Monday, August 7, 2017

Flying Lessons -- Hansel, Greta and Their Goslings Bid a Fond Farewell

They were so fast, rising and disappearing over the quickly darkening skies.And though they appreciated my support over the summer, it was time for Hansel, Greta and their youngsters to move on and out of Central Park.
But, Jody and his pals remain at Harlem Meer.
"Goodbye, geese."
I thought I had seen the last of Hansel, Greta and their three goslings when they left the Central Park Reservoir last week (right on schedule). Usually, the pattern is that I don't see the family again until the following spring.

But, a few days later, I decided to go north to Harlem Meer in order to gage the water bird situation there, as well as check up on "Jody," the domestic, Indian Runner Duck who is now on this second year at the Meer. 

When first arriving to the Meer, I noticed that nearly all of the 20 or so geese who had been there the week before had left. But there were two geese resting in the grass at the north side of the lake and there was a gaggle of five geese in the water.

As the sun was in the process of setting and much of the park was in shadow, the five geese on the far side of the water were hard to photograph. I noticed that they appeared to be in deliberate, straight line formation with two larger geese holding the front and back positions and three smaller geese in the middle.

It immediately occurred to me that they were likely, Hansel, Greta and their three youngsters!

Though making motions with my arm, the five geese failed to see me -- or they were not interested in coming to me for treats.  Hm, maybe they were not the family, after all?  I pondered.

I continued my walk and eventually found Jody and some duck friends towards the western part of the lake. Unlike the geese, they immediately came to me for treats.

Then, suddenly there was excited honking and the five geese previously seen came flying through the air and landed gracefully on the water about 50 yards away.

"Oh, it must be the goose family!" I thought. "And surely they know I'm here and will come close for treats. I can get photos then!"

But, the geese did not swim towards me for treats. They appeared focused on more pressing matters. Once again, they formed a straight line with the smaller geese in the middle and swam back to the far side of the lake.

When finished filling the bellies of Jody and his mallard pals, I retraced steps back towards the middle and eastern parts of the lake to look again for the gaggle of five geese.

But they had seemingly disappeared!

Stymied on where they had gone, I continued to search, when suddenly, the excited honking arose once again from a short distance away.

I looked up and boom, there they were flying directly above me!

It seemed as if my heart briefly stopped as I stared up in wonder at the beautiful sight passing and rising above me -- but it was fast disappearing.

The skein of five geese quickly ascended in the air, gaining height and speed as they rose and sailed over lake and trees, eventually to exit Harlem Meer and Central Park from the north west side, honking all the while.  

It was the first time I had ever witnessed Hansel and Greta giving their kids flying lessons, much less, leaving the park with them. There was no longer any doubt in my mind that it was indeed them.  It was as though they had flown directly over my head in order to acknowledge my presence and bid a fond farewell!

Harlem Meer is the most northern point in Central Park, opening up to streets and new adventures north of Manhattan.

Apparently, Hansel and Greta had used Harlem Meer as a kind of "training base" for a few days to teach their goslings the finer points of take-offs and landings, as well as prepare them for longer, more taxing flight.

I did return to the Meer earlier the following day on the off chance that the family might have returned, giving me opportunity for photos. But, in my heart, I knew they would not be there.

They had finally bid me their fond farewell -- until next year. -- PCA  


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