Friday, July 29, 2011

As the Proud Geese Go.......

I didn't know what to expect when returning to Harlem Meer last night.
Part of me didn't want to go due to being distressed over Tuesday night's observances:
Many dozens of fisherpeople on Tuesday evening, most of them spaced within ten feet of each other. Spooked waterfowl, seemingly restricted and congregated to a tiny portion of the lake.  A missing gaggle of newly returned geese. And one mama mallard that appeared to have something wrong with her feet.
But, as so often happens when observing human and animal activities in the park, what one observes one day, is not necessarily what one sees the next.
The first difference noted yesterday when first entering Harlem Meer at the north east corner, was that there was a group of 9 geese gathered on the cobblestone embankment close to the park's main entrance. 
At first, I surmised them to be the "scaredy goose eight" that have been at the Meer through the molt.  -- though it was unusual for them to be in such a openly public spot.
But, as I approached, several of the geese confidently walked up to me as if in greeting! 
"Hi, there!"
OK.  Either the "scaredy goose eight" suddenly underwent a radical personality change over the past two days, or these were different geese.
I looked at the legs of all nine geese and none had leg bands, as two of the scaredy eight do.   So yes, they were obviously different geese.
I presumed, (but of course could not be sure) that these were the same gregarious geese who returned to the Meer last week, but had mysteriously vanished on Tuesday evening --perhaps due to the heavy volume of fishing or possibly even, the approaching storm of that night.
Looking at the lake, I could also see that (unlike Tuesday evening), there were numerous lively mallards swimming upon it.
Wow, that was also good news!
But, the news continued to get even better.
While there were a few fisherman scattered around the lake, the number was nothing compared to Tuesday.  Less than a dozen, to be exact.  And none of them were fishing near the waterfowl.
I almost could not believe this was the same place witnessed just two days before!
The "energy" had changed from being nearly chaotic (and threatening to waterfowl) to being peaceful and welcoming to wildlife.
Like Tuesday night, there was, however, a mild threat of showers and the skies were cloudy.
Arriving to Lasker pool, I wondered if lightening would suddenly strike the minute I hit the pool deck?
But, no, that too, was different from Tuesday night.
No lightening, no rain. 
Just the sheer joy and high of getting into the "zone" of swimming laps back and forth in a bigger-than-Olympic size pool.
Nothing quite equals that.  Swimming is, in fact, the closest thing we humans have on earth to actually flying.
Perhaps that is another reason I respect (and envy) the geese and ducks so much. Like them, I love the water and the sensation of flying -- even if the flying (for me) is through water and not air.
Refreshed and energized, I finally left the pool last night and walked around the south side of the lake.
Not a fisherman to be seen anywhere around the lake.
All was peaceful, but as one would soon learn, not at all "quiet!"
I noticed first of all, the mama mallard and her six tiny ducklings following in a line behind her in the water.  All had obviously survived the storms and onslaught of fishing from Tuesday night.
I then found the mama mallard with her one tiny duckling in the same area as discovered the other night.  The duckling was in the water swimming around, while Mama sat, like a hen on eggs, on the grassy embankment.
Like Tuesday night, this concerned me.
For whatever reason, this mama mallard has great difficulty walking and perhaps even swimming (as ducks need to paddle their feet to swim).  Feeding treats to the wayward duckling, I was able to guide him/her back to the mother.  But, when the mama got up to eat, she again, stumbled and sat down.  Something is causing her great pain in one or possibly both of her feet.
I will call Park Rangers today to see if we can get her and her baby some help.
Moving on, I eventually found Brad -- and a whole bunch of very vocal mallards settled along one of the embankments.
More mallards were swimming in the lake!
I have not, in fact, seen this many mallards at Harlem Meer in at least a couple of months!
It seems when the socially outgoing group of geese return to the Meer, they bring a whole lot of equally confident and outgoing mallards with them!
Brad was once again, chatting away, posturing and giving chase to some of the newly arrived mallards.
But, unlike Tuesday night, these mallards were not at all "perplexed" by him.  On the contrary, they were holding their own "conversations" and appeared to be giving Brad quite a lot of "lip," quacks  and feedback!
Is it possible that Brad might be able to find, among this new group of chatty mallards, a girlfriend?
One can't be sure of course, but I would like to think so.
Unfortunately, Brad can't fly, but the mallards can.
(Would a new mallard girlfriend "stay" with Brad through the normal times the mallards would fly?  That is a question that for me, remains in doubt.)
Nevertheless, at least for last night, Brad was back to his old "self" and seemed very much to be enjoying the party with a whole bunch of new friends.
Meanwhile, a couple of honks came from the middle of the lake.
What appeared to be a family of seven geese were swimming along in a perfect line, the proud mama or papa appearing to announce to all, that the geese had once again "arrived!"
Further behind them, were the "scaredy eight" geese resting quietly in the middle of the lake.
And then, swimming together as a couple were two more geese, seeming to enjoy the romance of the evening.
A few minutes later, as I neared the exit of Harlem Meer, a family of raccoons darted in and out playfully between the edge of the lake and the Conservatory gardens.
Even the (often maligned) raccoons were out and about and appeared to be having a good time last night!
Though still concerned about the mama mallard with hurt feet, I have to say that the difference of Harlem Meer between last night and Tuesday night was like that between day and night, summer and winter, war and peace.
Instead of many dozens of fisherman last night, there were instead, many dozens of new mallards, the returned gaggle of geese and even a few adventurous, playful raccoons!
It seems that when the geese arrive and deem an area, "safe," so too, do all the other animals, come out.
Or, as the proud geese go, so too, do all the others. 
That only matters may remain at Harlem Meer, as they were last night.
Along with the geese, come peace, joy and harmony.  -- PCA

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