Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Under the Full Moon -- A Celebration Party!

Immediately, when arriving to Harlem Meer last night with my dogs, something was noticeably very different.
It seemed all the ducks were gathered along the south embankment -- and they were unusually chatty and lively!
Even Brad was prancing along the embankment, carefree -- and for the first time in weeks, chirping enthusiastically!
Wow!  What was going on?
Some kind of duck party?
Or, perhaps it was the full moon?
I hadn't seen such a large gathering of ducks in one place for a while.  Moreover, the ducks seemed very emboldened.   Several of them were prancing along and playfully chasing each other on the grassy lawn.
The scene seemed very similar to what one usually sees in the spring when the birds are energetic, feisty and often squabbling over territory or potential mates.
In recent weeks however, the mallards were much more subdued, occasionally nervous and spent most of there time shyly in the water.
I couldn't figure out the reason for this sudden and dramatic change in behavior.
Is there such a thing as mallard Viagra?   Or, did someone slip the duckies a keg of beer?
But, turning the corner, I suddenly saw something that stopped me in my tracks!
Could it be?  Oh my God!   Its.....It's really GEESE!!"
My heart suddenly leaped up to my chin!
There, casually standing on the edge of the embankment were FOUR geese!
Figuring the geese might be afraid of my two dogs, I carefully tiptoed along the side and secured my dogs to a park bench.
But, the geese were not at all frightened of my dogs and to the contrary, began to approach us, as if in recognition!
I immediately ruled out a return of the goose family of four who were at the Reservoir over the summer and Harlem Meer three weeks ago.  The Reservoir geese were very afraid of dogs and the gander particularly, downright feisty and overly protective when dogs were around.
But, these geese were greeting!
Three of them approached me seeking a handout, while the sentry gander stood cautiously back.
It was then that I noticed an obvious female of the group had  missing webbing from one of her feet.
Oh my God, it's Twinkletoes!!
And then, a second or two later, the gander took a few steps.  And he walked with a pronounced limp!
I could not believe my eyes!   It was the goose family, originally from Turtle Pond who, over the summer molted at the boat lake and who I had not seen at all since late July.
Of course, when at the boat lake, there were a total of ten geese.
I didn't know where the other six geese were.  Perhaps during the "gathering" season, they took up with another gaggle somewhere?  Or perhaps all the recent chasing and harassment, had somehow resulted in separating the group?
But, it was positively thrilling to find once again, Mama ("Twinkletoes"), Papa and two of their yearlings!
The yearlings are especially gregarious and human-trusting because when growing up at Turtle Pond in the summer of 2010, they were constantly fed and photographed by people.  They had gotten used to kids, dogs, concerts and shows (from the Delacourt Theatre) and even fireworks!
The yearlings nibbled at my hand, but Mama interjected, also wanting to share in the treats.
Papa however stayed a few feet back, watching out for any potential threats and showing some annoyance with the noisy, quaking ducks who kept running in between the goose family and grabbing at some cracked corn on the ground.
One could easily imagine Papa saying, "Hey, what's with you guys tonight?  You're a real pain in the butt!  Step back!"
Meanwhile, I just kept saying to the geesies how happy I was finally to see them again!
"Where have you guys been?  I have missed you so much!"
But, no one was providing answers to where the family was over the past month and a half.   They just all looked at me as if to say,   "Nice to see you again, too.  We missed the treats." ;)
I stood for a while just gazing over the crazy and happy scene.
Two mallards were nose to nose with each other, quacking away furiously and loudly, a mile a minute.  I would have given anything  to understand duck "conversation."  They reminded me of two politicians in a very heated debate:
"We gotta cut taxes!!!  "No, we gotta spend in order to get out of this hole!"  "Cut taxes!!!"  "Spend!!!"  
The two mallards continued like that for some time.
Politics must exist in the duck hierarchy -- and its just as crazy and contentious in the duck world as the human one!
Finally leaving, I waved to my favorite geesies and told Papa to watch out for his family.
"You really think you have to tell me that?" Papa looked at me quizzically.
Well, not really.  Papa goose knows how to care for his family -- probably better than most humans know how to care for theirs.
Meanwhile, the ducks were still carrying on, Brad happily among them.
It was quite the full moon "party" the mallards threw last night -- in celebration of the return of the geese.
And were I a duck, I would have enthusiastically joined them. -- PCA

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