Sunday, January 13, 2013

Late Migrating Canada Geese -- The New "Canaries in Coal Mines?"

Late arriving migratory geese.
"Thunderbirds" and Roll Calls

Like fleets of precision Blue Angels or military thunderbirds, they descend from over the skies and land gracefully on the water with all the focus and direction of an arrow hitting its target.

They are not planes, but rather skeins of migratory Canada geese arriving late to New York City's Central Park from some mysterious location, hundreds or even thousands of miles from Manhattan.

From the beginning of the new year, I have experienced the thrill of hearing and seeing countless waves of migrating Canada geese either arriving to or departing from the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park -- particularly under the cover of darkness.

Perhaps the geese feel safer flying at night (from hunters in rural areas) or perhaps they use stars and night skies for navigation.

But, it is apparent that the birds know exactly where they are going and land with the precision and organization that would make a military fleet on a mission envious.

A few nights ago, while walking the path surrounding the Reservoir, I heard the excited honks from what sounded like dozens of barking dogs loudly approaching from the north.

But, of course, they were not dogs.

I looked in the skies above me and could suddenly see the perfect "V" of at least 30 Canada geese quickly descending just over the trees and zeroing over and on the water.  They landed and zoomed across the water in perfectly timed small groups, until all 30 geese were safely on the Reservoir. 

But, they continued to call out, presumably to other geese arriving behind them.

Within minutes, other smaller gaggles of geese continued to arrive and landed on the water, not far from the initial group.

When about 60 geese were finally settled and moving about slowly in the water, various, singular "calls" went out, seemingly from one group to the other.

It reminded me of roll calls that are conducted in schools to get a count of all the students in class.

"Mary Smith?"  "Present!"  "John Brown?"  "Present!"

Do geese actually do roll calls of their members after completing a long migratory flight?

It sure sounded that way.

I stood for at least 15 minutes listening to the seemingly questioning and replying honks.

But, even when finally walking away, it seemed the geese were still accounting for their numbers, locations and presence.

It was very different from the loud, excitable honks done in unison when the geese are flying and arriving to or departing from a location.

These were instead, lower and singular honks coming from different directions and seemingly in question and reply form.

It really took me back to the days of roll calls in grammar school.

The New Canaries in Coal Mines?

Apparently, the Reservoir in Central Park is a "gathering or resting point" for many flocks of migrating geese stopping by for brief periods (while on their way elsewhere) as it is an actual wintering location for other flocks of geese and ducks who decide to stay.

I am not sure what exactly prompts the geese to stay or go or when. 

Weather in New York City has been abnormally mild for January while apparently in Canada and parts of the western US, it is frigid with near or actual blizzard conditions.

This probably explains the sudden flurry of goose flying activity over NYC these past two weeks.

Apparently the geese were able to stay in more northern and western locations far longer than normal and are only making necessary migrations now.

I personally believe this signals much in terms of global warming and climate change.  But, to the geese, they simply pack up and go when absolutely forced to. The geese are extremely organized and adaptable either way and are probably less impacted by climate change than many other
species, including our own.

This brings us unfortunately, to more "whining" articles about Canada geese.

The media piece above doesn't actually provide any numbers of Canada geese in Scarsdale although it reports that the geese are to be "euthanized" by USDA later this year.

Nor, does it differentiate between so-called, "resident geese" and migratory geese who presumably might be there now, but who would leave no later than next month.

One doesn't know where to begin in addressing misinformed media pieces like this whose reporters don't even bother to research the meaning of the word, "euthanize" or question USDA roundup and slaughtering methods.

I left comment to the article and video and hope others do. 

But, it is really the people of Scarsdale who need to vigorously oppose such barbaric and ruthless slaughter -- especially in light of actual facts and non-lethal means of goose population "control."

Then again, it could be said that large goose numbers in certain unusual locations this time of year are more  symbolic of rapidly changing climate conditions and that should concern us far more than any inconvenient "goose poop" on the ground.

It is, after all, not "normal" for geese to be migrating this late in the wintering season nor staying in locations that usually this time of year would be covered in snow and ice.

One might venture to say that late migrating geese might actually be the "canary in the coal mine" for us humans who apparently prefer to complain about trivial result than to actually address critical cause. -- PCA



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