Saturday, April 16, 2011

New Life?

Ah, the changes of spring and how rapidly they occur!
Although most of the trees are still in transition from winter to spring with millions of small buds popping out, the cherry blossoms are almost in full bloom now throughout much of Central Park, as are many new flower plants.
New burgeoning life all over.
New life may also be happening for the geese at Turtle Pond.
But, first the established family seems very busy now in pushing the visiting geese out.
As previously mentioned, Mama and Papa goose returned to Turtle Pond more than a month ago with their five grown goslings who were hatched at the pond last May.
A short time after they arrived, however, a couple of other goose families appeared to join them.
For a brief while, things looked peaceful but a bit "goose crowded" on the pond with as many as 20 to 25 geese sharing the water.
But, around that time, the parent geese separated themselves from their goslings and papa goose especially started to lay down the rules that the west side of Turtle Pond was completely off limits to ALL the other geese, including his own grown kids.  
Any goose (whether family or not)  who dared cross the invisible line separating one half of the pond from the other, was quickly and aggressively admonished by papa goose flying straight across at the offending goose, cuffing and occasionally even pushing under the water.
It was quite a scene and one which still continues today.
Only by now, the younger geese have learned the invisible line and rarely if ever transgress it.
But, in recent days, the yearling goslings have also taken on the role of territorial protectors of the pond.
They have become far less welcoming of the visiting geese and in fact, have been intimidating and chasing them off via loud honking and intimidating body postures.
I shot this short video two days ago of two of the goslings first "discussing" and then threatening the other geese:
It should have probably come as no surprise then, that when visiting Turtle Pond yesterday, only three of the original visiting geese still stubbornly remained.
But, even they were continuing to be pressured and intimidated by the goslings born at the pond last year.
Papa goose has trained his kids well.
Meanwhile, things have changed for Mama and Papa goose, too.
I was a little alarmed two days ago when, for the first time, seeing Papa goose all alone on one of the small rocks of the west side of the pond.
The first thought was, did something happen to mama?  
She was no where to be seen! -- Not even in the little island area in back of the rock that Papa was standing on.
Of course, the first realization that should have occurred was the probability that mama might be nesting again.
Unfortunately, the sad events from last spring at Harlem Meer still linger in my head: 
During that period, Joey's two (pekin duck) siblings vanished from the meer never to be seen again.  I wanted to believe at first that the two sisters were nesting someplace, but later learned from a park ranger that they were likely victims of human cruelty.
At the same time, the female swan of the pair, "Romeo and Juliet" was found dead one May morning.  (An autopsy later indicated she had died from Botulism.)   Two weeks later, her bereaved mate, (after searching all over for her) vanished from the Meer, never to be seen again.
So yes, last spring was rough in terms of some of the waterfowl life at Central Park.
I feared when not seeing Mama goose on Thursday evening, that the same might be happening again.
But, papa goose did not appear to be in any kind of "berevement" and on the contrary, was still very attentive to his sentry duties, flying across and cuffing one errant goose tripping over the invisible separation line at one point.
I decided to return to Turtle Pond yesterday morning to look for Mama goose as it had already started to get dark the other evening.
I recalled how another bird observer told me that Mama goose had laid her eggs somewhere in the rocks under Belvedere Castle last year.
So, I traversed the area around the castle carefully looking down over the rocks.
And yes!   There was mama, carefully hidden away, in high weeds and on rock crevices sitting on what obviously is a nest!
She was actually very hard to see with her colors blending into the grey and browns surrounding her.   I took out my camera and zoomed in as best I could to photograph mama goose who was in fact, very far away and totally blended in with her rocky background.
Have park officials discovered the nest and oiled the eggs?
I have no way of knowing that and don't want to ask for obvious reasons.
It is pretty clear however, that both Mama and Papa goose are taking great pains to keep the nesting place as secret and inaccessible as they can.  (Certainly, it would not be an easy feat to get to the nest and eggs hidden in jagged portions of rock.)    Even papa goose seems to be taking extra precautions not to be too close to the nesting area for supposed fear of giving it away.
As has been conjectured in this journal recently, Canada geese are extremely wary, protective and adaptable animals.  Will wide spread egg addling (destruction) cause the geese to adapt behavior and take extra measures to lay eggs in strange and inaccessible areas?   Will they adapt creative and wily measures to hide nests and eggs? 
I can't obviously say for sure, but that does seem to be the case with the parent geese from Turtle Pond.
Meanwhile, the whole family is engaged these days in either chasing or keeping other geese out of the "home nesting turf."
Why do we need Border Collies or for that matter, egg addling if the geese themselves do the job of "harassment" and maintaining a population suitable to the environment?
I have an idea that when returning to Turtle Pond the next time, that even the three visiting and remaining geese will be long gone.
Mama and Papa (and now their grown kids) "rule" at Turtle Pond. 
Presuming the new eggs actually hatch next month, no other geese will be welcomed at Turtle Pond for the remainder of the spring and much of the summer.  -- PCA

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