Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Romance on the Wing

I knew before actually seeing them last night that the geese were still at Harlem Meer.
I knew that by the ducks.
The mallards were all gathered at the south bank of the lake.  -- Something usually witnessed only when the geese are there.
And of course, in the middle of the rather boisterous and free-wheeling flock of mallards, was the family of five geese standing like priests in the middle of a "Goth" convention or punk rock brigade.
The scene would have actually been quite comical, were it not in fact, so incongruous with what ideally should be happening now.  The family of five geese should be "gathering" with other geese this time of year in preparation for the fall migrations.
But, since there are no other resident geese in Central Park right now, the family is reduced to having to co-mingle with the rambunctious and rowdy mallards -- a species the geese would normally look down upon and occasionally scoot out of the way.
But, beggars cannot be choosers -- even the normally proud, self-sufficient  and dignified geese.
Upon recognizing my dogs and me, the mallards immediately pranced our way and the geese gently followed. 
After securing my dogs to a park bench, I first fed Brad, the domestic Rouen duck from my hand and tossed some treats to his mallard buddies.  The geese patiently waited, seemingly secure in the knowledge I would not neglect them.
But, after a while, Mama and the yearlings made their way to me, while Papa as always, kept his forever, watchful distance. 
One of the youngsters murmured a low "honk" to me that was barely audible.   I recognized this as the geese's way of greeting and saying, "hello."
In fact, this particular young gander trusts me so much as to put his face within inches of mine and even allows for some petting.  (I believe he is trying to "study" and figure me out as I do him.)
I am calling this goose, "Romeo" even though not sure that he is actually a "he." 
But, considering two of the youngsters are bigger than Mama (and even Papa) I am fairly confident of their sexes.  I wished that I had my camera with me as I would have been able to get such an excellent portrait of Romeo -- he was that close!
What sweet and endearing geese these are.   They never fail to delight and amaze with their trust, curiosity and gentleness.
But, the mallards were getting very loud and discontent by this time.  They let me know in short order, they were not happy in having to "wait." --  Indeed, they are not used to waiting at all!
And so, as usual, most of the treats went to them.
The geese come to me more as greeting and "study" than begging for food.
I just enjoy their soft tickling and swooshing on my hands. They are like little vacuum cleaners.  For their part, I think the geese like the hand-feeding too.  It saves them the trouble of having to pick seeds off the ground.
All of the food eventually gone, I sat on the bench with my dogs and once more enjoyed the "show" before me.  (Certainly far more entertaining than most of the repetitive and mundane junk on TV.)
Several mallard pairs were squabbling with each other, like duck versions of "The Honeymooners."  Then there were the two sets of mallard pairs arguing with each other -- like neighbors who don't particularly like each other. More than once, I have admonished the mallards with, "Come on, guys!  Can't we all just get along?"   But, I don't do that anymore unless things get particularly nasty.    I will never quite understand the mallard social order, as I don't understand their very varied language.  They just seem to talk incessantly and are never at loss for "words."  (A lot like humans.)
About that point, a young human couple walked around the curve with an off-leash dog bounding down the path.
All of the ducks and the three yearling geese immediately bolted for the water.
But, Mama and Papa goose stood closely by each other and did not move from the bank.
This both startled and concerned me as the running dog was a Pit bull mix.
But, the dog was chasing a ball and actually had little interest in the birds.
"Come on, Lexi!" the young woman mused, calling her playful dog away from the lake.  The couple and their dog moved on. 
Meanwhile, Mama and Papa goose had never budged an inch from their spot.  I found it extraordinary that they seemed to "know" the Pittie mix  was not a threat even though they have only been at the Meer a few days.
Do they always take such risks?  Or, do they just know things that the other birds and I don't?
The mallards slowly returned to the bank as did one of the yearling geese.
But, Papa gently shooed the youngster away.   "Come on, lad, begone with you for a little while!  Your mom and I need our time!"
It seemed Papa wanted to take advantage of a few moments alone with Mama.
I thought that incredibly romantic -- especially after all these years that the two geese have been a pair.
Romance apparently doesn't die among geese.
The young gander took up a sentry position some feet away from his parents, who grazed quietly together on the grass.
Romance in bloom even though it wasn't Valentine's Day.
Meanwhile, the two other yearlings remained nearby in the water, seeming to recognize their parents desire for some quiet time alone.
Even the "crazy" mallards gave the two romantic geese a little space for a change.   And, as if taking a cue from them, finally seemed to settle down themselves.
As I finally gathered my dogs to leave Harlem Meer, I could not help but marvel at the then beautiful and peaceful scene before me. 
Mama and Papa goose quietly grazing, side by side. 
And finally, most of the ducks gathered along the bank as similarly, quiet, romantic couples.
Its a strange alliance the geese and the ducks have together.  One that for the time being is born out of seeming necessity for the geese, but one beneficial as well to the mallards.
Its not often that one sees the mallards, "quiet, peaceful and romantic."
Romance on the wing.  
Thanks to the forever loving, staunchly loyal and romance of the Canada geese.  -- PCA

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