Thursday, July 14, 2011

Crimes and (Anticipation of) Flight

I came very close to "ringing necks" yesterday. --  But, was too relieved and too happy to even consider the idea.
Rather, like a worried parent living in a crime infested area whose rebellious child has stayed out with friends till midnight, (without benefit of a call) one is simply too filled with joy to even think about being cross or ringing necks when the loved one(s) finally show up.
Central Park is of course not normally a "crime infested area."
But, while the USDA is in town doing its dirty work of goose culls around the city, then no goose in any city park (with the exception of those few parks, indicated not to be on goose kill list this year) can feel "safe."
Nor can those of us who care about the protection and preservation of these magnificent birds, feel any sense of peace or security while the USDA is around.  Rather, (like myself over the past two days) many of us become paranoid wrecks during these few weeks of the "season of the witch."
So expedient and proficient has USDA become in goose roundups over the past decade, it apparently hit all five boroughs of New York City in just three days last week.  (This according to a credible source who just received the USDA roundup hit list from last week.)
Is it any wonder my stomach almost ended in my throat the other night when going to Central Park and finding "my" geese in two locations suddenly missing?
While a USDA targeting was not the first thing thought of, it obviously had to be considered.
But, yesterday morning was different.
I first went to the Central Park Reservoir, where immediately, I could makes out bird forms in the middle of the water.   Though they were too far away to positively identify, I guessed most were probably seagulls, because of the circular flying and landing on the water.
Still, that to me, was a positive sign.
(The past two days, I had not even seen the seagulls.)
Then, walking around the Reservoir, I could finally make out geese forms along the steep embankments. Then, either in pairs or a small group, they began to leave the banks to swim and dabble in the water.
By the time the geese all entered the water, I counted a dozen.
Was that a relief to see them?
Oh yea.  Just like the parent whose kid suddenly comes sauntering through the door at midnight.
"There you are!"  (I didn't even bother to ask, "Where the HELL have you been for the past two days?")
I tossed a few seeds to some of the geese who were only too happy to trot up an embankment to grab and eat.
While the Reservoir contains a lot of shrubs, plant and small insect life, it is devoid of the short lawn grass that the geese so love.  During the time the Reservoir geese are flightless (June- July) they don't have option of flying to some of the park lawns for snacks.   I noticed that the geese at the Reservoir are thus, far more hungry for snacks  than the geese in the other areas of the park who have far wider access to grass and other goodies. 
While the molting geese at the Reservoir might have it harder in terms of desired foods, they do however have it easier than other sites of Central Park in terms of safety. 
There is no fishing at the Reservoir, nor boats in the water, nor running dogs nor any human activity for that matter.  Certainly, the Reservoir is one of the most peaceful and safe spots for the geese (though the steep and narrow embankments can be slippery for them to navigate).  But, despite the limited menu and slippery terrain, it seems quite a few geese chose the Reservoir as the safe location to molt this year. 
One guesses that no site is "perfect" for molting.  Each has its plusses and minuses.
Nevertheless, the geese should soon be able to fly within the next couple of weeks, so their menu choices at that time will substantially increase and flat terrains will be far easier on the feet of the Reservoir geese. 
I bet they can't wait for that!
Feeling so positive after seeing "my" geese at the Reservoir were OK, I was almost sure I would see the "family" at the lake again.
Once again, the hunch was right.
As soon as I arrived to the lake, I could immediately see all ten geese swimming together in the water -- though they were a little further south and west than I am used to seeing them.
I walked with my dogs to the rocky area where the geese were peacefully dabbling in the water.
There must have been a lot of good duckweed or small insects for the geese to feast on, as they did not approach me as is usual in the evening.   But, perhaps that was more due to the many people and tourists around me.  As such, its better for the geese not to come too near people anyway.  I did not attempt to feed the geese, but simply snapped a few photos.
Papa goose did acknowledge me however, by posing for one of the photos.
While tempted to give Papa goose a lecture about the "hideously cruel, hide and seek game" of the previous two days, I declined.
It was just too happy a moment, seeing them all swimming together and knowing finally that they were all safe.
Returning home, I could still not figure out what had "happened" over the past two days.
Obviously, the geese are not yet flying yet.
But, I do think that particularly the geese at the Reservoir and the lake are closer to flying than the geese at Harlem Meer.
Could it be that they simply start to move around more, just prior to flying?
Could it be that as they grow in their new flight feathers, they start to feel better and more energized?
Certainly, these seem like very plausible explanations for the strange "disappearances" over the previous two days.
Then again, there was a huge fire at an Upper East Side Synagogue early on Sunday evening.  And even though that was at least a half mile away from where the geese were in the park, one could see large plumes of black smoke darkening the summer skies in the distance.
Could it be possible that the ever-present and acute sense of "danger" in the geese -- even though the fire was quite far away -- sent the waterfowl and other birds, scrambling for cover and "safety" on Sunday night?
I suppose I will never know exactly what caused the seeming "vanishing" of the geese from Sunday night to Monday morning.
I just know that like the geese, I cannot wait for them to get their flying power back.
But, my desire for flight for the geese has nothing to do with flatter terrains or more plentiful food choices (though that will be nice for the Reservoir geese).
It has everything to do instead, with the knowledge that once the geese are able to fly again, the USDA will finally, finally have to leave town.
But, not without rounding up and killing at least 800 of our treasured avian friends first.
Yes, until the geese are able to fly again, New York City is indeed, a "crime infested area."
And I am like a neurotic parent, who every time, parting from my "kids" never knows if it will be the last time I ever see them.
The "season of the witch" sees no end until the geese once again, take flight.  -- PCA

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