Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Geese Who Got Away -- Annie

(Photos:  1-- A goose, who granted the blessing of early flight feathers was able to escape goose massacre from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge on July 9th of this year.  2-- "Little Orphan Annie" hiding in corner at Turtle Pond in Central Park.)

When seeing Annie for the first time the other night at Turtle Pond, I tried to imagine that she was a very young goose who, flying for the first time, became lost and separated from her family.

I even considered she might be one of "kids" from Buster and Bonnie who, with their six goslings, flew from the Boat Lake within the past couple of weeks.

Sometimes we try to attribute natural causes to things that are otherwise unnatural, a phenomenon otherwise known as "denial."

Nevertheless, in the dark shadows of evening descended on Central Park two nights ago, Annie appeared small, confused and "lost," the way one would imagine a youngster to be without his/her family.

But, last night I went to Turtle Pond earlier in the evening, before the sun had actually set and there was still fading daylight.

As matters turned out, I was able to spend a significant block of time with Annie, thus getting a much better look at her and observing her behavior and body postures in greater detail.

I am reasonably sure that Annie is in fact, a girl.   But, I don't believe her to be a young goose (or gosling) at all.  If forced to guess age, I would probably put Annie's age somewhere between 5 and 9 years.   She is small in appearance (like Mama goose at the Boat Lake) and has the darker, somewhat fluffed feathers associated with more mature geese. Her low body positions are more typical of female geese than ganders who generally maintain high neck and body postures.

When first arriving at Turtle Pond, I immediately spotted Annie looking like a frozen statue in the water not far from same the rock I saw her the other night.

She was completely alone as there was not even a mallard in sight.

Perhaps there were no mallards because there were 4 teenagers casting 30 or 40 foot fishing lines from the rock across the water. (Mallards seem to be clever about avoiding fishermen and fishing lines.)

Not seeking any confrontations with the young men fishing, I moved to the furthest corner of the rock as far away from them as possible.

Upon seeing me, Annie began to slowly and painstakingly inch her way in my direction as if trying to avoid being noticed. I have never in fact, seen a goose move so slowly and cautiously. It was almost like watching a tiny worm inch its way across an ocean.

I am not sure exactly how long it took Annie to "swim" the roughly 20 feet to the rock, but it was a long time.

Once finally reaching it, she literally tip-toed on the rock as if walking over broken glass.

It seemed before taking any steps, Annie actually stopped to think about and carefully plan each move like she was expecting big green monsters to suddenly jump out of the bushes.

Annie finally made her way to me and I offered some sunflower seeds in my hand.  Once again, slowly and ever so cautiously she gently took some.  But, like Papa goose at the Boat Lake, it seemed Annie came more in greeting (or in her case, seeking some kind of comfort and familiarity ) than actually seeking food.

After a few seconds, Annie moved a few feet away and stood in a corner close to some shrubs and plants. 

Though still close to me, it seemed Annie was otherwise trying to be invisible.

About that time, I became concerned for my own safety, as the teenagers fishing on the rock were then casting their lines far to the right where one of them missed my head by a couple of feet.

"Hey, you're not supposed to cast lines in the direction of people!" I admonished.

"Fishing is legal here!" one of the young guys angrily  snapped.  "We can do anything we want!"

Something then told me these guys were bad news and it was unwise to go up and down with them.  I didn't say anything more.

Yes, fishing is (unfortunately now) "legal" at Turtle Pond.  

But, for many years it wasn't allowed, presumably due to the dangers posed to people around a small pond and perhaps the hundreds of turtles present in the watercourse so named for them.

But, some bureaucrats determined that fishing should be allowed on all the watercourses in Central Park no matter how small or how heavy the volume of pedestrian traffic.

One presumes we have to wait for some small child to be injured at Turtle Pond or perhaps someone's poodle to get hooked on a fishing line before matters will change back to what they rightfully were.

Not trusting the young punks fishing to respect any of the wildlife hiding on the pond, or more specifically the goose trying to make herself invisible in a corner, I elected to wait the boys out.

I had to wait almost an hour before they finally packed up their fishing gear and left.

As soon as the creepy teenagers left, a family of five mallards magically materialized and made their way over to the rock.

At last, Annie finally had some waterfowl company -- even if the birds weren't actually geese!

Almost immediately, Annie seemed more relaxed and walked from the corner to join the mama mallard and her four mostly grown ducklings to partake in some treat.

I finally felt comfortable enough to leave.

Finally exiting Turtle Pond, I wondered what Annie's actual story is?

I am sure now, Annie is not a gosling who lost her way. 

And I don't believe, by her smooth and unfettered appearance, she is a goose rejected or harassed by other geese or injured in some manner.

Part of me wondered why Annie just doesn't fly from Turtle Pond to the Boat Lake a short distance away where she would find other geese, namely, Papa's family?

But, at this point, she gives too much of the appearance of a bird traumatized by some event and wanting thus, to keep a very low profile.

Perhaps with some time and confidence, Annie will eventually stretch her wings again to explore other options open to her.

But, for now she is very much like the lone "frozen statue" goose seen the other night at Harlem Meer.    A goose who, in fact, made me cry, though s/he was very far away on the lake and never budged.

I also wondered why Annie seemed to recognize or just trust me when I could not recognize her from any geese I know?

Do geese just "sense" things about humans -- even people they don't actually know?

There is very little to be actually sure about at this juncture.

What I am reasonably certain about however, is that all three geese flying alone over these past two weeks in Central Park are survivors of some kind of trauma.

I personally believe that "trauma" to be USDA goose culls held around NYC (though not Central Park) over the past month.

Carnage and destruction primarily orchestrated by one ruthless and ambitious US Senator (Gillibrand) and tacitly approved of by equally ambitious and otherwise weak and spineless officials and politicians.

(Perhaps the same witless bureaucrats who "approve" fishing in tiny park ponds full of turtles and frequented by thousands of pedestrians and picnickers?  That is like asking for accident to happen.)

I don't believe Annie, Ruffian and the nameless goose at Harlem Meer became lost and separated from their families.   

I believe rather, that their families were literally taken from and lost to them.

These are some of the likely survivors of the 2012 "Goose Removal" operations around New York City.

(Survivors only because God, nature or luck provided them with early flight feathers as was the case with the goose pictured above who escaped the goose massacre at Jamaica Bay Wildlife "Refuge" on July 9th of this year.)  

"Goose Removal" operations that in fact, left many geese "widowed," "orphaned" and otherwise left on their own to find hiding or sanctuary in unfamiliar settings -- or if particularly clever and lucky, (like Ruffian) to find another goose family willing to accept and take them in.  

I don't know what will ultimately become of Annie or the lone and totally spooked goose at Harlem Meer.  The hope is, that like Ruffian they will eventually find another goose family willing to accept them (if they are not "harassed" from the park first).

But, I do believe that over time, all of the named actions and so many others unnamed will eventually result in the emptying out of virtually all wildlife (including the fish) from our city parks.

Call them outdoor sports clubs, concert halls or entertainment centers.

But, the last things they will be are nature reservoirs or God forbid, "refuges" which has already been demonstrated at Jamaica Bay.

Oh, the stories geese like Annie could really tell were God ever to grant them the power of human speech!   -- PCA