(Photos 1-- Young goose newly arrived and alone at Turtle Pond last night. 2-- Ruffian on sentry duty last night at Boat Lake.)
Coming home from Central Park last night, there was a message on my answering machine:
"Patty, this is Liana. I call you about Mama....."
Liana's voice sounded low and somber.
Concerned and a more than frightened, immediately, my mind flashed back to the past two hours:
I had left with my two dogs for Central Park at the usual time.
We first checked the Reservoir as we usually do. (No visible geese at the Reservoir for the past couple of days. I am presuming the 15 geese who molted there over the summer have all left now -- though they could still be playing hide and seek with me.)
But, instead of going from the Reservoir to the Boat Lake which is routine, I decided to make a detour to Turtle Pond.
A couple of familiar birders told me recently they had seen a lone goose at Turtle Pond who apparently arrived within the last week.
Its unusual for geese to fly alone, so I decided to check out the report.
Sure enough, when arriving to Turtle Pond, I could make out what appeared to be one goose in the middle of the pond!
I walked over to the east side of the pond where some mallards were congregating on a rock and where I could get a better view of the goose. Surely, I thought, there had to be more than one goose around!
Tossing some sunflower seeds to the eager ducks, the goose on the water took notice and began to swim towards and come up on the rock.
I am not sure if the goose recognized me, but s/he cautiously walked up and gently took some sunflower seeds from my hand as if this was a comfortable and routine activity.
Obviously, this was a "resident" Central Park goose, but I wondered from where? And why was s/he alone without any other geese?
This is of course not the first time over the past couple of weeks that a goose has apparently flown alone and mysteriously shown up to a location.
"Ruffian" (the large, rough-necked gander) arrived at the Boat Lake more than a week ago without a gaggle and has been hanging with Papa's family ever since.
But, none of this is making sense from what we know of normal goose behavior. Canada geese almost never fly alone, but in less than two weeks, we have two different geese who apparently have.
The Turtle Pond goose appeared young. It occurred to me that s/he might be part of a gaggle just learning to fly who perhaps lost his/her way or otherwise became separated from the skein.
S/he could even be one of Buster and Bonnie's goslings as the family apparently took off flying last week.
This could in fact be explanation for the goose at Turtle Pond, but it is not explanation for Ruffian.
Ruffian is a huge gander who has obviously been around the block a few times. (I actually remember him from Harlem Meer this past spring where he was with 8 or 9 other geese.)
I cannot even venture a guess why Ruffian suddenly showed up at the Boat Lake alone. Nor can I guess why Papa accepted him into his flock without contention. That is truly strange.
All of these thoughts bounced around my head while curiously watching the new goose at Turtle Pond last night.
The fact is, there haven't been any geese at Turtle Pond since the early spring.
Now, we suddenly have one goose who at least for the moment, has become part of the duck flocks.
It reminds me a little of the situation with poor Binky, the Angel Wing (flightless) gosling of Mama and Papa back in 2010.
When Mama and Papa took off with their five flying goslings in August of 2010, Binky was left alone on Turtle Pond to basically "become a duck."
Though the family returned a few times to check on their flightless gosling, Binky eventually learned to survive as a lone goose hanging with a bunch of mallards. -- That is until the winter when the pond froze over and the mallards left. At that time Binky was thankfully rescued and sent to an adoptive home upstate.
Its hard to say what will happen with this young goose at Turtle Pond, but presumably, s/he can fly. Hopefully, s/he can reunite with the family again or a few other geese show up to Turtle Pond who accept him/her into their gaggle.
For the time being, however, s/he is OK if not perhaps a bit lonely and confused.
By the time I left Turtle Pond last night, it was already dark.
Moving on to the Boat Lake, I was not sure who I would see as it was later than normal. I figured Papa and family were probably already resting on their home rock in the middle of the water.
That guess was correct as I could make out the familiar goose silhouettes resting quietly against the brightly lit Manhattan background.
But, a few of them slowly descended the rock and began to swim in my direction.
Within a few minutes, Ruffian arrived, followed closely by Papa and three other geese.
But, Mama wasn't among them.
Looking back on the home rock, I could tell several geese were still there (the girls?). They had apparently settled in for the evening and weren't interested in food or human greeting.
I presumed Mama was with them.
Meanwhile, what I guessed to be the boys were gathered with me. Ruffian took up sentry position and Papa relaxed and ate a few seeds from the rock as did the other three younger geese. But, mostly the geese came to greet.
"Hi, how you doing tonight?"
I hung with the "boys" for a while and then bade them goodnight.
I am still completely baffled as to the relationship between him and Papa and why Papa has so readily accepted Ruffian into his gaggle?
Though a little disappointed on not specifically seeing Mama last night, I was not worried, presuming her to be still back on the home rock with the rest of the girls.
That is, until hearing the message from Liana when arriving home last night:
"Hi Patty.....I call you about Mama....."
But, contrary to my sudden and mounting fears, the message was actually good news!
"Mama fly tonight! Oh, I am so happy, I cry!"
This morning I called Lianna to get more details.
In joyful voice, she told me that while sitting with Mama and the rest of the family yesterday (all ten of them) at one point, Papa nudged Mama. Then a few seconds later one goose started to honk, and then another and another.
Lianna didn't know what was happening and wondered if there was a dog or something in the area that was suddenly spooking the geese. But, there wasn't.
"Then, all of a sudden, they all take off flying! They flew almost across the entire lake near the Oak bridge! And Mama! She fly with them! She was the last to fly and she fly lower than the others, but she fly! I was so happy!"
No question about it, this is definitely good news.
The geese are flying now and taking practice runs. And though
Mama may not be able to fly as high or as far, she can at least give it a go -- with a little encouragement from Papa.
As for the question of why Ruffian is suddenly a welcomed member of this gaggle, could it be that Papa needs his help in motivating the others to fly again?
Who knows? It is just another of those mysteries that will perhaps be answered in time.
But, for the moment everything is good and peaceful.
Even for that poor lone goose at Turtle Pond who for the moment, has to live more like a duck. -- PCA