Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Afternoon Delights!"

It was indeed quite a show yesterday -- replete with all kinds of afternoon delights!
However, initially it did not start out that way.
The late morning was chilly, gray and overcast as I made my way, with my dogs to Turtle Pond to check on the goose situation there.
To my disappointment, I did not immediately see any geese at the pond.
Apparently, the last of the two goslings had flown away, presumably to join the rest of their siblings and other "singles" at Harlem Meer.
The pond appeared very empty, despite the few mallards and even a couple of cormorants on it.
It is quite striking the difference that either having geese or not having them on the water represents.
Without geese, water is just water.  Pretty, calm and glistening, but somehow without much sense of life and whimsy.
I felt a kind of sinking spirit in not seeing the young geese at Turtle Pond has as been the case since the return of the goose family in early March and assorted other geese either passing through or visiting for a while.
A part of me wondered if the remaining geese had been chased away by the goose Border Collie program that exists in Central Park?  Unfortunately, I have learned to think this way, knowing of the current nationwide campaign to either harass geese, destroy their eggs or kill them.
While Central Park has not allowed any "culling" of geese, the Conservancy does acknowledge using a goose harassment program, though I am not sure if it has actually been utilized yet this year.  
With the current low numbers of geese at Central Park, it doesn't seem that there would be need for the goose harassment program right now.
Nevertheless, despite my misgivings or worries, Mama and Papa goose were still very much present at Turtle Pond!
Papa was sleeping on his familiar rock, not far from the little pier.
And Mama was sitting alertly on her nest carefully hidden away in the rocks of Belvedere Castle.
When going to check on Mama, I encountered an older bird loving couple who were photographing two cardinals and commenting on a mallard pair.
I said cheerfully, pointing to the rocks,  "You know,  there is a pair of nesting geese here!  Mama is over there."
The woman suddenly looked alarmed.  "Ssssh! , Don't say anything about the Mama goose!" she whispered.  "You know what they do to the geese!"
Apparently, I am not the only one paranoid about the geese.
I nodded my head in agreement, but did not reply to the woman because I fully understood her concern and worry for the geese.  It's obviously what I feel, too.
It is sad that many of us have to think this way now.
As I returned back to the little pier, Papa goose had awaken and taken a little dip in the pond.
The sun had finally come out and the temperature had significantly warmed up.
But, still Papa goose looked so alone and just a bit forlorn on the water.
But, all of that was about to radically change.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, Mama goose came flying across the pond and landed within a few feet of her beloved mate!
"Here I am!  Break time!  Love time!"
Papa goose immediately lit up like fireworks on the 4th of July!
Within seconds, the two love birds were frolicking in the water, bathing together, bobbing up and down and following each other around.
I whipped out my camera and started to shoot some videos.  The YouTube videos can be seen on our special Facebook page: 
I don't think I have ever witnessed such a wild celebration of two animals seeing each other after some time apart. --- Like long lost lovers!
Both geese preened like teenagers getting ready for an important date.
Both geese played in the water like toddlers in a sandbox.
And at one point, Papa jumped on Mama pushing her under the water in what surely was a mating.  But unfortunately, my camera wasn't rolling during those brief seconds.
It was a total love fest -- a celebration of "Afternoon Delights!"
The rituals repeated in the water over a span of about ten minutes, after which, the two lovers climbed the small rocks near the pier and continued to sun themselves and preen.
Then, with a couple of announcing honks, Mama goose suddenly took off from the rock to fly towards the nesting area.
Papa took off after her!
I whipped out my camera once again to shoot the quick video until the two geese were out of camera range.
Wanting to see if Papa actually joined Mama at the nesting site, I walked again to the area around Belvedere Castle.
Mama was once again back on her nest in the rocks, while Papa took up sentry position on one of the rocks in the pond about 40 yards away from the actual nest.  
Both geese seem wary to keep the nesting site secret.
While watching all this, a woman stopped near me to gaze over the castle along with a park ranger.  The two women briefly discussed the turtles at Turtle Pond.
After a few moments, the park goer left and the ranger remained looking out over the pond.
I cautiously asked the ranger if she knew what happened to the gaggle of geese who had been at the pond in the previous weeks?
"They didn't chase them away, did they?"
"Heavens no!" she answered, with some surprise.  "This time of year, the geese and mallards fly all around.  They don't stay in one place too long."
"There is a mated pair of geese still here and they return here every year," I answered.
"Yes, I believe they are nesting again!" the ranger cheerfully replied without pointing to actual location.  "There is also a mallard nesting on the little island over there!"  She did point in that direction.
I did not point either to the actual site where Mama goose was sitting on her eggs, but I continued to discuss with the ranger the goose family and the other birds of the pond.
The ranger informed me that the two dark birds fishing on the pond were cormorants.
It was a pleasant conversation that resulted in me having the feeling that Mama goose and her eggs were, at least for the moment, safe.
I am cautiously optimistic that although goose harassment and egg oiling programs are in place at Central Park, they are hopefully not implemented where there is little or no need.
And right now there is no need at Central Park.
Right now, it is just long, glorious and sunny days of "Afternoon Delights!" 
That only they may remain that way.  -- PCA

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