Monday, April 16, 2012

Questions of Normalcy (Or, Can Mama Goose Still Fly?)

(Photo:  Mama and Papa at Boat Lake.  But, can Mama still fly?) 
The heat is on.
Following one of the warmest winters ever in New York City with only 4 inches of snow and little rain, we are similarly on our way to one of the warmest springs ever with typical temperatures averaging 10 to 20 degrees above normal.
Should this tendency continue, one hates to imagine what the summer will be like.   New York City summers are generally miserable with high humidity and heat, making it typically feel like a concrete and cement sauna during the months of July and August.
What is most concerning however, are the near drought conditions.
A few nights ago, there was a fire in Central Park.  The fire occurred in the composting area near 106th Street and Fifth Avenue.
I don't recall a fire ever occurring in Central Park and I have lived in NYC all my life.
Fortunately, the NYC Fire Department was fast on the job and the park emerged from the fire fairly unscathed with just a few trees lost.
Reservoir levels also appear to be very low in Central Park.  Although the Jackie Onassis Reservoir does not provide water for the city, it is concerning to see water levels so low as to almost see the base of the Reservoir in some areas.  Garbage (plastic bottles, bags and other debris) strewn among the banks suggest things washing up that were probably tossed or blown in the Reservoir years or even decades ago.
Nevertheless, despite the strange anomalies, nature appears to be adapting to most of the changes.
Mallards routinely fly around the park these days and romantic pairs are sometimes seen strolling or grazing upon grassy park lawns (something not normally seen in winter).  Geese too, move around more in spring than other times of the year.
In fact, a few nights ago, Papa goose took a flying tour around the Boat Lake.
But, it was odd that Mama was not flying with him.
At first I was disquieted when arriving to the Boat Lake and finding only one of the geese sitting atop the "safety" rock in the middle of the lake.
From a distance, I could not initially be sure which goose it was.
But, after a few minutes of careful observation, I figured the goose was Mama.
But, where was Papa?   I could not see him anywhere!
Usually when seeing me, the two geese leave from wherever they are to come and greet me.
But, although Mama saw me, she made no motions to come my way.  She simply continued to pearch on the rock, as if waiting for something -- or sitting on a nest. 
A part of me wondered if Mama was indeed nesting on the rock and Papa was somewhere a short distance away guarding?   Indeed, only when nesting have these two geese ever been apart in my observations of them over the past two years.
But, this didn't make sense in view of both the late date and the location.  Mama and Papa always returned to Turtle Pond when planning to nest in the past.
When my concern began to rise to a state of alarm, there was suddenly the sound of loud honking coming from the sky above me and I looked up to see one goose flying in a circle around the lake.
Was it Papa?
The goose made a couple of lazy circles and then came skidding across the water in the direction of the rock where Mama stretched out her neck to honk and greet.
It was obviously Papa.
He climbed the rock where his mate dutifully waited for and welcomed him.
And following their greetings, both geese looked across the lake to where I stood on another rock.
Papa flapped his wings and loudly honked.   And immediately, both geese left the safety rock to come swimming in my direction.
As usual, Papa "guarded" while I fed some treats to Mama. Only when Mama was finished and started to walk away, did Papa move forward to grab a couple of seeds for himself.
Finally, both geese left, (by then under the moonlight) to return to the safety of their "home" on the safety rock.
But, the strange events of the evening made me wonder about Mama's abilities to still fly?
I have not seen Mama goose fly at all since the spring of last year.
I shot a video of Mama and Papa flying together at Turtle Pond last April.    And obviously, the pair flew to the Boat Lake later in the spring or early summer of last year.
But, since that time, I am not aware of the mated pair leaving the Boat Lake or seen Mama fly at all.
While Mama's wings don't appear to be broken or injured, the feathers on them are more frayed and somewhat disheveled than those on Papa.
Mama sustained some type of injury on her right foot from last year that resulted in half the webbing disappearing.    Did something happen to her wings as well?
I cannot be sure of the answers to these questions.   Indeed, I am not sure if Mama cannot fly.
Perhaps Papa just went off on a brief joy fly the other day and left the little lady safely at home?
I don't know if that is typical behavior for ganders with mates who are or aren't nesting.   If it is, its something I have not seen before.
What was interesting during that scenario, is that during the time Papa was flying around, Mama would not leave the safety of the rock -- even for me.
Rather, she patiently waited for Papa to return and then both geese came to me.
Last night, I returned to the Boat Lake, but this time both geese were together grazing along one of the embankments.
Upon recognizing me, Mama and Papa once again came my way.  But, it was clear that both geese had eaten well for the day.   Mama only ate a small amount (mostly to placate me) and Papa did not eat at all.
And then both geese bade their "goodnights" and swam away romantically under the moonlight to return to their rock home.
But, can Mama still fly?
That is the question.
And its one I probably won't have a quick or easy answer to anymore than the question of what the upcoming summer is going to be like in NYC.
One thing is relatively clear though:
Mama and Papa won't be having new babies this year. 
I wonder in fact, if any geese in NYC will be allowed to have new babies this spring? 
Little if anything about this past year seems "normal."  -- PCA

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