Tuesday, April 26, 2011

In the Face of the Gander

Just when you think matters cannot get any worse for the geese in our parks, they do.
This very dispairing news today:
I posted the response below to the article, though for some reason, the comment does not, (to this point) show:
"Presently, there are very few geese at Prospect Park, considering the entire native population was massacred last summer by the USDA.
But, what exactly is an acceptable number of geese at Prospect Park for the animals NOT to be harassed or rounded up and gassed?
Considering that it was only TWO MIGRATORY geese that flight 1549 collided with in January of 2009, does that mean that TWO geese at Prospect Park will be deemed "too many" and destroyed?
Very disturbing piece.
Obviously, the community members and park goers have no say in the matter.
Kill, kill, kill and ask questions later.  Is that the deal?
This is 'management' to extinction."
Yesterday, I spent almost two hours at Harlem Meer just observing the birds and people there.
I counted a total of 16 (mostly younger) geese either swimming in a group or settled along the banks in pairs.
It seems however, that a few of the older pairs of geese might have flown off, perhaps seeking safer nesting sites or just to get away from the youngsters for a while.  The count number was down from the 24 geese seen a few days ago.
I did see Ralph and Alice settled on the grass by the Dana Center in their usual spot. Ralph was a little unsettled by my dogs and approached towards the fence hissing, while his mate, Alice stayed further back, casually grazing on the grass.
Obviously, seeking to protect his mate, Ralph appeared to be in conflict.  He was social and trusting towards me, but wary of my dogs.
But, it wasn't just wary.  Ralph was actually very fearful of my dogs!
As he got closer to us, I noticed the conflicted gander actually trembling, his mouth quivering as he let out a couple of cautious hisses.
I found this very interesting.
Because, most "prey" animals, when frightened, will take off in "flight" when approached by possible predators.
But, apparently, the male ganders will, (in the interest of defending themselves and their mates) actually move towards potential predators in an effort to threaten and scare away.
This, despite the normal fears that a prey animal would have.
That's actually quite courageous when one stops to think about it.
I have of course, noted this behavior before in other ganders looking out for their mates or offspring (particularly, "Bozo" and Bonnie).  But, I didn't realize the birds were actually so fearful of dogs. 
And yet this too, makes sense when one stops to think about it.   Dogs are, after all, used widely to harass geese and canines are an obvious and potential predator.
Still, the bravery and willingness to confront danger of the geese, (totally defying their natural fears) is something to note -- and greatly admire. 
Not wanting to stress Ralph any further, I moved away with my dogs and continued to walk along the Meer.
Unlike the wary geese, Brad and Angelina (the two flightless domestic ducks), immediately recognize my dogs and me and always approach excitedly seeking their familiar treats.  There have in fact been many times in the past (especially over winter) that BrAdgelina walked right up to my dogs.   But, that doesn't mean these ducks are stupid or careless with dogs.  On the contrary, they are extremely wary.  They just happen to know Tina and Chance and now associate them with good things.
One of the fascinating things about Harlem Meer are its people.
As noted in the past, love of the geese transcends all ethnic, age, racial or sexual barriers.
In fact, the really funny thing is, one often sees "macho"-type men softening up around and even feeding geese.  Sometimes, I think I actually see more men doing this than women.
Shot a few photos yesterday of a youngish man tossing some bread tidbits to the geese.
But, its actually a very common sight at the Meer.
In fact, I believe the residents around Harlem Meer are far more in tuned with and connected to the wildlife in the park than people in other areas of Central Park.
Perhaps that's because most of the people in other areas of the park are primarily tourists or exercise junkies.
But, there are many around Harlem Meer who just love going to the park for its own sake and not for any particular purpose.   These are the people who most enjoy the geese and other wildlife.
I sat for a short while on a park bench to observe the activities of the few mallards around the Meer and two egrets who apparently just flew in during the past week or so.
Egrets are very beautiful, but elusive, fish-eating birds.  If one hopes to get photos of these graceful, white creatures, one needs to have a powerful camera zoom as they rarely come close to people.
Still, they are poetic to watch from a distance.
Meanwhile, the flighty mallards were once again, well, being "flighty."
In fact, for the fifteen minutes that I sat on a park bench, my head became strained by looking up in the sky to see the many mallards constantly flying about.  Sometimes they flew in groups of 3 to 7.  Other times they flew in pairs.  And sometimes, a lone mallard even flew solo.
Mallards indeed, seem to fly and get around a great deal more than do the Canada geese!
A couple of days ago, I saw a mallard at the very top of the rocks at Belvedere Castle! 
Other mallards were casually enjoying a grass picnic at the Shakespeare Gardens!
Those who have read this blog from this past winter will recall my complaining often about the "flighty mallards" always deserting Brad and Angelina at the Meer anytime the weather got really bad.
Yep, the mallards move around a lot -- unlike the geese who can be quite content to stay at one place until it gets time to migrate or move to nesting or moulting locations.
So, why are the geese considered such a "threat" to airliners when its actually gulls and mallards (or even egrets)  who do a heck of a lot more actual flying?
Ah, another one of those questions that will probably never be answered.
It seems once any animal is deemed and labeled "pest" then any argument and accusation can be hurled at them whether or not it has any real basis in fact.
And in reading the article just out today (one of many similar, unfortunately) the geese have indeed been labeled, vilified, demonized and targeted for destruction.
Actual facts don't seem to matter.
Perhaps now I understand the great wariness, nervousness and even "trembling" of the geese.
But, they are not birds to back down in the face of adversity, threat and predation.
Rather, like Ralph yesterday, they courageously approach and meet danger head on, being careful to hide their fears. 
Despite the despicable and irrational human campaigns against them, I have faith that the geese will ultimately emerge from this "war" upon their species victoriously.
I saw that yesterday in the face of the gander.  
I saw courage.   -- PCA

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