Friday, May 10, 2019

Greta's Dilemma

There is both, good and bad news regarding the three nesting geese at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park.

The good news is that two of the three successfully hatched goslings this week. Mary, on the north side of Reservoir, produced four healthy babies and Caroline, on the south side, three.

Caroline and her mate, Charlie are new to nesting at the Reservoir. It is speculated that she is likely one of the original daughters of Greta from several years ago. (Female geese choose nesting sites and it is usually a location close to or actually where they themselves hatched.)

Unfortunately, the news for Greta herself isn't so good.  Her eggs failed to hatch and even more mysteriously, completely vanished.
In fact, there is nothing at nesting site to show that a nest was ever there.  No downy feathers, twigs or fragments of shells remain. The area nearly appears cleaned up.

One might normally suspect human meddling or interference under circumstances like this. But in this case, it's hard to know for sure or even guess.

Both, Laura Taylor (our reporter and photographer on the ground) and myself were concerned about Greta from the get-go.

Unlike Mary and Caroline who both, "calorie loaded" elsewhere before coming to the Reservoir to nest, Greta and her mate, Hansel returned to the plant-barren Reservoir in March. With so little grass and foliage there, it's questionable that Greta built up enough necessary fat reserves to successfully nest and produce viable goslings.

The other matter of concern was Greta's behavior. Unlike past years, Greta's nest this year was sparse with little down and nesting materials. Granted, there was little around her with which to build an ornate nest, but the lack of feather down was unusual for Greta.

Could it be that Greta was discouraged or pessimistic after losing all five goslings last year at a month-old?

Impossible to answer that question as we just don't know enough about animals' emotions, memories or long term response to trauma. For whatever reason, it simply appeared that Greta's heart was not into nesting this year as was the case in the past.

But regardless of the reasons why Greta's eggs failed to hatch, current reality is that there are seven healthy goslings at the Reservoir and attention and priority is -- or should be with their hopeful survival.

Last year, 8 of 9 goslings perished at the Reservoir (all five of Greta's babies and 3 of 4 of Mary's). It is suspected, that if not the main cause for demise of goslings, malnutrition had to be a contributing factor as all the foliage and vegetation that surrounded the Reservoir had been cut down.

Goslings need to eat constantly in order to attain nearly full size and flight capability within three months. 

Currently, some greenery and vegetation has (thankfully) grown back at the Reservoir.  But is it enough to support and sustain seven growing goslings through the next three months?

That is not known at this time.

However, in view of what occurred last year, it seems only cautionary and prudent to suggest that these goslings should receive supplemental feeding and support from humans until such time they are capable of flying out with their parents at about 11-weeks-old.

This is also why it is important to oppose and fight the proposed Wildlife Feeding Ban that now looms over NYC and threatens empathetic feeders with criminal arrest. 

There are situations that arise that sometimes require human assistance to wildlife. Whether they be domestic ducks abandoned to park lakes, song birds and waterfowl trying to survive tough winters or vulnerable goslings confined to an area where "natural foods" have been deliberately removed or destroyed, people deserve the right to be charitable.

As for the new Reservoir goose families, as of yesterday all the geese and babies were congregated on the east side of the watercourse, including Hansel and Greta. 

Perhaps if they cannot have goslings themselves this year, Hansel and Greta have decided to aid and help protect and support the babies of Greta's sister, Mary and daughter, Caroline. 

Canada geese are known for outstanding family loyalty and looking out for each other.  That only we could say the same about our own species that too often prioritizes selfishness over concern and caring for others.

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