Monday, March 26, 2012

Joy Rides and Returns to the Nests

(Photos:  1-- Buster and Brianna. One last fling and joy ride before the call? 2-- The gosling from last year.  3-- The Reservoir geese, returned?)   
The first sight encountered yesterday when arriving to Harlem Meer on a brisk, but beautiful spring day, were three mallards frolicking in the lake.  
The mallards took off from the water and flew in a high, wide circle all around the Meer twice -- only to eventually return and land back in the water, not far from where they originally took off. 
One mallard landed about 30 feet from the other two, but quickly flew back to them.
I guessed this was the duck equivalent to a "joy ride" for humans.  Flying around for the sheer enjoyment and fun of it.
I have noted that kind of "flying around for the hell of it" numerous times over the past five or six weeks among the ducks and geese of Central Park.
This is not a season the birds have to worry about conserving energy or fattening up and so it seems they are using much of their time either catching up on rest, staking out territories or just seeking adventure and play.
Unfortunately, the Bradley Brigade (Brad, Piggly and Wiggly) the three domestic ducks presumably left by humans at the Meer can never know the joy of just flying around for the heck of it, as they cannot fly more than a few feet. 
But, they have their own ways of finding fun.
These days, it seems Brad and Piggly are in constant conversation with each other over how to run things at the Meer and Brad particularly loves giving the mallards a hard time.  Sometimes, Brad even goes off on his own just to let the mallards know who is the boss at the Meer. But, "the three duckateers" also find those little spaces in time and place to just rest and relax.  There is a little fenced in area by the Dana Center that is particularly nice and safe for Brad, Piggly and Wiggly to grab quick afternoon siestas together.  
Yesterday, I was at first concerned when seeing Brad by himself on the lake keeping the mallards in line.  But, then a few minutes later, he rejoined his pals, Piggly and Wiggly and the three went proudly swimming off together.
I then noticed what looked like a small gaggle of geese on the small, sandy eastern portion of Harlem Meer.   I walked over to check the geese out.
It was a family of five geese.   After securing my two dogs to a park bench, I walked a little closer to the geese and surprisingly, two of them began to approach me as if in recognition.
The gander of the two confidently walked up to me in greeting and gently took sunflower seeds from my hand!
His mate also walked up, but bowed her head and shyly turned away from offered hand treat, preferring to eat seeds off the grass.
It did not dawn on me at first who these geese actually were, but it was clear they were familiar.
The three geese who I presumed to be the offspring of the "dominant" pair took respectfully to the edge of the water, but also watched as if in recognition.  I approached them, but like the mother goose, they declined to take anything from my hand, electing to nibble at the seeds in the sand.
It was only when I began to walk away and noticed the gander suddenly admonishing the youngsters when they attempted to walk into the "space" of the parents, that I realized the family was Buster, Brianna and their grown goslings!
Apparently, the family returned to Harlem Meer for what I guess to be a brief visit or "joy ride?"
Its been at least six or seven weeks since seeing Buster and his gaggle who I had so became familiar with and fond of over the winter.  As soon as the first warm hints and buds of spring began to appear, Buster, his mate and "kids" left Harlem Meer.  
Had the family been "harassed" out from where they had spent the last month and a half or had Buster and flock simply used a lazy Sunday afternoon to go "pond hopping" and check out their old haunts?
I of course had no way of knowing the actual answers to the questions. It was just really nice to see Buster, Brianna and the "kids" again.
But, my sense is that they will not be staying for long at Harlem Meer.
Walking back from the Meer, through the North Meadow and the Reservoir, I thought back to last spring and summer and remembered the two geese who raised three goslings at the Reservoir then.
I had not seen any geese in the Reservoir over the past six weeks or so and wondered if the family might not return?
But, then as I approached the 90th street exit of the Reservoir, I suddenly noticed a pair of obviously mated geese in the water.
The geese and ducks don't appear to be actually "nesting" yet, but all the "joy rides" and moving around may indeed represent the preparations.
Spring is not only the time for rest, play, staking out territories and joy rides, but also the time for romance and returning to the nests.
One cannot be sure, but it appears the Reservoir geese are back and Buster and Brianna will be soon to go again.
Perhaps yesterday simply represented one last fling -- and joy ride before the real responsibilities and challenges of the spring set in.  -- PCA

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