Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Dazed and Confused"

(Photo:  "Late molters?"  Brad, a few mallards and the eight geese at the Meer yesterday. But, where are the rest?)
An old Led Zeppelin song comes to mind in trying to find the words to describe the last 36 hours.
The beautiful and peaceful visions of Sunday evening soon faded by the time I returned to Central Park the next evening.
The first sense of "something strange" was not seeing any geese at the Reservoir.
Where was the family of geese -- Mom, Dad and their three, mostly grown goslings?
What about the other five to seven geese  just seen the night before?
Although the setting sun was still shining brightly, I could not make out any birds on the water -- even in the distance.
After walking around 3/4 of the Reservoir, the only birds seen were a few straggly mallards clinging close to the embankment and hiding in the brush. 
Something very weird and very "off."
A bad feeling started to come over me.
But, there was nothing I could do for the moment.
Panicking, I started to walk quickly with my dogs to get to the boat lake where "my family" of ten geese had been since the early weeks in June.
But, even before making it through the little winding paths of the Rambles and looking at the rock where the family always is, I knew they would not be there.
The rock was empty -- as was the entire lake.
I could not believe what I was seeing......
Nothingness, everywhere......
Could they be hiding somewhere?   Is it possible the family could be flying now and left?
Did USDA come and round up all the geese of Central Park?
A feeling of nausea swept over me with the last thought......
Not wanting to believe the geese were really gone, I kept searching for them in the distance. 
But, there was nothing all around.....not even a duck or anemic wave on the water.  Just deathly quiet and stillness.
I stood there so long looking, that the sun had set and it was getting dark. 
A young man walked out of the shadows and along the path.
"Excuse me," I said.  "Have you walked around the entire lake?"
"Well, yes, as a matter of fact," he mumbled, apparently surprised by my seeming come on.
"Have you seen any geese?   You know what they are?  Kind of large, brown and white birds that are usually on the water?"
"Yes, I know what geese are.  But, no, I haven't seen any at all."
We then talked for a few minutes and I explained to the young man why I was asking. 
"The city is rounding up almost all the geese in our parks and killing them.  I am worried about the family of geese who have been here for the past month."
"That's unbelievable!" the young man replied, genuinely shocked.  "Why would they do that?  That's crazy.  The birds were here long before us!"
I then explained about the excuse of "airline safety" and what a crock it really is, as the young man raised his eyebrows in consternation and disbelief.
After promising me that he would call 311 to register a complaint, we then parted ways.  I wanted to stay a little longer just in case the geese showed up.
But, they didn't.   And eventually, I too, had to give up and leave.
But, just as I was about to turn away, I noticed one lone goose in the middle of the lake.
I motioned and called to the goose, but unlike all the other nights, this one did not come to me.
Rather, s/he remained completely motionless on the still, black water, almost as if to blend into it.
This was like some kind of nightmare -- especially compared to the beauty and mysticism of the previous night when I had six or seven happy geese eating from my hand!
What the hell happened?
But, just like the empty, barren water before me, I was not getting any answers -- only more questions.
I retraced my steps back to the Reservoir with the hope that the missing geese from earlier, might have magically turned up.
But, the Reservoir was as still, black and empty as the lake.
God, how could THIS BE?   Where could they have all gone?  It is too early for them to fly!
Once home, I shot off emails to some of my goose contact friends.
I was in a total panic.
One of them emailed back and advised me not to panic or jump to conclusions.  Its possible the geese were hiding for some reason.
In fact, a couple of people told me the same thing, one of them, saying,  "All the harassment can cause the geese to become unpredictable."
I realize they were trying to comfort and reassure me.
I tried to reassure myself:
"You have to go back in the morning and recheck.  You have to go to Harlem Meer.  If the geese are gone from there, too, then there is no doubt that Central Park has been hit by the feds."
Yesterday morning, I got up at 6 AM and headed out the door without my dogs.
In a hurry, I jumped on the subway up to 110th  Street. 
Even at that early hour, there were people walking dogs around the Meer or jogging.
When first arriving the lake appeared to be totally empty.....nothing on it.
Oh God, no.......
But, then I noticed a cluster of birds on the little sandy area to the East Side of the Meer.
And, there were geese!
I hurried over to the birds.
There in the front of the flock was Brad, along with a handful of mallards.
And right to the back of them and keeping sentry watch on the water and the flock, were the 8 wary geese.
Looking closely at the distrustful and skittish geese, I noticed that almost all of them are still molting.  Flight feathers only half grown in, some of the geese were busy working on and preening their feathers. 
I compared this image to the image of the "family" seen two nights before.  I remembered most of the geese from the lake looked sleek and full. --  Like they would soon be ready to fly. Several of them were even flapping their wings.
Could it be they molted sooner than the Harlem Meer geese and were already able to fly?
What about the geese at the Reservoir?
Surely the goslings were not ready to fly!
And why would ALL the geese take off at the same time?
None of it made any sense.
From the Meer, I hopped on a bus and got off at 84th Street to return to the Reservoir and the boat lake.
But, it was the same story as the night before:   NO geese on either watercourse.  Not even the lone goose seen the night before.  
Now, I had even more questions than the previous evening.
If USDA came, why would they round up geese at the Reservoir and Lake, but not Harlem Meer?  Did they simply run out of time?  Were there too many people at the Meer to witness a roundup?  
But, there are many early morning joggers on the Reservoir!
Questions, questions.  But, none of them with answers.
I had been walking around in the heat for almost 3 hours by the time I returned home just before 9 AM.
But, I was more confused than before I left.
Several bird experts told me the geese would not be ready to fly this soon.
But, looking back over this blog, it seems from the June entries, that the family left Turtle Pond around the first week in June.   That means they could have been molting for almost six weeks by now and potentially could be ready for flight. 
The Harlem Meer geese started molting later and are still in the process. 
The bottom line is, I don't know diddilly squat at this point.
But, am determined today to get some answers.  
Still, if I do find the geese back at the Reservoir and Lake today (which I doubt) I will personally ring their necks!  -- For playing a really hideous and mean game of "hide and seek" with me!
But, for the moment, I am a just a replay of the old Led Zep song:
"Dazed and Confused".......PCA

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