Sunday, August 7, 2011

Come September

The geese are once again, flying around Central Park.
Friday night, while walking through Harlem Meer en route to Lasker Pool, a flock of geese flew in perfect "V" formation over the park.
At the time, I didn't see any on the actual lake.  But, it was thrilling to see them in the sky once again and hear their familiar honk.
An hour later, when leaving the pool, there was the then, familiar 15 geese swimming peacefully on the lake.   Close to the geese were numerous lively and noisy mallards.
As noted previously, it seems when the new gaggle of geese arrived a couple of weeks ago, they brought a whole bunch of very animated mallards with them.
Now that they are able to fly again, all the geese appear to be far more relaxed, confident and social.  Or, perhaps that is because the "scardy eight" who stayed at the Mere during the molt, have since been joined by the generally more outgoing gaggle who I presume are returnees to Harlem Meer. 
The new geese seem to know the ropes well and are quite comfortable in their surroundings.  That confidence seems to be infectious to both the other group of shy geese and all of the mallards. 
Looking back over this journal, the numbers of geese at Harlem Meer presently are about the same as they were this time last year.  
For the moment, that is good news. 
But, over the next few weeks, many more should arrive.
By the first week in September, there should be close to 100 geese at Harlem Meer, as it is a "staging" point for the geese. (Location where many families and gaggles of geese gather prior to fall migrations.  They stay for a few weeks and then gradually leave in groups to fly to wintering areas.)
Keeping accurate records of goose numbers in various locations around the city is, I believe very critical right now -- especially if they can be compared to numbers from recent past. 
We need to determine what kind of effect all the goose roundups and killings over the past few years has had on the goose population in New York City.
Unfortunately, I was not keeping actual counts in the years previous to last year, but I do remember large groups of geese being at Harlem Meer twice a year:  Early spring (following spring migrations) and late summer (prior to fall migrations).
We shall see if that holds true over the next month. 
I am greatly hoping that it does.
Last night I returned to the Reservoir to check on the few geese there.
The family of geese still remain, although sadly, over the past couple of weeks, they apparently lost one of their goslings.
I had been concerned for some time that one of the goslings was smaller and seemingly weaker than the other two.  He did not appear to have a specific injury or illness.  There was rather, a failure to thrive.
Of the original four (or possibly even five) goslings, the parents are now down to the surviving two, though at least those two appear to be healthy, strong and thriving. 
But, it is always sad when baby ducklings or goslings don't ultimately survive.  It is not clear why this goose family lost at least half of its original clutch.
There aren't predators in the Reservoir and it is a very "safe" location in terms of lacking human or dog activity.  The only possible drawback of geese raising young on the Reservoir, is its lack of the short grass that geese so love to eat and graze on.  Rather, the Reservoir is surrounded by rocky inclines with tall shrubs and growing trees.
I have noticed that the Reservoir geese are always much hungrier than the geese in the other areas of the park.  It could be that the Reservoir habitat simply lacks the nutritional sustenance that growing goslings require.
Nevertheless, two of the goslings have survived and I believe at this point, are out of the woods in terms of possible threats to their health or well-being.  In another couple of weeks they should be flying.
It appears that the other geese who were hanging with this family through the molt (and who I suspected were the parent's past goslings) have already left the Reservoir for presumably greener pastures.  They could in fact be among the new geese at Harlem Meer.
Meanwhile, the goslings grow fast and quickly learn the ropes. 
A few nights ago, when tossing some treats to the goose family, the gander suddenly became alarmed, honked and started hissing.
I thought it strange because by this time, the geese were well used to my dogs.
But, then I noticed a raccoon running along the incline trying to grab a treat.
All four geese suddenly gathered together and stood upright next to each other in a straight line.
I guessed this to be an attempt to appear more formidable to a potential enemy.
Sure enough, the raccoon turned tail and quickly left.
Its amazing that the young goslings who are less than three months old already "know" what is necessary to scare off a potential threat. (How do the parents teach them that?)
There were no raccoons last night.  Rather, the family of geese peacefully shared their treats with a group of "panhandler" mallards hanging with them.
What would the mallards ever do without the geese?
From the Reservoir, I sauntered with my dogs, to the boat lake.
But, I could not find the family of geese originally from Turtle Pond.
They were not sitting on their familiar rock.
But, I was not greatly surprised.
As noted, the geese are moving around much more this time of year -- even flying now.
Moreover, there was music coming from the area around Bethesda Fountain and the Band Shell.
Knowing how these particular geese like music and culture, its quite possible they swam to the south part of the lake to be closer to the festivities.
By this time, the rain that had been lightly falling throughout our walk, began to come down heavier.  
As much as I love the park when its raining, I didn't want to get caught in a downpour.
Tina, Chance and I started to make our way back.
Returning home by way of the Reservoir, I noted "loner" goose on the water once again.
"Loner" is the goose that stayed with the Turtle Pond goose family through the molt, but over the past few weeks, has been bouncing back and forth between them (at the boat lake) and the Reservoir.
He was with Papa, Mama and the others earlier in the week, but last night was back at the Reservoir again.
S/he is apparently still searching for a lost mate or family.
I tossed Loner the last of the remaining treats I had.  Two mallards quickly hustled over to steal a few.
I thought, "Well, at least she or he has a couple of duck friends to keep company with."
So many changes this time of year.
But, the greatest to come should be over the next few weeks.
Hoping to see those dozens of new geese at Harlem Meer come the first week in September.  -- PCA

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