Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Season of the Witch

(Photo:  One of six, very wary geese last night at Harlem Meer)
Even before hitting the small pier at Turtle Pond yesterday morning, I knew I would not see Mama and Papa goose.
A very bad feeling suddenly overwhelmed.  I was not surprised when looking at the empty rocks, empty pond and empty lawns.  On the contrary, I halfway expected it.
Nevertheless, I initially tried to dismiss and even laugh off the bad feelings as my once-again "paranoia."
The geese are playing hide and seek again!  Maybe they are rock climbing at Belvedere Castle!  Or, maybe they are sight-seeing at the lake or the Reservoir.  Don't panic!
But, more than an hour later, after searching the rocks, the lake, all the surrounding lawns and even the Reservoir with no sign of the familiar two geese at Turtle Pond, I was forced to give up the search and return home with my two dogs, Tina and Chance.
Emotionally, I was a mess.  Part of me felt numb.  But, the other part was becoming unglued.  I fought back tears while walking along crowded, uptown,  Manhattan streets.
Still, there was that part that tried to maintain hope and balance:
Go back later.   You usually see them at dusk anyway.  Maybe they take some kind of romantic day trips in the mornings.
I didn't believe that of course.  But, it was worth trying to convince myself.  At least for the moment.
Once home, I called the Central Park Conservancy (again) to ask the simple question of whether "Goosebusters" (i.e. harassment) was being used against the geese at Central Park?
The Conservancy advised me to call the Park Rangers (which of course have nothing to do with harassment).
But, I called the rangers anyway.
"Border Collies have been used in the past to chase the geese, but I have not seen them this spring," the pleasant-sounding ranger told me over the phone. She then added,  "Some people don't like the harassment. Its possible the person who reported it to you was remembering it from the past."
"Please add my name to those who don't like the harassment!" I said to the ranger.  "But, getting back to the point, the photographer told me he had seen harassment as late as a couple of weeks ago."
"I just know I haven't seen it," the ranger reiterated, "though I don't get here at 6 AM like the photographer."
"What would make these two geese suddenly leave Turtle Pond?" I asked.  "Its not migration season.  Normally, geese don't move very far this time of year.  These two geese usually stay at the pond until mid July."
"Sometimes people allow their dogs in the water," the ranger answered.  "A dog might have scared the geese off."
"These geese successfully raised six goslings at Turtle Pond last year!  They are well used to people's dogs and they know the terrain."
"Let me check with my contacts at the Conservancy and ask if harassment has been used recently.   I will call you back as soon as I find out."
"I would greatly appreciate that."
And with that, the call ended.
But, I never heard back from the ranger yesterday.
Either she was unsuccessful as I in getting definitive answers from the Conservancy.  Or, she did get the information and simply did not want to tell me.  I had, after all, made my position very clear on the harassment.  "ADD my name to those who don't like it."
And so I was back to square one.  No answers from anyone in authority on whether harassment was being used on the Central Park geese or not.  And no real explanations for the vanishing geese throughout the entire north end of the park -- including now, Mama and Papa geese, my very favorites and most well known.
Still, I elected not to write in this journal yesterday because there was so much I still did not know or have actual evidence or admittance to.
There was only one thing to do last night.
Return to Turtle Pond.
But, it was the same story as earlier in the day.
No geese and just a few ducks, including the mama mallard and her six still-surviving ducklings.
Having looked everywhere else for Mama and Papa goose without success, I decided to return to Harlem Meer.
The sun had just set when arriving at the Meer.  Though the lake appeared mostly empty of waterfowl, I could make out a few geese in the middle of the lake and a few more mallards than observed two nights ago.
Jillian and her four ducklings were swimming in the water, as were Brad and Angelina and most of the other mallards.
They appeared more normal and less stressed than Wednesday night.
The geese however, remained very wary and unmoving in the water.
Once it got dark, I moved to one of the embankments and tossed some seeds to a few of the mallards, as well as Brad and Angelina.
Only when doing this for about ten minutes, did the geese begin to move very cautiously in my direction.  When climbing on the embankment, the gander I presume to be "Bozo," gave a short, greeting honk to me, though his body language was cautious and tentative.
I counted a total of six geese, though one of them (probably the ever wary, Bonnie) did not approach and remained in the middle of the lake.
Her mate, Bozo meanwhile, was far more subdued than normal.  No antics, no hissing at my dogs and no bullying of the four other geese he came with. 
Nevertheless, Bozo  did seem to take on a leadership and "sentry" role.  -- Watching out while the others ate.  I am guessing the other four geese were much younger and perhaps might even be the goslings from Turtle Pond -- though if that was true, they were much more nervous and skittish than I am used to seeing them.
I did not see at all, Mama and Papa goose from Turtle Pond.
Finally, Bozo gave a honk signaling to the younger geese. And with Bozo in the lead, they all left the embankment and returned to the center of the lake.
I then gathered up my two dogs and we started to make our way home, saying a goodnight to the then chatty mallards who, for all intensive purposes, appeared pretty close to normal. 
A few were even chasing each other once again.
By the time we arrived home, both my dogs and I were knocked out having put in more than 4 miles in the park yesterday.
But, still I had no answers to all the bizarre happenings of this week.
Meanwhile, the goose family at Prospect Park has seemingly vanished this week, along Mama and Papa goose from Turtle Pond.  Though people have been looking for them, no one has been able to find the parent geese and their three surviving goslings.
Or, maybe it is only one surviving gosling now.
One Prospect Park observer just photographed yesterday, two parent geese and one gosling at the Prospect Park lake.
6,5,4,3,2, 1.
It is the season of the witch.  -- PCA

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