Monday, February 8, 2016

"Night" Geese Adapting to their Circumstances


An easy winter as the geese swim lazily along the open water at sunset.
Just waking up and on the move.
"Hello! You got anything for me?"
Romantic pair.
Off into the fading sun.
 
We have been richly blessed this winter with many Canada geese and other water birds at the Central Park Reservoir -- at least twice the number we had last year at this time.
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While difficult to give a precise number (because the geese fly in and out, causing it to vary), most evenings the number is around 200.
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It's also hard to know the exact reason for the increased number of geese, but I suspect a mild winter (so far) and totally open water at the Reservoir has served as attractant.
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It's quite probable that many migratory geese who might have otherwise flown further south for winter elected to stay in NYC due to favorable conditions. (Though generally creatures of habit, Canada geese are also opportunists. If they don't have to fly, they don't.) Because they are large birds, flying requires high energy output for geese -- especially that associated with long migrations.
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Another change noted this winter is the behavior of the geese.
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They are far more active and vocal than they were last winter.
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I suspect that is due to the extremely harsh and inhibiting conditions last winter (Constant snow, ice and sub-freezing temperatures.) The geese (and ducks) were mostly "hunkered down" last winter in order to conserve heat and energy. They were extremely quiet and barely moved except when I came to feed them.
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Contrast that to this winter when the geese are observed typically swimming casually upon the water and engaging in lively "conversation" among the different family groups. Some nights, the geese organize themselves into flocks of a few geese up to 25 and fly out in search of grass. Other nights they seem content to just "chill" on the water.
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Finding food has not been a particularly challenging problem for them this winter.
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As for why the geese are most active and flying out at night to find food, I suspect has to do with goose harassment methods (i.e. Geese Police) still utilized in Central Park during the daytime hours. 
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Put simply, geese are prohibited from any day time grazing on park lawns.
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Though normally geese eat during the day and roost at night, they are obviously birds who can adapt behavior and habit to fit the circumstances.
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And that appears to be precisely what the geese have done this and other winters.
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But, if the water birds have had it unusually easy during this "El Nino," winter (not withstanding the one blizzard), that might soon change as snow is predicted for the middle of this week and temperatures predicted to plunge to the teens by the weekend.
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My "spoiled" geese and ducks might have to deal with some ice once again. -- but, hopefully not for too long. -- PCA
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