Strange Magic: A Wall-walker, Canada Geese and a Water Rat

Sometimes strange magic exists alongside basic natural facts.

Yesterday, a spirit strolled the top of the Riverside Park retaining wall,while the desiccated corpse of a rat lay in the middle of the path below.

In Morningside Park, Canada geese, missing for weeks, have returned with a vengeance. A reader of this blog reported seeing four geese last Tuesday.  A day or two later, there were six.  Yesterday morning, I counted fourteen.

Most of the Morningside 14 hung out on the rim of the pond, like small-town teenagers, waiting for something to happen.  Others rested after grazing.

Fourteen geese is a lot of geese for a small area.

Watch your step

If a few more geese join the crowd, the area around the pond may lose its allure for walkers like me.

The goose family that nested on Morningside Pond’s little island does not appear to have returned.  While one Canada goose looks pretty much like any other, the Morningside family was easily recognized by the fact that two of its four juveniles had severe cases of “angel wing,” a wing deformity fairly common among park birds.  My best guess is that the little family simply made its way on foot to the inviting and much larger ponds and fields of Central Park, just a couple of blocks away.  (A supervisory biologist at USDA Wildlife Services has assured me that, despite the recent killing of hundreds of geese in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, no action has been taken, or is planned, for the geese of Central Park.)

If you ignore the mess they make, geese are lovely and amusing creatures.  The Morningside 14 engaged in intense preening, punctuated by bouts of goose yoga in which a leg or wing was held outstretched and motionless for minutes at a time.

First a leg.

Now leg and wing together.

Turtles of all sizes were out in force, as they have been all summer.

And a solitary rat nibbled grass near a solitary duck.

When we approached, the rat slipped silently into the water and vanished, reappearing, sleek and wet, a few feet down the shore.

Unlike the familiar skulking garbage-eaters of the streets, this rat seemed to be enjoying the bucolic life of a wild water-rat.

Ratty takes Mole for a picnic. From The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame; illustration by E.H. Shepard

It disappeared again into the water. This time, it didn’t reappear.

I searched among the lilies for a tiny skiff or a picnic basket, but found nothing.

Another time, perhaps.

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Explore posts in the same categories: 2010, Birds, In the City, July, Morningside Park, NYC Parks, Riverside Park, Rodents (other than squirrels), strange encounters, Wildlife/Natural History

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6 Comments on “Strange Magic: A Wall-walker, Canada Geese and a Water Rat”


  1. [...] tuberculosis faster than a traditional lab test.  Hey, even here in NYC, I took pleasure in seeing a rat swimming in the Morningside Park pond. Just another brown rat, but it seemed positively bucolic slipping in [...]


  2. [...] of the little Canada goose family that nested on Morningside’s island.  In July, new geese began congregating, and by the end of July, there were at least 14 that hung out in the pond and field.  This [...]


  3. Geese at Enchanted Forest Park…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  4. Charlotte Says:

    Naturally I was taken by the rat, perhaps he hopped a dirigible for his escape….

    the magic makes me miss nyc, but not the mess. still it’s lovely and amusing to have a visit by the pond.


  5. Finding a peaceful, easy feeling in the words and images in these posts. Nature does cast a spell of ‘strange magic’ when you seek it out in the middle of busy, city life. Enjoying your blog posts.


  6. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dennis Schvejda, Out walking the dog. Out walking the dog said: Strange Magic: A Wall-walker, Canada Geese and a Water Rat: http://wp.me/pGHnM-wZ [...]


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