Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Quiet, Undying Devotion of the Geese

(Photos:  1-- Mama and Papa on their favorite rock at the Boat Lake yesterday. 2-- Mama and Papa arriving in greeting.  3-- Brad, the undisputed, "King" of Harlem Meer with his two charges, Piggly and Wiggly.)
Disturbing news out of Fenton, Michigan today.
The article (like so many on geese in recent years) provides very little real information. Although stating that 40 geese will be "rounded up," it doesn't say who is doing the roundup, when it will occur or what will happen to geese.  (Usually, "rounded up" geese are either gassed or sent to slaughter.)
So much for the "What, when, where and why" of journalism, 101.
When the subject is geese, the credo rather seems to be, "Just throw crap at the wall to see what sticks."   This is a typical, "crap on the wall" article in more ways than one. 
One seriously wonders if newspapers these days still have editors?
In more local happenings, there were 12 new geese at the Boat Lake in Central Park yesterday.   Either the geese were really late migratory stragglers or more likely, they were harassed from some other location and sought the Boat Lake as refuge.
Mama and Papa goose (who are still at the Boat Lake) did not pay any mind to the newcomers   Rather, they relaxed and preened on their favorite island rock rising up in the water while the visiting geese swam further away.    All was peaceful and serene.
It is probably a good thing that the visiting geese did not fly into Harlem Meer.
Brad, the flightless, but apparently very dominant duck at Harlem Meer is not taking well to any avian visitors these days.
Rather, Brad has returned to his normal "spring time" behavior.  And that is to intimidate, bully and harass virtually every duck or goose that dares to venture anywhere near Brad and his two charges, Piggly and Wiggly. 
A few nights ago, Brad jumped on, held down and appeared to be trying to suffocate (by spreading his wings over) a female mallard.
Horrified, I grabbed Brad, pulling him up enough for the mallard to escape into the lake. But, even then, he continued to chase and push the little brown mallard down in the water with Piggly (the other male, domestic duck) aiding him in the harassment.
Eventually, the female mallard escaped and flew off. And fortunately, since neither Brad nor Piggly can fly more than a few feet, the mallard successfully escaped.
A few weeks ago when Chrissy (the lame mallard) and most of the other ducks and geese left Harlem Meer, I surmised that to be due to migratory and breeding patterns. 
But, I am now wondering if most of the mallards left the Meer because they anticipated the "bullies" that Brad and his two "domestic" cohorts would soon become?  (Although, in all fairness, Wiggly doesn't usually participate in harassing other ducks. She just likes to grab the food.)
These days, I am forced to eat a little "crow" considering how I have worried over these flightless, "barnyard" ducks in the past.
They are obviously well able to look after themselves, especially in the spring. 
Ducks can be extraordinary territorial and feisty in the spring. -- Far more so than the peaceful geese who, except when defending and protecting nests, mates and goslings generally accept and get along with other waterfowl.
The two mated geese who returned to the Reservoir a couple of weeks ago are still there.
My guess is that they will once again attempt to nest as they successfully did last year (although eventually losing two of their five goslings last summer).
I am surmising however, that Mama and Papa goose at the Boat Lake for almost a year now will not attempt to nest.
So far, Mama and Papa have given no indications for nesting, though it is still a little early to be actually sitting on eggs.
But, I am making the speculation based on the fact that Mama and Papa did not return to Turtle Pond this year (their usual nesting location) and that Mama especially is on in years.
But, still the two geese are extraordinarily alert and devoted in their loyalties to both, each other and even to humans.
Yesterday, when arriving to the Boat Lake (as I go now a couple of times a week), I stood on a rock and admired Mama and Papa from across the lake.   
Although at least 50 or 60 feet away, Papa immediately recognized me and honked out a loud greeting while gregariously flapping his wings.
He then descended the rock and swam towards me with Mama following close behind.
Although I had brought a small sandwich bag of black oiled sunflower seeds with me, the two geese were not especially hungry. Rather they seemed to come in simple greeting.
Mama did peck at some of the seeds on the rock and from my hand, while Papa stood sentry watch over her. Only when Mama had her fill and walked away did Papa finally grab a few morsels for himself.
This quiet, undying devotion, loyalty and self sacrifice observed in geese is rarely seen in most animals, (including the human animal) and it is something that continues to amaze about Canada geese.
It makes one wonder what happens to a goose or gander if and when a mate dies?
Then again, that is something I don't really want to think about and hope never to have to see and realize.
I will simply never understand the seemingly unending and irrational human hostility and resentment against these wondrous, peaceful and devoted creations of nature.  -- PCA

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