Monday, February 27, 2012

Any Way the Wind Blows

(Photos: 1-- "The Three Duck-A-Teers," Brad, Piggly and Wiggly. 2-- Chrissy with new boyfriend?  3-- Buster, confronting migratory geese last night on his turf.)
In a matter of a couple of days we went from spring-like, balmy temperatures to what felt on Saturday night like a walk through the Arctic.
Though this winter has been far milder in New York City than last, I found myself questioning sanity walking in Central Park in freezing temperatures and 40 MPH wind gusts.  Several times I had to turn my back to the angry winds Saturday night and almost had trouble maintaining balance.
It made me wonder how small birds like mallards manage to brace the winds when only weighing about three pounds, while I stand 5'5" tall and weigh 110?
I especially worry for a compromised duck like Chrissy.
But, Chrissy has proven herself to be extremely resilient, courageous, adaptable and smart.
She is easily recognizable even when in the water because of her direct eye contact with me.
And even through the punishing winds on Saturday, Chrissy managed to hop on the embankment, putter up to me and eat directly from my hand.
In fact, Chrissy shared hand treats with Brad on Saturday.  -- Something I was grateful for since I didn't want to spend more time in the bitter cold and winds than what was absolutely necessary.
A colleague has suggested that Chrissy appears to have an old back injury from photos I have posted. 
I believe this to be an accurate assessment because nothing appears obviously wrong with Chrissy's legs.
But, she can only walk a few steps before having to sit and appears to have some weakness or pain in the back.
But, of course one wonders how a duck injures her back?
That isn't the kind of injury that would come from another bird or a discarded fishing line.
Then again, I have seen in the past, kids throwing rocks and sticks at the waterfowl at Harlem Meer. 
Whatever the source of the injury to Chrissy, she is nevertheless a survivor.  And as written previously, she appears a good deal stronger than when first noticed in the winter of last year when she could not walk at all without toppling over.
The goose situation at Central Park over the past week has been like the weather: 
Unpredictable, changeable and seemingly, any way the wind blows.
Last week, there were a couple of nights when there were very few geese at Harlem Meer.  Only Buster and Brianna showed up for treats while presumably the rest of their gaggle remained in the water.
But, then Saturday night, a whole bunch of new geese appeared to have blown in with the  winds.
Presumably migratory geese, most had left by last night.  But, not all.
Some of the new geese boldly ventured on to the embankment last night and Buster was not having any of it.
In fact, so busy was Buster trying to intimidate and chase the new geese back into the water, that he barely had time to swoop any treats from my hand.
But, the ganders of the new gaggles were not easily brushed off and dismissed.
"How dare you chase and harass our mates and families!  Just who do you think you are?  You don't own this place!"
"This IS my place!  You are only here by my good graces!  You get your butts back in the water and take a hike!"
Yep, a whole lot of honking last night and most of it was not the greeting kind.
But, it seems Buster has to learn that not all migratory geese are shrinking violets who kow tow to his orders.
Some of the older, migratory ganders are as big as Buster and they are equally tough.  These birds don't migrate hundreds or even thousands of miles without developing a hard crust.
Eventually the loud honking and arguing subsided.
Some of the migratory geese returned to the water, but the more stubborn ones remained.
It seems Buster had to learn a little humility last night. 
Meanwhile, through all the commotion, I attempted to feed Chrissy from my hand.
A couple of geese grabbed at nearby seeds on the ground. Fortunately, the respectful geese did not bother Chrissy.
But, Piggly and Wiggly did!
The two domestic ducks who only months ago, were questionable in terms of survival at a public park have become so tough and seemingly "aggressive" since they hooked up with Brad, that I had to try and push their faces away from stealing from Chrissy!
Piggly especially attempted to bully and push Chrissy away.
Now, I don't mind when Piggly belligerently takes a peck at Buster as Buster can obviously defend himself.  But, I do mind Piggly aggressing against the smaller and weaker Chrissy.
"Hey there, you mind your manners!"
But, it was too late.
Chrissy meekly scampered away and sat down at the edge of the grass.
But, by that time, I had gotten enough treats to Chrissy so she was probably satisfied anyway.
Nevertheless, Piggly has become one mean duck.  And Wiggly is not a whole lot better.
It seems Brad is teaching his two charges well!
And like Buster last night chasing geese, Brad was busy chasing some of the newer mallards off.
Finally satisfied that he had laid down the "rules" to the new migratory ducks, Brad eventually called to his two flock mates and Piggly and Wiggly immediately joined him in the water.
"The three duck-a-teers." I thought.
Meanwhile, Chrissy too, returned to the water.   This past week, I noticed Chrissy twice swimming and hanging out with a drake.  Not sure if she actually has a "boyfriend" yet, but Chrissy appears to be testing romantic waters.
There does seem to be a lot of "dating" and pairing off recently among the mallards.
Perhaps that's because tomorrow temperatures will again rise to the low 50's.
Migratory geese and ducks passing through and sometimes stopping for a while.  Turf battles, geese pair offs and ducks "dating."
Yep, "any way the wind blows" these days.
And though still blustery and cold some days, there is no doubt, it eventually blows "spring." 
And no one knows that better than the ducks and geese.  -- PCA

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