Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Practical Considerations of Waterfowl in Winter

(Photos:  The waterfowl of Harlem Mere in Central Park.  Domestic ducks, Canada geese, one swan and Oliver, the fishing line mallard.) 

The Tease and Trials of Winter

As the calls of migrating, wild geese flying overhead signal a changing of seasons even before official calendar date arrives, winter has seemingly tip toed into New York City giving brief, flirting glimpse to the months ahead.

Temperatures last night dipped to near freezing and a stiff wind blowing into the city cut across the face and compelled once again, the donning of scarf and gloves.

Perhaps it is only fitting considering the Christmas trees swiftly going up along Park Avenue and in Rockefeller Center.

Bird numbers in Central Park appear, like the weather, to be changing from day to day and almost hour to hour as different migratory populations stop for brief rests before moving on and resident populations of ducks and geese "pond hop" as part of daily autumn routine.

About the only things easily predictable and stationery this time of year are the domestic duck castoffs of our city parks as they are, unlike their wild cousins, incapable of flight.

But, ducks like Wiggly and Honker of Harlem Mere (Khaki Campbells) and the four new domestic arrivals, ("Cochise, Conner, Carol and Connie") make up in size, moxie, experience and organization, what they lack in wing capabilities.  

The domestic ducks seem to learn quickly how to "stake their claims" with other waterfowl, while at the same time, figuring out all the good feeding and sheltering spots of the location.

Though they may be "domesticated" for hundreds or even thousands of years, it is amazing how quickly some animals can adapt and revert back to ancient tribal ritual when the need calls for it.  Perhaps domestic ducks are a little like "feral" cats in that sense.  We may be more used to seeing them in barns or other human settings, but they can as easily survive (or even thrive) on their own. 

Animals are not by any means or measure, "dumb."

In fact, they have languages all their own.

Perhaps it is we who are the "dumb" ones for not being able to decipher the hidden languages and ways of nature and animals any more than we have quite mastered the art of staying safe and warm during challenging and unpredictable weather patterns.

In the Animal World, Practicality Cometh Before Pride

As previously noted, Lianna and I released Oliver (the fishing line mallard), back to Harlem Mere on Wednesday.
I was certain that Oliver would never come near me again, but, surprisingly he does -- as if nothing happened. 

(One can easily recognize Oliver because of his "lame duck" status.  He hobbles quite badly, but is walking on the leg that for some weeks was encased and rendered useless in fishing line.  The injury was severe and will probably take a long time, if ever, to completely heal.)  

Though understandably annoyed for the "ducknapping" and taking him away from his home temporarily, Oliver apparently still trusts and values my willingness to lend a helping hand.  Oliver may even recognize that despite the fright and lingering pain, humans actually aided him by removing the source of so much crippling discomfort and potential life threatening injury.

That seems to say a lot about animals' abilities to forgive and not hold grudges -- or just their abilities to put the practical before other considerations, such as "pride."

(Then again, one is quite sure that the latter is only unique to humans.)  

Winter is coming.

Put simply, animals know what they have to do to survive.

That means ducks, geese and other waterfowl cooperating and working with each other to maintain or create open water and it sometimes means the animals looking to otherwise "enemies" (whether of wing or two feet) for the occasional helping hand.  -- PCA


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