Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wild Spirits in Night Flights -- Our Glorious Canada Geese!

Migratory Canada geese at Harlem Mere.  Hector, the resident swan checking them out.
As winter prepares a last gasp snow storm for NYC today, the geese are on the move!

One could describe Tuesday night as the "calm before the storm."   There was no wind in New York City and the temperature was a balmy 40 degrees.

But, if the weather was temporarily calm, the evening was anything but quiet.

Apparently, the timing and circumstances were perfect for night flights.

Loud choruses of honks emanated from the Central Park Reservoir.

Scores of migratory Canada geese gathered and aligned themselves in the water and gradually took off for northern skies in perfectly organized "V" waves.  

I stood completely mesmerized as one skein after the other flapped their glorious wings and took flight like carefully timed planes leaving a runway.

By the time the departure ritual ended, there were but a few geese remaining in the water where only a few days ago, there had been nearly two hundred.

The family of 7 geese swam almost motionless towards the middle of the Reservoir -- an indication to me that they were likely new arrivals from somewhere south and were seeking rest for the evening. 

But, the skies overhead were nearly electric with the excited honks of other geese passing over the park in a  northern direction.   While I could not see most of them, the enthusiasm and energy from their encouraging honks to those in the front of the "V's" literally made my heart soar in my chest.

As I passed the North Meadow on my way to Harlem Mere, I was fortunate to see one skein of about 25 geese descend from the skies and skillfully land in the middle of lawn.  They had apparently decided to take rest and some nourishment before continuing on their arduous journey.

"Look at all the beautiful geesies!" I murmured to my two dogs, smiling from ear to ear.

There is nothing quite so thrilling as hearing and seeing gaggles of geese float down from the skies and touch down on grassy lawns like graceful ballerinas.


Apparently, some migratory geese have also taken brief refuge at Harlem Mere as well as other parts of Central Park.

As noted in past years, it is common for migratory geese to stop, rest and briefly "fuel up" for one to several days in Central Park before moving on to Canada or the sub arctic.

Currently at Harlem Mere, there are about 25 geese -- though not all are migratory.

There are two families of very social geese who I am sure are resident geese.  They don't mix with the migratory geese and are very comfortable walking up to people and claiming much of the Mere.  I suspect these are the resident geese who have bounced around Harlem Mere for much of the winter. The migratory geese, on the other hand, mostly stay on the eastern part of the lake and are generally shy and wary.

I doubt the migratory geese will be around more than another week.

As this article, photos and video describes about snow geese currently migrating through Missouri, the same is true of Canada geese currently migrating through New York City:

I have personally never seen a snow goose in Central Park. (I guess they don't come this far east or perhaps they shy away from big cities.)

But, the sheer thrill of seeing and hearing the Canada geese as they navigate their perilous journeys every year is something I could never get tired of.

It makes these times among the most beautiful and exciting of the entire year (along with the times wintering geese arrive from the north -- usually in December or early January.)

As I stood on the Reservoir Tuesday night I marveled as a skein of about ten geese excitedly lifted off from the water and flew directly over my head.

That close, their honks were almost deafening.

The perfect V with one goose in the front, two directly behind, then three and then four was like a series of little airliners with huge wings flapping in the still night air.

I looked up and longingly said, "Where are you going, beautiful ones?"

"Can I join you?" 

But, the excited geese neither looked down nor answered.

They simply embarked on their long journey and eventually disappeared out of sight. 

The geese answer to no one other than their own wild spirits.  

And that is what I most love and will forever admire about them.  -- PCA


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