Thursday, May 12, 2016

At Long Last, Mother's Day for John and Mary -- Two Determined Geese!




Mary dutifully sitting on her nest over the past month.
John joins his mate shortly after the eggs hatch for protection and vigilance. The babies safely tucked under Mary's breast.
Mama and babies proudly venturing out on Mother's Day.
One of the little treasures.
Peep, peep!
The happy family at long last.

"If at first you don't succeed, try and try again."
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Such might easily be the motto of John and Mary, a mated pair of Canada geese who, for the past five years attempted to hatch and raise goslings at the Central Park Reservoir.
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But, the first four years were met with loss and searing disappointment.
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Either the couple's eggs failed to hatch or last year, the nest and eggs were completely destroyed.
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It was sad each year to observe John and Mary go through all the rigors of nesting only to lose their offspring in the end.
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They would typically dwell at the site of the failed nesting for a day or two in what appeared to be a mourning ritual. But eventually John and Mary would move on as nature requires wild animals to do. There is neither time nor allowance in the natural world for self pity and perpetual grief. Resilience and courage are what ultimately determine who survives and procreates and who doesn't.
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So, it was with mixed, bittersweet feelings that I noted the return of John and Mary to the Reservoir two months ago (in March).
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It was of course reassuring and delightful to see the pair again and to know they had survived another winter together. For their part, John and Mary easily remembered and recognized me and came each night to greet.
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But, it was also disconcerting as I was sure the couple would once again attempt to nest.
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Unfortunately, Central Park has a long standing ritual of oiling goose eggs to prevent hatching ("addling") and/or destroying the eggs and nests. Sometimes the actions are conducted by Geese Police which contracts with the Central Park Conservancy for goose harassment and sometimes the egg/nest destruction is carried out by park maintenance personnel.
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Over the past few years, dozens of goose eggs have been rendered unviable at Central Park, several nests destroyed and on at least two occasions (at the Reservoir) nesting Canada goose hens also subsequently perished shortly after laying eggs.
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Despite the hostile and long destructive policies, three healthy goslings managed to hatch and survive in Central Park last year and two the year before -- but not without extraordinary and unusual efforts on the parts of the parent geese. (In one case, the nesting hen was extremely well hidden and in the second case, it was the pair's third nesting attempt in one spring.)
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But, what would happen this spring, I wondered?
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Becoming aware over the past year that an employee of Geese Police occasionally reads this blog, I made a conscious decision this year not to post photos or write anything about the nesting geese of Central Park. Although egg destruction policies were in place long before I started a blog or posting photos, I did not want to inadvertently make such "jobs" any easier by disclosing the locations of CP nesting geese. 
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Has such decision paid off?
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It's hard to know for sure.
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Although Napoleon and Josephine again returned to Harlem Meer this spring with the supposed intent of nesting, as of last week, there are no goslings at the Meer nor nesting geese. The same is true at the Boat Lake.
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However, at the Reservoir, an entirely different and happy story to report:
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Unlike the previous four years of failed goose nestings, this time, John and Mary were finally successful in hatching three healthy goslings this past weekend!
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I literally let out a shriek of pure delight when seeing the three tiny balls of yellow fluff safely tucked under their mother's wings this past Saturday night.
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Mary's mate, John had dutifully positioned himself very close to the family for vigilance and protection on that first night of the hatching. His head high and his chest out, it was easy to discern the sense of joy and relief in the proud gander. For the entire four weeks prior to the hatching, John had led a lonely and demanding life keeping constant vigilance on his nesting mate and chasing all intruders or possible threats away. But, the tireless devotion and steadfastness had finally paid off for John (and his mate, Mary) after a five year dry spell of loss and bereavement.  
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Words cannot describe how happy and relieved I was for this particular goose couple. I truly did not wish to witness another scene of mourning and what surely appears a "goose funeral" as I had witnessed the previous four years.  
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In the few days (including, Mother's Day!) that have followed the happy and successful hatching, the family has traveled all around the Reservoir and it's hard to know exactly where they will be on a particular evening.
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Last night, I got a bit of a scare when walking all around the Reservoir, I could not easily find John, Mary and their three babies.  
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But, then I saw the two adult geese swimming towards me from the distance.
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But, where are the babies? I wondered and for a moment, panicked.
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The three babies were swimming so close to their mama, they appeared to be part of her tail and were not discernable to the naked eye. (Perhaps when swimming in the evenings, the family has to be more wary of potential predators?)
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The family eventually settled on the rocks, where the babies nestled close to their mother and John stood dutifully on guard a few feet away. 
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I really don't think ganders get a wink of sleep either during the times their mates are nesting or during the months the couple raise their goslings together.
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Perhaps this helps explain why it is only the mature and established Canada goose pairs who actually nest and get to raise babies.
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Parenthood -- for both, animals and humans is the most rewarding, but also the most demanding of all enterprises in life.   -- PCA
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10 comments:

Mary Castrovilla said...

oh, wow to John and Mary.thanks so much for the smile of the day.

PS; isn't it a disgrace that you can't freely share your geese sightings, because of the 'Geese Police finding out.

Steve K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve K said...

I, too, delighted in seeing the proud parents and their adorable offspring.

That said, I am horrified that Central Park not only condones, but carries out the destruction of goose eggs. How can they get away with this cruelty? Isn't there some law against this practice? Even if there is not, it's inhumane.

Let's hope and pray that John and Mary can soon celebrate Father's Day with their goslings.

May 14, 2016 at 2:58 PM Delete

PCA said...

Thank you, Mary and Steve. Yes, we are very fortunate this year to have not just one goose family at the Reservoir, but two (as of yesterday). Hansel and Greta also have new goslings hatched yesterday near the 90th street entrance.

Let's pray that all the babies and their devoted parents make it. :)

ligularia 2015 said...

I also visit them regularly and was looking for the new family this afternoon -- without success.
Does anyone know where they were around 4 p.m. on Saturday?

PCA said...

I saw John, Mary and their three babies last night (Saturday)at the East side of the Reservoir -- not far from the other new family. They were perfectly fine. :)

Nicole said...

This such great news as well. Im so happy for them. I was so upset last year.

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