Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Orphans of the Storms?

Photos:  1-- Ruffian who recently flew into Boat Lake alone. - Notice indentation around neck and compare to photo later in this blog entry from April of this year.  2-- "Little orphan Annie"  with ducks at Turtle Pond the other night

First there was Ruffian (the gander with old gash around neck) who, by himself flew into the Boat Lake within the past two weeks and joined up with Papa's family.

Then there was the goose I am (for the moment) calling, "Annie" who mysteriously showed up at Turtle Pond this past week, also alone.

And then last night, there was a third goose, who like the other two, apparently arrived at a Central Park location very recently also alone.  (In the latter case, Harlem Meer.)

Considering that geese are normally flock birds from tightly knit families, it is more than unusual to suddenly have three "loner" geese show up in three different locations within a couple of weeks.

I asked a wildlife rehabilitater about this and she speculated that it might be due to strange and somewhat violent weather we have had in NYC over the summer and the fact geese only recently grew in their flight feathers.

These could certainly be factors, but I am not sure how it explains three geese becoming separated from their gaggles within such a short span of time.
In case some might speculate that the same goose seen at Turtle Pond two nights ago might be the same one observed at Harlem Meer last night (as geese fly), that is surely not the case.

The goose at Turtle Pond had been observed by other people over several days and appeared socialized with and comfortable around humans.

The goose at Harlem Meer appeared by contrast,  to be very spooked and remained like a frozen statue in the middle of the lake. -- Definitely not the same goose.

While it has been recorded in this journal over various periods to occasionally see a "loner" goose, the sightings are highly unusual and are always therefore noted.

Three geese flying alone within two weeks seems downright bizarre.

While it was speculated yesterday that the goose at Turtle Pond could be a gosling who, recently flying for the first time, might have become lost and separated from the family, it is hard to attribute that explanation to three "loner" geese.

Ruffian is definitely not a gosling and to my knowledge there have only been two goose families with goslings in Central Park this summer.  Neither family was anywhere near Harlem Meer.

The wildlife rehabber advised me to keep an eye on the three geese to see if they stay local or move on over the next few weeks.

Of course I will do that.

But, it won't answer the question of how they became loner geese in the first place?

I know for certain, Ruffian used to be with a flock of geese at Harlem Meer for a short time during the early spring.    The blog photo and entry below is from April 30th of this year and  is definitely Ruffian, recognizable by the old gash and ruffled feathers around his neck:

But, what happened to the geese he was with at the time?

Central Park admits to using harassment on geese. But, I am getting conflicting stories from Central Park Conservancy spokespeople on whether harassment has been used on the geese this year.  One official told me today, "No, because goose numbers have been low in Central Park."  But an employee of the Dana Discovery Center told me (also) today that harassment has been used this year on geese at Harlem Meer. 

"We don't want the geese here." the woman named Florence told me coldly and flatly. "They are a health threat."

But, when I questioned and confronted this, "Florence" then told me she had to take another call and somewhat rudely hung up.

It is frustrating when one gets different answers from different people supposedly in charge or at least in the know.

If the geese were in fact, harassed from Harlem Meer (and I suspect they were), then it is more than possible that Ruffian's gaggle was chased into some area of New York City where geese were rounded up and killed by USDA and the city.

That means Ruffian probably lost the other members of his family and the only reason he survived was through wits, luck, avoidance or early growth of flight feathers.
(This might also help explain why Papa readily accepted Ruffian into his gaggle. Some  sense of unusual circumstances.)

This scenario could also explain the other two "loner" geese arriving at Central Park since geese grew in their flight feathers within the last two weeks:

They could finally escape the death traps they had been forced to stay during the molt and likely lost their flock members to.

I don't know for sure if this is the explanation for the three highly unusual "loner" geese in Central Park.

But, it certainly could be -- especially if harassment was in fact used on Harlem Meer or other Central Park geese during the spring and early summer. (I have heard what sounded like mechanical "goose distress calls" from around Harlem Meer over the past three months. I didn't make a fuss over those because the Meer is not a good location for geese over the warmer months due to the threat of becoming ensnared in fishing lines.)

And if that be the case, it is not only despicable and totally unnecessary, but also disgusting.

Goose harassment and USDA culling programs disrupt and destroy normal goose family structures, leaving what appear to be, lost and pitiful, "orphans of the storms."


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