Friday, October 16, 2015

Return of the Embattled Warrior Goose and Now Undisputed King


Warrior watching over his flock in the water.
"Hi There! Don't mind my rough appearance."
Warrior (right) and his mate, Princess.
Guarding the flock who remained dutifully in the water.
Embattled and physically challenged, but still respected by all, Warrior surveys while his demure mate looks on.
 
About two weeks ago, there was a flock of newly arrived and what I presumed to be, migratory geese at the Central Park Reservoir.
.
But the lead gander particularly caught my eye.
.
He appeared to be very roughed up -- as if having been in many battles. The front of his neck was raw and missing feathers.
.
He came close to the rocks and looked up as if recognizing me (something unusual for migratory geese).
.
A part of me wondered, "Could it possibly be? Nah, it couldn't be! It's just a goose that looks like him."
.
I continued to watch this gander for a while.
.
No doubt he was the undisputed leader of the gaggle. He was quite formidable in chasing other geese away from himself and his immediate family and laying down rules.
.
Later that evening, I called my friend, Liliana.
.
"There was a goose at the Reservoir tonight that looked a lot like Warrior. That same roughed up neck with missing feathers and he seemed to recognized me!  But, of course, it couldn't be..."
.
Both, Liliana and myself, have assumed for almost a year, that Warrior was long dead.
.
He didn't look good the summer before last when he and his mate, Princess attempted to nest at the Boat Lake and their eggs were destroyed. When both geese finally left the Boat Lake in December of 2014, they had not been seen since anywhere in Central Park.
.
A brutal winter followed and one spring and summer without any sign of the gander with the scars of past battles (along with some chronic skin condition) and his dutiful, but forever devoted mate.
.
But then suddenly, what appeared to be Warrior in both looks and behavior magically turned up at the Reservoir early in this year's fall migrations!
.
Liliana was surprised with the news, but like me, was skeptical that the gander was actually Warrior.
.
The only way to know for sure would be that, instead of flying out of Central Park with the rest of the migratory geese, Warrior and his mate returned to the Boat Lake.
.
Sure enough, the following day, Liliana called to report that indeed, Warrior and Princess had returned to the Boat Lake -- but they did not return alone.
.
The pair had evidently produced four goslings this past summer!
.
And not only were Warrior and Princess overseeing their four immediate offspring, but they were also the apparent top of hierarchy to a gaggle of 14 geese in total (including the family of six).
.
It's not clear if the other 8 geese are members of extended family or just summer flock mates who have tagged along with the family during the fall migration with Warrior as the designated leader.  
.
It has been known for some time that in geese, families with young generally "rule" and the older ganders especially tend to take on leadership positions for the whole group. -- What they say, goes.  (Female goose mates, however, choose nesting locations in the spring. Apparently, it was Princess who smartly decided this past spring that the Central Park Boat Lake was not conducive for nesting and raising young.)
.
Over the past two weeks, Liliana has regularly reported the comings and goings of Warrior and the family, as well as their dominance, not only of the geese in their immediate gaggle, but all the geese on the lake -- including the four resident geese who are now clearly outnumbered and have to acquiesce to the larger group.
.
But, though he may appear (and is) rough and tumble with other geese, Warrior obviously has a tender heart for those humans he remembers fondly. He has always been a favorite for my friend, Liliana (probably because she feels sorry for and worries about him) and he repays her kindness with special acknowledgement and gratitude.
.
Yesterday morning I went to the Boat Lake to see for myself, if it really was Warrior who had returned with his mate (and entire gaggle!) and if he still remembered me?
.
And yes, Warrior and Princess not only remembered, but came right up to me! However, the other geese of his gaggle, including the couple's four young goslings remained cautiously in the water.
.
It was good to see these two special geese again -- though Warrior looks even more embattled than what I remember. (He apparently has some chronic skin condition that results in irritation and feather loss around the neck and head.) 
.
Both now and in the past, Liliana and I have discussed possibility of trying to rescue Warrior and bring him to the Wild Bird Fund for diagnosis and possible treatment. But, such would negatively impact his mate and (now) offspring, as well as the gaggle he heads up. Moreover, it's not certain such a long standing condition actually is treatable.
.
So, for the moment, the decision is once again to carefully observe.  As long as Warrior is eating and behaving normally, it is probably wiser to let him be. He has obviously learned to "adapt" to the condition and adapt well -- especially in procreating, successfully raising young ones and even leading a flock.
.
It was nice yesterday to see Warrior proudly standing on the rock with his devoted mate nearby, looking over his gaggle. 
.
If bothered by any physical challenges, he wasn't showing it.
.
As said to my friend, Liliana, "You chose the perfect name for this gander, as he is a true warrior through and through!"   -- PCA
.
.
.
                                              *********