The mysterious Chinese white swan geese that nested in Neahwa Park over the summer will no longer be seen swimming in Hodges Pond, having found a winter home at the Fly Creek Cider Mill.
"The folks at the Fly Creek Cider Mill offered to adopt the geese and take care of them," said Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig. "They'll live out the rest of their days with delicious doughnuts and cider."
The flock of four white geese first showed up in the Neahwa sometime in the summer, "probably June or July," said Oneonta Recreation Assistant Louise Lansing. According to Lansing, the fourth goose was found dead of unknown causes over the summer. Descended from the wild swan goose, the Chinese geese, which can weigh up to 19 pounds, are also prolific egg-layers. A female can lay up to 60 eggs during their February-June breeding season.
Residents still aren't quite sure where the geese came from, but being a typically domesticated breed, the leading theory is that they escaped from a nearby farm and settled in the park.
In an interview in October, DEC Wildlife Biologist Larry Bifaro said, "A domesticated species like Chinese geese escape farms all the time. They may not leave the area like migratory species, so you'll see them mixing locally with mallards and other types." Once the birds took up residence in Hodges Pond, park-goers began referring to them as the Neahwa Park Swans, based on their white feather and long necks. No one reported the birds as missing. But with winter setting in, the now-beloved birds were at risk of freezing to death, and City Hall knew it was time to say goodbye to their new residents.
"We talked with DEC officials and they said that, since they are a domestic breed, the birds are not controlled by the state," said Herzig. "The city was free to allow adoption."
Bill Michaels, Fly Creek Cider Mill owner, offered to add the birds to join the mill's already substantial flock in residence. The birds will arrive at the mill sometime this week, just as the temperatures drop. "We're quite often the happy recipients of all different ducks and geese for our pond," said Michaels.
Park-goers who miss their feathered friend in Oneonta are encouraged to visit them at the Mill, located, appropriately, on Goose Road. "Now that we're open year round, people can come visit the geese twelve months out of the year."
Story and Image by Parker Fish - AllOtsego.com