peaceful and quiet yesterday at Turtle Pond which each goose appearing to know his or her place and happily accept it.
One can't, however, say the same for the mallards.
There was, in fact, quite a bit of squawking and feather-rustling occurring with the mallards. 
I attribute this simply to the "rites of spring," but was informed by another park goer and careful observer of the ducks at Turtle Pond that there is a "bully" drake there who is particularly mean to all the other ducks. 
The gentleman even pointed out the "bully duck" to me who was giving the others a rough time.
Oh well, there always appears to be at least one "bully" among the ducks and sometimes, the geese too.  
Then again, If one didn't understand his motivations, one might think "Papa goose" is a bully, too.  
But, Papa is merely very protective of his lady and the couple's breeding place.
Perhaps the same is true of the "bully duck?"
 I can't say, as I don't know the Turtle Pond mallards well enough to guess.
As is common at Harlem Meer, groups of people and children ventured on the areas surrounding Turtle Pond to get photos of or just admire the geese, ducks and healthy array of other birds swimming or flying around.   Some park goers came onto the pier and others sat along the rocks snapping photos.
There are in fact, thousands of birds returned to Central Park now.  The sparrows and robins are back, along with grapples, and the occasional, beautiful cardinal.  The other day at Harlem Meer, I saw a gorgeous, dark, sapphire-blue colored bird, but had no idea what it was.
The park may still largely have the "look" of winter, but the rites of spring are all around.
Returning home from Central Park yesterday with my dogs, my spirits felt full and vitalized.
But then,  I noticed a flattened out pigeon dead in the streets from having been run over by a car.
"Dear God, please take that little one's spirit to heaven."
I was then reminded of all the death and sorrows in the world of the past week.
"Please, God, bring to heaven the souls of all who have perished so tragically in the terrible storms of these  times. 
And, please grant to us, the living, the peace and forever beautiful rites of spring for which I am eternally grateful."   -- PCA

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