Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Empty Nest Syndrome -- The Mysterious, Vanishing Goose Eggs of Central Park


Mary on nest containing six eggs two weeks ago at Reservoir. This weekend, all the eggs mysteriously and suddenly vanished.
A Central Park raccoon. Can these animals be the easy scapegoats now for goose egg losses?
The five eggs of another nesting CP goose that also mysteriously and suddenly vanished this same weekend.
Re-nesting. After losing one batch of eggs, this goose is trying again.
 
Empty nest syndrome. Usually the term is lightly associated with human parents whose adult kids leave home.
.
But, "empty nest syndrome" is something the nesting Canada geese in Central Park are experiencing big time this spring. The hens lay eggs and a week or two later, all the eggs mysteriously and suddenly disappear. The hen is literally left standing and staring over an empty nest.
.
The first geese to experience this phenomena were Napoleon and Josephine who nested on the tiny island at Harlem Meer.   A week after eggs were laid, something happened and Napoleon joined Josie at the nesting site presumably to defend and try to protect the eggs from viable threat.  Despite the effort, all eggs were lost and the next day, both geese were observed grazing together on the lawns. Shortly after, Napoleon and Josie left Harlem Meer to apparently return to the Boat Lake -- the place they usually go through the molt together.
.
At the time, I attributed the egg losses to a rain storm that had occurred a couple of days before and possibly flooded the nest.
.
But, now I have doubts about that.
.
That is because the same occurred to John and Mary this past weekend at the Reservoir and there was no rain storm.
.
I was shocked on Sunday to discover Mary off of what appeared, a completely empty nest. All six eggs had seemed to suddenly and mysteriously vanish. There was not a trace of white anywhere on the nest.
.
I tried to speculate and hope that Mary had just temporarily covered up and hidden the eggs while taking a dip in the water (which nesting geese sometimes do).
.
But the fact she and her gander, John, were just moping around the nesting site with no attempt on Mary's part to return to it, did not seem a good omen.
.
I decided not to draw conclusion to the scene, but rather return to it the next day.
.
On Monday, both geese had abandoned the nesting area (at the north of the Reservoir) to return to the west side of the watercourse. All that remained of the old nest were some tattered leaves and small pieces of down blowing in the breeze. One would never know eggs had ever been there at all.
.
But, there was still more shock to come.
.
Another nesting pair of geese also appeared to have lost all their eggs suddenly.
.
The hen in that case was observed standing and staring over an empty and shallow nest that only the day before had contained five eggs.
.
What is going on? I wondered. This can't be happening again!
.
The hen in the second case, appeared confused and distraught. She pecked at and through the leaves as if looking for the lost eggs. But, unlike Mary, this goose sat down and appeared to renest on the empty nest!
.
I could not figure the scene before me. Was the goose mourning loss of her eggs? Or did she think that by renesting, the eggs would miraculously return? As her gander was acting normally, it was impossible to gage any clues from him.
.
Yesterday, I returned to the same location and was stunned to find at least two eggs in the same nest that the day before appeared to have none. Apparently, the second goose laid new eggs!
.
This scenario seems to have occurred in another goose nesting location where a hen is currently sitting on three eggs -- alongside broken eggs nearby.
.
It is presumed anyone questioning the Central Park Conservancy about the suddenly vanishing (or broken) goose eggs of at least four nesting goose pairs, will be emphatically told that, "raccoons are stealing the eggs."
.
Unfortunately, this makes little sense under the circumstances.
.
For one matter, I have never observed raccoons on the tiny island at Harlem Meer where Josephine nested -- though they are in other parts of the park.
.
For another, geese are extremely adept at defending their nest and eggs against raccoons. Both, the hen and gander rise up, flap wings, hiss, chase and even aggressively peck at any raccoons wandering near the nesting site. I have witnessed this many times, including recently with John and Mary. The raccoons are always sent running. As such, a raccoon would have to be extremely lucky and bold to grab even one goose egg, let alone five and six in one raid.
.
Another thing to consider is that there is plenty of available food in Central Park these days for raccoons to easily rummage garbage cans.  They would not need to take up battle with fiercely defending and aggressive geese and it's highly unlikely they would want to.
.
(Last year, after two nesting geese died at the Reservoir in Central Park, their eggs laid untouched for many days and even weeks. The eggs should have been easy pickings for raccoons then.)
.
For these reasons and more, the raccoon explanation makes little sense, but rather, seems to provide convenient excuse.
.
Last year, we had eight known nesting goose pairs in Central Park which would add up to approximately 40 laid eggs.
.
As noted, two of the nesting hens mysteriously perished at the Reservoir roughly ten days after laying their eggs. I speculated then and believe the hen's deaths were related to egg addling policies of Central Park that somehow went wrong. (Coating eggs with corn oil, so the embryos suffocate from lack of oxygen and fail to hatch.) 
.
Of the other 30 or so goose eggs laid last year, only five goslings hatched.
.
But, the three goslings hatched at the Reservoir failed to develop properly and all three perished within a month of hatching. (I suspect in that case, oiling occurred too late to actually kill the goslings in the eggs, but it did deprive them of needed oxygen. The goslings sadly were just never quite right and the parents appeared to know that at the time. Nevertheless the mother and dad never neglected their parental duties towards their doomed offspring and tried to carry on as if the babies were normal.)
.
At the Boat Lake in Central Park last year, "Man and Lady" nested a total of three times and after losing the first two batches of eggs, finally hatched two healthy goslings in late June (much presumably to the frustration of Geese Police and Central Park Conservancy).
.
All of this brief "history" brings us to today and the mystery of the recently vanishing goose eggs when only four pairs of geese have known to be nesting.
.
I am wondering if, due to failures of egg addling last year, as well as public complaint about the destructive policies and other actions of Geese Police, if the powers that be at Central Park decided on different action this year?
.
For example, remove and destroy goose eggs, rather than oil them?
.
As noted, if people question the disappearing eggs, the losses can easily be attributed to raccoons.
.
I don't know the answers to these questions. But, I do know that if questioning the Central Park Conservancy, I will either be given no response to written questions or untruths to directly asked, oral ones. 
.
For example, "We harass resident Canada geese to make room for migratory geese."  The truth is, migratory geese are also harassed by Geese Police in Central Park as they were repeatedly this past winter. Geese Police doesn't differentiate between migratory and resident geese. To them any goose is target for "Get the Flock Out!"  harassment and destruction action policy.
.
So, no, I am not going to ask the questions this time around. -- perhaps other people will. But, perhaps the only real question to ask is to see the depredation permit from the Department of Fish and Wildlife for such destructive policies against a supposedly "protected" bird under the federal, Migratory Bird Act Treaty of 1918 which specifically forbids destruction of goose eggs. 
.
Perhaps instead of thousand dollar "donations," Central Park Conservancy should  receive fines for their endless harassment and destruction of Canada geese.
.
"Empty nest syndrome" is no laughing and light matter. -- PCA
.
.
.
                                              ***********

No comments: