Posted tagged ‘Canada geese in NYC’

NYC Parks Going to Seed

September 2, 2010

I should have warned you, dear Reader, that there would be no new blog posts in the month of August. But I didn’t plan to take a summer break from Out Walking the Dog. It just happened.

A mid-August deadline for the first draft of a new play gradually crowded out all other projects and pastimes. I’ve been living, breathing, dreaming and writing in another world.  Now the first draft is complete, and I’ve more or less returned to the so-called real world, a world that includes city parks and animals, blogs and dogs, and long walks with Esau.

I spent last week on the coast of British Columbia, about two or three hours north of Vancouver.

View from the deck

At night, the temperature dropped into the 50s and a hot day topped off somewhere in the 80s.  Glorious.  We were surrounded by water, both fresh and salt,  islands, Douglas firs, massive ferns and mostly unseen animal life.  A lone bald eagle soared overhead in the mornings, sometimes harassed and chased away by a gull. But more about B.C. in a future post.

What’s on my mind today is … seediness.

sordid and disreputable: his seedy affair with a soft-porn starlet
shabby and squalid: an increasingly seedy and dilapidated property

As soon as I arrived back in New York, I headed out with Esau to my beloved parks. After the freshness of British Columbia, I faced a sordid reality:  my beloveds are looking downright seedy.  Yes, I know that the trees and flowers are literally going to seed, which is, I assume, where the word, “seedy,” originated.

Gone to seed

But I’m talking about something more than simple botanical imperatives here.  Blowzy and past their early summer prime, the parks exude a kind of over-ripe dissoluteness, a laxness that feels, well, moral. I’m not much of a puritan, but really, I think Webster’s has nailed it, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that both Morningside and Riverside are engaged in summer affairs with soft-porn stars or starlets.

Watch the tabloids. You heard it here first.

Riverside Park plants swallow a lamppost.

Lush life

Morningside, in particular, is looking down-at-heels, as if it has drunk a little too much of this summer’s endless heat, and can no longer muster the will to shave or brush its teeth. Forget picking up the trash.

The geese don’t help.

As Jerry Lee might say, there's a whole lot of preening goin' on

Earlier this summer, we worried about the sudden disappearance 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 morning, 29 geese are preening, loafing, grazing and slathering the walkway around the pond with great green gobs of goose droppings. The water is a deep brown-green, thanks to the algae, and appears almost thick in consistency, like pureed lentil soup.  Despite the lovely sound of the man-made waterfall, the pond is less than inviting. To a human, that is.  The multitude of turtles seems quite happy, as do the geese, ducks and pigeons.

Inter-species harmony: Morningside's animals appear unbothered by the soupy water.

West at the Riverside Greenway, driftwood sculptures converse with boats and buildings.

And all I ask is a tall ship

Mutt and Jeff observe the river




Oh, and you can forget about the girls in their summer dresses. In Riverside, it’s the boys who shed clothes.

Heading home, we see a miniature fungi forest.

Many mushrooms

Thank you to my patient readers, wherever you are. I’m delighted to be back. More posts will follow soon.

Make Way for Goslings in Morningside Park

May 7, 2010
(This post is part of Watery Wednesday, a weekly  nature blog compilation.)

The goslings are here!

For weeks, the mother goose in Morningside Park has been spending her days hunkered down on a hidden nest on the little island in the pond, while the father patrolled the area, fearlessly chasing away big dogs and warning humans to keep their distance.

Tables are turned on Papa Goose

Canada geese mate for life, and return each year to nest in the same area. Assuming, that is, they ever leave the area. Geese are increasingly staying through the winter in northern regions that once were used as breeding grounds or migration stop-overs.

After an absence of four days, I returned to the park on Wednesday, but couldn’t find the geese. I feared the worst: something had destroyed the eggs.  And then, from around the far side of the island, the entire family appeared: mother, father, and four fuzzy-headed, yellow goslings.

That fuzzy line is four fuzzy babies.

The mother seemed to be bursting with energy, and desperate for a good bath. While Dad stayed close to the babies, she repeatedly submerged beneath the surface, leaving only choppy white water to mark her presence.

Where's Mom?

She’d emerge in a great spray of droplets with an exuberant flapping of wings. She rolled around and even somersaulted in the water.

Finally, after swimming vigorously in circles, she shook herself out like a dog and rejoined the family with much wiggling of her tail feathers.

She spent several minutes preening.

Meanwhile, the babies practiced their diving skills. Buoyant little fluffballs, they bobbed up to the surface after each dive like tiny boogie boards held forcibly under water and then released.

Today, two days later, the babies already look bigger, stronger and more adept, and the parents, while always alert, appear almost serene.

A gaggle of talented pre-school artist-naturalists sketched and painted the landscape and animals,

Artist at work

while the goose family hustled across the path

to graze on the lush grass

Geese are precocial birds; unlike altricial songbirds, which hatch naked and helpless, goose babies hatch fully feathered and ready to rumble. They walk almost immediately; within a day, they’re swimming, diving and feeding themselves.

Since the babies are immediately mobile, it’s important that all eggs hatch at almost the same time. Most birds, including geese, lay one egg each day until the clutch is complete. The eggs of altricial birds hatch in the order they were laid, so the first baby to hatch may be several days older than the youngest. This gives the first-hatched bird a tremendous advantage in competing for food and a higher survival rate. But geese wait for the entire clutch to be complete, or nearly complete, before they begin incubating the eggs; the babies hatch on the same day and develop at the same rate.

Goose kids stay with their parents for about a year before striking out on their own. Even then, they’re not ready to settle down, but spend another year or two learning the ropes of adulthood and, like young humans, experimenting with relationships. Some geese pair up as yearlings but these relationships rarely last. Most pairs don’t settle down to breed successfully until the age of three or four, by which time they have both eaten and sowed a few wild oats.

Morningside’s goslings have a long way to go.

Time to head home for goslings …

and children

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