Friday, May 13, 2011

A "Silly" (or Brave?) Goose

(Photo:  "Bozo" -- the dog hating gander at Harlem Meer) 
Now I know where the expression, "silly goose" comes from.
It had to have been derived from a goose like "Bozo":
If I am madly in love with Papa goose from Turtle Pond, I am infinitely curious about Bozo, the dog-hating gander at Harlem Meer.
Especially curious because now that all the other geese have seemingly vanished (or been banished from the Meer by "Goosebusters"), Bozo and his mate, Bonnie, mysteriously remain.
The last two times I have been at the Meer (at night), there are hardly any waterfowl at all.
The yearlings are gone (i.e. the grown goslings from Turtle Pond last year) as well as the few pairs of geese I have come to know.  Gone too, are almost all the mallards, except for a few "stray" drakes and of course, Brad and Angelina, the flightless, domestic ducks.
But, Bozo and Bonnie still remain.
How do I recognize Bozo and Bonnie?
It's easy.
Bozo always approaches me when I arrive at the Meer with my two dogs.  His cautious and shy mate, Bonnie is usually some paces behind him.
But, Bozo does not swim up to me in greeting or because he is hungry and seeking treats.
Rather, he comes to stalk Tina and Chance, my two, pussy woosy pooches.
Because I now recognize his bold posture and threatening glares, I immediately secure my two dogs to a park bench and gently approach Bozo as he climbs up on the embankment.
"Now, Bozo, be nice.   You know my dogs are no threat to you!"
Bozo hisses.
But, he does not hiss at me.  His eyes are fixed on Tina and Chance who are sitting quietly at least 20 feet away.
I reach into my little sandwich bag and toss some cracked corn and blueberries to Bozo.
He shows a mild interest in the treats and lowers his head to take a few nibbles.   But still, Bozo is fixated on my dogs.
Meanwhile, Bonnie is swimming lazy circles in the water, apparently nervous about coming up on the embankment until her mate signals an "all clear."
I decide to leave with Tina and Chance to look for Brad and Angelina.
There is nothing I can say to Bozo to make him like or trust dogs and apparently he has instilled similar fears in his mate, Bonnie.
Walking down the south path of the Meer, I can hear Brad and Angelina before I actually see them.
Angelina is particularly loud and boisterous, constantly chattering and Brad answers her in kind.  (Wish I had some inkling to what these two chatterboxes go on about constantly. They are never at a loss for duck words.)
Both ducks immediately recognize my dogs and me (Brad and Angelina have absolutely NO fear of my dogs and will prance directly up to them) and hop up on the embankment.
Brad eats directly out of my hand, but he keeps a careful watch on the three drakes also climbing onto the embankment in search of treats. 
Then, in a flash, Brad immediately departs from the treats and aggressively charges the three unfortunate drakes!   They are unceremoniously chased and dumped back into the water.
"BRAD!  That is NOT nice!  There is more than enough here for you and Angelina!  You need to SHARE!"
Brad has no interest in "sharing" anything. He returns to his mate and the treats grumbling what I presume to be duck curses.
"These miserable mallards!  They just refuse to learn!"
We go through the routine again.
But, this time, when the determined mallards attempt to return, I step in between the charging Brad and the drakes.  Brad backs off this time, but I know that is only temporary.
Brad is one very mean duck these days.
So different from the winter when, needing the mallards to help keep open water, Brad often and generously allowed them to eat first!  (Talk about being calculating and shrewd when necessity calls for it!) 
But, come the spring, Brad doesn't give the mallards the time of day.
Part of me wonders if Brad is the reason almost all the mallards have vanished from Harlem Meer?
But, then the geese have left too -- all but, Bozo and Bonnie.
Another part of me suspects the goose harassment has been around.
But, of course charging Border Collies would not scare Bozo and Bonnie away.
On the contrary,  Bozo would charge the Border Collies!
I return back to Bozo and Bonnie, who this time, is up on the embankment eating while her charged up mate keeps protective guard over her.
I again secure my dogs to the park bench and attempt to have a "talk" with Bozo.
"Of all the NICE geesies who have been banished from this park, I cannot believe you are STILL here, Bozo!   Don't you know, you give your brethren a bad name?  Why do you CHOOSE to stay in an area with so many Pit Bulls and Rotties?  Are you looking to get your neck rung?"
But, Bozo keeps staring at my dogs, as they sit peacefully under the park bench. 
He again hisses his disdane.
At that point, I decide I really don't trust Bozo and go to get my dogs to leave once again.
This is one gander who is not going to change his feathers.
After untying my dogs, I am careful to walk very gingerly around the sentry gander and his passive mate who continues to casually graze without even looking up.
But, Bozo never takes his eyes from us as my two passive dogs and I practically tip toe from the Meer.
Walking home, I wonder to myself what terrible thing could have happened to make this gander hate and fear dogs so much?
Did a dog kill a former mate to Bozo or perhaps his young goslings at some point?
There has to be a reason for this very strange and hostile goose behavior.  Geese are normally such peaceful animals who simply fly off when frightened by dogs or other predator animals.  (That is precisely why dogs are used to "harass" and chase geese away!)
To see a goose behave so confrontationally with dogs is highly unusual and curious.  Bozo obviously believes in "facing the enemy" without flinching or backdown.
In early April I took a video of Bozo when first encountering him with my dogs:
In later days, Bozo and Bonnie were positioned near the entrance of the Meer where Bozo brazenly walked up to every dog entering the park hissing, honking and ordering them to get the hell out.
So, is it any wonder now that Bozo and Bonnie are still at the Meer despite the possible dog harassment that has occurred?
Not really, when one thinks about it.
Bozo is more than willing and able to confront the enemy head on.
What is surprising though, is that he is still alive.
Between Bozo and the equally brazen, Brad, dogs and ducks don't have a chance at Harlem Meer these beautiful, spring days.  -- PCA

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