Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lifetime Relationships of Geese -- Buster and Bonnie

(Photos -- Bonnie, demure mate to Buster and new mother. Forever, the girly girl -- like a graceful ballerina.)
"Public notification."
Public notification was mentioned in the latest USDA EIS, but the duty for public notice regarding goose roundups (or other public matters) falls upon local jurisdictions, assuming they have rules for such.
But, apparently, none of the parks or other locations where previous goose roundups occurred have rules for public notice, since none have been issued in the past.
People just show up to their park one day and discover all their geese gone -- as recently occurred to a distraught citizen in Virginia who wrote a letter to his local newspaper:
Like the letter writer, I too am worried for the geese in my area -- though none have been rounded up from New York City yet. (Emphasis on "yet.")
I don't know each day that I still see my treasured geese at Central Park if it in fact, will be the last.
That is how we in New York City who value our park wildlife have to think these days as "public notification" does not seem a requirement for goose roundups and slaughters despite mention in the SEIS.
We know the roundups will occur.  We just don't know which parks and locations will be targeted and we don't know precisely when.
Certainly not a comfortable or secure feeling.
Still, for the moment at least, "my" geese continue to do well in Central Park as these recent photos and descriptions indicate:
I have recently figured out and am quite sure that the two parent geese to the six goslings at the Boat Lake are actually Buster and Bonnie whom I wrote much of this past winter while they were at Harlem Meer.
I originally thought the two were another pair ("Bozo and Bonnie") whom I remember from the Meer a couple of years ago as the gander has been so hissy with my dogs like Bozo was back then. (Lord only knows what happened to Bozo and Bonnie - as with so many other resident geese that used to be at Harlem Meer in the spring and summer. But, Bozo and that Bonnie were older geese than the two parent geese at the Boat Lake now). 
It has become abundantly clear in recent days that it is really my old pal, Buster and his very demure and "girly" wife, Bonnie who are the actual parents of the six goslings.  
Its Bonnie who provides the main tips of the identity of the couple.  
Bonnie is a fairly young goose by appearance, with a long, graceful and very slim neck.
Were she human, Bonnie would surely be a ballerina as everything about her denotes femininity and grace. .
Bonnie was always very shy and demure when with Buster this past winter.  And while Buster routinely ate from my hand and bullied other geese around (thus the reason for his name), the timid Bonnie only took food from my hand once -- and even then very hesitantly, as if she expected her gander to admonish her or she was breaking some unspoken goose rule.
This behavior is of course entirely opposite to that of Mama and Papa geese.  Mama always eats from my hand, while Papa watches over and protects. I am not sure of the reason for the vast differences in behavior of the mated pairs of geese.    Perhaps it is partially due to the fact that Mama is such an old and seemingly frail goose that her gander is more watchful, sacrificing and willing to give up meals for Mama's benefit.
But, Buster has always been a very different gander than Papa.  And Mama is a very different goose than Bonnie.
Extremely large and intimidating, Buster takes no challenges from other geese and when at Harlem Meer, Buster used to boss all the other geese around and call the shots.
He is exactly the same way at the Boat Lake -- only the behavior is a bit more intense now that Buster has become a "Daddy."  I don't for example, recall Buster being particularly nasty or hissy with my dogs when at the Meer over the winter. But, he usually watches them like a hawk now and hisses like a snake if they dare to so much breathe.
But, for some inexplicable reason, Buster was a bit more "mellow" last night.  The normally big, tough gander was actually in a good and relaxed mood!
Buster didn't hiss at my dogs and didn't seem particularly bothered that a few mallards hung out with the goslings on the rock. 
But, most indicative of Buster's "good mood" was the fact, his normally shy wife tiptoed over to me and actually took some sunflower seeds from my hand.
Surprised that the mother goose had such a soft mouth for a goose that never takes food from human hands, it then occurred to me who Bonnie really was as well as her gander.
I recall the one time Buster's mate took food from my hand last winter, she surprisingly had a very gentle mouth.
Seemingly encouraged by the lack of correction or protest from her gander, Bonnie continued to take seeds from my hand last night, though occasionally curving her graceful head as if having second thoughts. (I remember that gesture too from last winter.)
Though Bonnie is not without her own moxie when chasing away mallards or other geese from her brood, Bonnie is most of all, a "girly girl."
One would not need to do an inspection or see her with goslings, to easily know Bonnie's sex.   And yes, I do recall that about the female mate who was with Buster over the winter.She stood out in terms of her beauty and delicate, feminine ways.    
But, what was most startling and intriguing about last night was when Papa, Mama and their grown kids came swimming over to the rock when the "family" finally left.
As I began to feed Mama from my hand and toss some seeds to Papa and the "kids" on the rock, Buster, Bonnie and their now nearly grown goslings returned! 
As usual, Mama and Papa quickly retreated and their youngsters followed.
But, I felt at that point, that the family had their fill of treats and didn't need any more. I wanted particularly to get some to Mama goose.
As Buster and the clan began to gather around me for treat, I instead "shooed" them away and to my great astonishment, they actually listened!
A few gentle waves of my hand and words to "move on have had enough!" and the entire family descended the rock and returned to the water, including the usually stubborn and unyielding Buster.
I was stunned how seemingly easy geese are to "train."   One could argue they actually listen better than most dogs!
Perhaps this goes back to my theory that resident Canada geese are an entirely different "breed" than their wild migratory counterparts due to the fact their descendants were bred and raised by humans over the past 50 to 60 years and later released.  
It might not have been long enough to totally "domesticate" Canada geese, but it was obviously long enough to make resident geese quite responsive to and trusting of humans.
After Buster, Bonnie and their brood left last night, I was then free to spend a few moments with Mama, Papa and their clan though by that time most of the treats were gone.
Still, it has always been true that Mama and Papa come to me more for greeting than actual food.   I was thus happy that I got to spend that little bit of time with these two, especially treasured geese.
And yet, there is that persistent worry over what the coming days and weeks have in store for so many geese in NYC and possibly even these geese who I have come to know so well over the course of time -- as if they were my own pets.
I never did, after all, see Bozo and Bonnie again from that spring a couple of years ago, though I apparently wished it so when seeing the new goose family over the past two months.
Its good to recognize and find Buster and Bonnie again -- but it is not without sense of loss for the geese I will never see again. 
"Lifetime relationships of geese."  The question is, will we actually be able to see the relationships of our NYC geese over a lifetime?  -- PCA
(Note:  For scientific information on the mating behaviors of Canada and Brant geese and the impacts upon their survivability, please read this excellent article out today entitled,  "The Lifetime Relationships of Brant Geese Good for the Goose and the Gander":  

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