Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Mystifying Bird Changes of Winter

(Photos: 1-- Migratory geese, ducks and gulls at Central Park Reservoir. 2-- New flock of domestic ducks at Harlem Mere.  3-- Oliver, my recovering mallard 4--Canada goose at Harlem Mere. 5-- Hector, the swan whose motives are not entirely clear.) 

"Coldest November in 15 Years"

It was surprising to learn yesterday that according to the National Weather Service, New York City experienced its coldest November in 15 years.

With the exceptions of hurricane Sandy and the Nor'easter,  I thought the weather in NYC to be very pleasant -- even ideal -- over the past month.

But, perhaps the near total absence of evening joggers and cyclists in Central Park over the past month should have indicated significant weather changes. --  That and the influx of many migratory birds -- especially to the Central Park Reservoir.

Still, the current number of Canada geese in Central Park appears relatively low compared to mallard and sea gull numbers.

I am guessing the bulk of migratory Canada geese have still not yet arrived to New York City.

According to this "birding"  article from Ohio,  millions of migratory birds are only now leaving Canada and the Arctic and starting to show up in the states.

I am wondering, if like last year, it will be the first week in December that most of the migratory geese arrive to New York City?

While current goose numbers in Central Park are higher than this time last year (suggesting some flocks migrated early), one has to surmise the numbers are mixed with resident NYC geese.

I am hoping to see more migratory geese arrive and stay at Harlem Mere, as occurred last year.

The healthy number of geese last year, along with flocks of mallards worked cooperatively together to prevent the lake at Harlem Mere from entirely freezing over. (Of course, last winter was unusually warm in New York City with virtually no snow and that apparently encouraged the large flocks of migratory geese and ducks to stay.)

One has no way of knowing exactly what this winter will have in store for New York City.

But, if we were going to have a month that was the "coldest in 15 years" in New York City, I am glad it was November and have to hope that the same doesn't hold true for January and February.

Such could spell a really hard winter for the six domestic (flightless) ducks currently at Harlem Mere who would not, by themselves contain the weight and strength sufficient to create and maintain open water on an otherwise, frozen solid lake. 


Temperatures in NYC this week have been hovering as low as the freezing mark.

It is touching when sometimes arriving at Harlem Mere, to now find the four new domestic ducks snuggling and cuddling up to each other along the embankment -- presumably for warmth.

I have never observed that kind of closeness among birds before, though from the very beginning, this has been a very tight knit group.  They obviously have known each other a long time (and might actually be related) and were dropped off at the Mere together.  

Meanwhile, Oliver, (the recovering fishing line mallard) continues to make steady improvement and even now follows me, (though in hobbling fashion) with many of the other ducks when I leave the Mere each night.

I have always been mystified and touched by this "departing" and seemingly protective gesture on the part of many of the mallards and domestic ducks at Harlem Mere. 

It is almost as if I could not safely leave the park without the escort of the waterfowl there.

Even Hector, the swan now follows in the water when I leave the Mere, keeping careful watch.

But, I am not sure in Hector's case, if it a matter of vigilance and sweetly saying "good night" -- or rather, giving a departing "evil eye" glance to my two dogs prancing beside me.   

For the moment and in my "anthropomorphic" way, I will prefer to imagine the former. -- PCA



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