Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Like Clockwork, Migratory Canada Geese Arrive -- But Not Without Their Dramas!


First waves of migratory Canada geese that will be arriving and departing the Central Park Reservoir from now until early January.
Enjoying the view of the city from their rest stop.
Raccoon family momentarily diverting my attention from the geese last night.
And in an instant, the 22 geese departed and took off for the skies.
Like clockwork, the first (of what will be many) waves of migratory Canada geese passing through New York City arrived at the Central Park Reservoir on Monday.
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But, one has to be careful not to blink. For as quickly as they arrive, the geese are just as quickly gone. 
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For the early migrators, Central Park is just a brief and designated resting stop -- similar to ones for humans along busy highways.
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The geese rest and then gather themselves together again for that long and taxing journey south.
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Fall migrations are however, far more protracted and less predictable than the ones occurring during the spring. Perhaps that is because in the spring, the geese are very eager to return to their nesting grounds and establish their territories.
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Generally, the spring migrations occur over a relatively short time span of roughly six weeks (late February to early April). But the fall migrations (starting as early as September) can actually carry through the beginning of winter in early January.
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It seems many geese are reluctant to leave their home territories in the sub Arctic and Northern Canada and only do so when absolutely forced to -- in other words, when all available water freezes over and the grounds are covered in snow.
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But, like humans, not all geese wait until "hell freezes over" to get out of town.
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The geese we see coming and going now are evidently the ones who like to get first digs at the best wintering locations, presumably, far south. The geese coming later do not travel as far and the ones arriving the latest (in December and January) don't leave the Reservoir at all. Rather, they elect to tough it out over what can be a very rough winter in New York City (especially the last two years).
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In a way, it's not too unlike humans showing up to an outdoor rock concert.  The early arrivals get the premium places near the stage. The later ones are lucky to even see the stage -- but they have more time and fun at home.
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With all this in mind, it came as no surprise that my "lonely goose" who was ultimately fortunate to reunite with her lost mate over the weekend (and spent a romantic night with him on Saturday) was long gone by Sunday. I am guessing the pair either left late on Saturday night or more likely, with the first rays of sunrise the following morning.
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The couple had a lot of "catching up" to do if the goal was to rejoin their migratory flock, probably half way to Georgia by then.
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When sharing the story of my reunited love birds with my friend, Liliana, she reminded me of something I shared with her last year.
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"Remember when you told me about the flock of migratory geese leaving the Reservoir, but one stayed on the water....?"
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Ah, yes. How could I forget?
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Yes, there was one goose who was either snoozing or just wasn't in the mood to ship out immediately with the rest.
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She remained on the water alone, as the rest of her gaggle lifted off and headed for the skies.
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At first, I thought the recalcitrant goose might be injured or sick and felt concern.
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But, then as the departing skein was heading over the trees and out of Central Park, I noted one goose suddenly turning around and quickly zooming back to the Reservoir -- as if he'd forgotten something!
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And sure enough, he landed right next to the goose still lazing on the water.
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"What the hell?" one could almost imagine him asking. "Well, I didn't think you were going to up and leave with the rest and just abandon me!"
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After resolving the, ahem, "miscommunication," both geese finally lifted off together and followed in the path of the ones who left a few minutes before. Apparently, they figured there was plenty of time to catch up.
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When relating that story to my friend last year, we had both laughed. "He didn't notice until in the air and almost out of the park, that he had left his mate behind?"
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Did the same recently happen with my lonely goose pining away and waiting alone on the Reservoir for nearly a week?
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Anything is possible during the fall migrations.  But, if that was the case, it took her mate nearly a full five days to discover he was missing his lover! 
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Thankfully, he made the long haul back to retriever her. --  Ain't love grand?
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Yes, the fall migrations are less predictable and more protracted than the spring journeys and both can have their snags.
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Last night, the roughly 60 geese observed on Monday were gone and replaced by 22 new arrivals.
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But, as I visited briefly with the family of raccoons near the North Gate House, the 22 geese could be heard loudly honking near the eastern part of the Reservoir and (before I could even get my camera out) suddenly took off and were gone.
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If the goal is to get photos of the fall migratory geese in flight, be careful not to blink.
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They fly by night just as readily as they do during the day. Nothing is predictable except that the fall migration season for geese is a long one and it has just begun. Hopefully without too many dramas of lost mates left behind -- that a gander has to return to and retrieve.  -- PCA
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