Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Do New Yorkers Want Wildlife-Empty Parks?





Do New Yorkers want wildlife-empty parks?

Apparently, they do. Either that, or most didn't know about or understand the long-term implications and goals of the proposed Wildlife Feeding Ban that the Mayor has signed in recent days.

Roxanne Delgado of the Bronx Electors for Animal Rights met with park officials last week.  Ms. Delgado had worked hard to  document a case of why the feeding ban should be rejected, but the minds she was speaking to were already closed.  There was no discussion or question. It was a meeting only to show there was a meeting; a mere formality. Just like the formalities of public comments and hearing.

But in the end, it didn't matter what the people had to say as there simply weren't enough of them.

It didn't matter, any of the research, documentations or photos of suffering, disappearing and dying park wildlife.  It didn't even matter, the recent report from the UN, stating that one million plant and animal species now face extinction.

What mattered was how to turn city parks into mere extention of the city itself, complete with outdoor gyms, concerts, food fests, marathons, movies and fireworks. (Indeed, the only things missing are roller coasters, but perhaps they are in the works.)

What mattered was how to further "discourage" or force out any wildlife still remaining in city parks.  First, remove natural food sources. Secondly, heavy use of pesticides and insecticides. Thirdly, criminalize alternate food sources as represented by human support of wildlife.

This past Saturday, Ms. Delgado received a call from the Mayor's office, informing her that Mayor deBlasio had just signed off on the feeding ban.  All that remains now is its actual adoption and implementation.

https://www.facebook.com/326231281077113/posts/825119967854906/

When Ms. Delgado asked how park wildlife will survive now that most natural food sources have been removed and alternate food sources banned, she was told, "The wildlife will find other places for food and nesting."

 This reaffirms what an Audubon (and ban supporter) representative  told Ms. Delgado when asked the same question more than a month ago:

 "The wildlife can go to Long Island to find food."

 Apparently, birds, squirrels, raccoons, and waterfowl are not welcomed anywhere in NYC.

Does that mean New Yorkers will have to buy tickets for the Long Island Rail Road or Amtrak if they wish to see any wildlife?

Or does it mean they will have to buy zoo tickets or sign up for special $15.00 "tours" with wildlife "experts" with powerful binoculars to find a warbler or chipmunk in the park?

It all reminds of an old Joni Mitchell song:

 "They cut down the trees and put them in a tree museum.
And they charge the people a dollar and a half just to see them."

The question is, is this what New Yorkers signed up for?  Is this what New Yorkers really want? 

 "Don't it always go to show?  That you don't know what you've got till it's gone? "

If not, then they have to find way to let their representatives and media know before ban is fully and actually enacted. Neither Roxanne nor I can do it for them.

 "They pave paradise and put up a parking lot."


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Monday, May 13, 2019

Reflections on Mother's Day





It's said that when a daughter marries, a mother doesn't lose a daughter; she gains a son.

But when my daughter married ten years ago, I felt I just lost a daughter.

It didn't help that we lived at opposite sides of the country. Phone calls became infrequent. Visits even fewer; two or three times a year, if lucky.

About four years ago, Tara and Ben moved to NY state from Utah.
My daughter and I were finally in the same state, but still more than four hours away by bus or car.

Matters improved little. I rarely saw Tara and had no communication at all with my son-in-law.
He was a stranger to me.

Then, last year, I decided to move from what had been "home" for my entire life -- New York City -- to upstate NY.

The decision was not an easy one. On the contrary, it was difficult.

I considered myself an independent woman, who, despite gripes about NYC, loved it.  It was after all, my "home." I had never wanted to live elsewhere. I loved my neighborhood, I loved Central Park, I was comfortable in my apartment which contained so many memories of my life and those of my daughter growing up.

But New York City is an expensive place to live -- especially when one is older and retired. I was bleeding money and resources and had to live on a tight budget.

I was also dismayed with many of the changes I was seeing in my neighborhood, as well as beloved, Central Park. More and more high rises going up, more crowds and more over-priced, trendy stores.  And it seemed the natural wildlife of Central Park was being pressured and "pushed out" to make room for and prioritize all manner of human activities and distractions.

Finally, I suffered a painful three-month bout of Shingles in 2017 that affected my right arm and left me struggling to accomplish even simple tasks. I realized for the first time, I was vulnerable.

But even more than these challenges, I mostly missed my daughter.

I missed our relationship -- and wondered where it has gone?

And so, as hard as it was -- and with the full help and support of Tara -- I finally bit the bullet and packed my belongings and cats and moved to Cortland, NY in early 2018. My daughter had found and helped secure a lovely apartment (close to shopping), complete with balcony, outdoor pool and other amenities and she drove to NYC to help me move.

I remember one moment, as the car headed towards the Lincoln Tunnel to exit NYC (perhaps for the last time for me), I thought, "I am not leaving NYC as much as it left me."

I did not look back.

I have been in Cortland a little more than a year now. It's a lovely, small city with less than 100,000 people. It's simple, unpretentious and in many ways, seems a throw-back to the 1950's.  It lacks the glitter and "excitement" of NYC, but I wasn't seeking those things anyway during later years.

But the best thing about living in Cortland is the proximity to my daughter and son-in-law who live in nearby Ithaca.  The days of holidays alone are gone as well as worrying how to lift something heavy or get to shopping outside of walking distance.

But even better than all this, is finally being able to watch a movie or TV show with my daughter and discussing afterwards and getting to know my son-in-law as a real human being and not just the person "who took my daughter from me."

 The truth is, we are not parents for just 18 years. We are parents for life.

And sometimes, we have to be willing to meet our kids halfway; give as well as expect. Listen as well as talk.

And so yes, it may have taken ten years and it may have required some hard lessons for me, but it is true that when your daughter marries, you don't lose a daughter; you gain a son.

You just have to willing to meet both in the middle.


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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. 

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=384962609026933&id=100025395917812

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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"We Care About the Wildlife"





"We care about the wildlife."

 Yesterday, Roxanne Delgado of the Bronx Animal Rights Electors met with several NYC Parks officials who are pushing the Parks Commissioner to sign the proposed Wildlife Feeding Ban.

Ms. Delgado worked very hard doing research, investigations, interviews and gathering documents, articles and photos in order to demonstrate and prove why the feeding ban must be rejected.

During her point by point, half-hour presentation, not one question was raised to her.

Ms. Delgado was anticipating an active, engaged dialogue.  Instead, she received stone faces and nary a word in comment apart from robotic and candy-coated assurances that, "We care about the wildlife."

 Well, let's take a brief look on how NYC Parks "care about wildlife."

 * NYC Parks are routinely doused with fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides and rodenticides.  Nut, fruit and seed-bearing trees and flora are removed and replaced by ornamental and non-native foliage that provide little food sources for birds and squirrels.

* Since 2009, more than 6,000 resident Canada geese have been rounded up from city parks and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and either gassed or slaughtered. Those geese still surviving in city parks have been subjected to nearly year-round harassment by Geese Police, as well as egg and nest destruction.
It is not exaggeration to call such programs, "Management to zero" (which is apparently, the intended goal).

*  Last summer, hundreds of raccoons died in Central Park (and other city parks), virtually wiping out the population.  Parks claimed Canine Distemper killed a number of the raccoons that were tested.  But did it kill all?  How did a virus kill so many animals living in different locations and even different parks?  Raccoons normally don't travel far from home territories. Few questions were asked by the press and even fewer answered.

 *  One of the jobs of Urban Park Rangers is to provide rescue for injured or ailing park wildlife.  Park Officials claim the rangers are "well trained" for rescues.  However, they are not well equipped.
Park Rangers are neither equipped with nets nor boats. Most times, they show up with a cat carrier which does not aid in capturing wildlife either from the water or on land.  On the other hand, Geese Police DOES have boats in order to harass geese and other birds on water. 
No boats for rescue. But boats for harassment and forcing out.  What does that say about "caring for wildlife?"

*  Park Rangers also claim they have "no access" to the Jackie Onassis Reservoir for waterfowl rescues. And yet, the Reservoir is a major resting point for thousands of migratory water birds passing through NYC twice a year, as well as a wintering spot for hundreds of migratory ducks and geese from December through March. During bad winters, these migratory birds (which are supposed to be protected by federal law) are left to starve to death when the Reservoir and park lakes freeze over more than 90%.

* NYC parks not only allow, but encourage so-called, "Catch and Release" fishing.  Fishermen routinely throw slices of white bread in the water in order to lure fish -- the same white bread that NYC parks now want to criminalize empathetic people for tossing to a hungry duck. But if bread is so "bad" for wildlife, why is it any healthier when tossed by a fisherman?
Fishermen routinely and carelessly discard fishing line around parks and lakes posing injury and sometimes loss of limbs or even death to waterfowl.
One Central Park goose lost a foot to fishing line several years ago, another goose with fishing bobble around beak, lost her life when Rangers were unable to rescue her and a mallard nearly lost his leg. Some years back, a duckling at Turtle Pond was caught on the end of a fishing hook horrifying onlookers and another time, a turtle was caught at Harlem Meer and the fisherman ( a kid) didn't know how to get it off the hook.
But not only is the fishing destructive to wildlife in general, but also to the fish, many of whom suffer mouth injuries before finally  being tossed back in the water -- after pictures are taken.

*  Many parks allow BBQ's which leave parks littered with trash and chicken bones and which in turn attract rats -- which bird feeders are then blamed for.

*  Some parks (especially, Central Park) routinely put on fireworks displays for occasions such as classical music concerts and marathons, in addition to holidays.  The fireworks terrify park wildlife and send hundreds of birds flying out.

These are just some of the many (destructive) ways NYC Parks "care about wildlife."

Truth is, wildlife is an inconvenience to City Parks which prioritize all manner of human activity, money-making enterprises and entertainment over biodiversity, nature and wildlife.

And it is exactly this same lack of biodiversity, altering of habitats, destruction of food sources, deliberate killings and heavy use of pesticides/insecticides that is "pushing/forcing wildlife out" globally, causing more than a million plant and animals species to now face extinction.

Push and "discourage" wildlife from NYC parks and where is it supposed to go?  Someone's back yard? Or the same place much of the world's wildlife is going? --  Nowhere?

Yes, NYC parks "care about wildlife."

 They care about it being gone.

And the proposed feeding ban if passed, will be the final nail in the coffin for NYC park wildlife.

Remove, replace and destroy natural food sources and then criminalize the alternate food sources as provided by human support.

 "Management" to zero - - exactly what the UN report warned against. 


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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Amidst Chaos, New Life!




On the same day a devastating report was issued from the UN regarding animal and plant extinctions, new life was hatched at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park.  The symbolic irony should not be lost.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/05/06/one-million-species-face-extinction-un-panel-says-humans-will-suffer-result/?utm_campaign=FB_Org_Action&utm_content=20190506&utm_medium=social&utm_source=Facebook&utm_term=.dcbb0303bb3c

Although all the major newspapers covered the extinctions report in which over one million animal, plant and insect species face extinction due mostly to human activities, one can bet the critical issue won't even be mentioned during next year's Presidential campaigns and debates  (unless people demand that it be).

We are a species that for the most part, likes to close its eyes to hard and uncomfortable realities -- especially those that compel us to make changes in our lives.  In many ways we are drowning in our own over-consumption and consumerism -- and we are taking the rest of the planet and animals with us.

But that is not to say matters are completely without hope. 

 "Think globally, act locally."

 This was the original mantra of the Environmental movement and it is so true.

It is vital to be aware of what is happening around the world and how even small, everyday decisions we make have impact. But nowhere is our power stronger for change than in our own backyards and communities.

When noting wildlife disappearing in local parks and communities, it is critical to observe, question why and when necessary, take proactive action to stand up and speak out to officials and those in charge of so-called, "wildlife management."

That is in fact, what this entire struggle to protect what little wildlife remains in NYC parks has been about.

Alterations in and destruction of natural habitat, heavy use of pesticides, insecticides and rodenticides and now, a proposed ban on all feeding of wildlife are succeeding in virtually emptying NYC parks of existing wildlife.

Such should be unacceptable in a world that is in the midst of the "Sixth Great Mass Extinction ."

So far, a final decision on the proposed "Wildlife Feeding Ban" (though expected in early April), has not yet been issued for NYC parks.  That is hopefully a possible sign that all the calls and letters are having some impact. It's important to keep them coming:

https://www.facebook.com/326231281077113/posts/819191245114445/

Yesterday, friend and fellow wildlife advocate, Laura Taylor went to the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park and discovered that the nesting Canada goose we named, "Caroline" hatched three perfect goslings. 

Caroline and her mate, Charlie are first-time parents at the Reservoir. It is suspected she is likely a daughter of Greta who is currently nesting at the East Side of the watercourse.   (Female geese choose nesting sites and usually in locations where they themselves hatched several years before.)

There is also new foliage attempting to grow in between the rocks surrounding Reservoir.

All hopeful signs.  But hope alone means little without consistent action.

Whether these goslings ultimately survive -- and the world's wildlife as a whole -- depends upon the actions that we as humans take over the ensuing weeks, months and years.

Environment, climate change and animal extinctions need to be pushed to the top of priority lists during all upcoming elections.

And in the meantime, we need to be not only allowed to support city parks wildlife, but welcomed to do so.

   
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Friday, May 3, 2019

Fair and "Fowl" Weather Friends




We're all familiar with the phrase, "Fair weather friends." - - The people who love you when you've just hit the lottery, but run the other way when you've been kicked to the curb by a job, lover or some nasty bug. Call these people when the sun is shining, but not when clouds and storm rule the day!

But in the duck and goose worlds things are quite different.

Mallards love me when temperatures are frigid, snow covers the ground and ice coats the water.  They fly to greet me, throw themselves at me feet and even try to follow me home!

 " We are so happy to see you! What have you brought for us?" They plead. "We are so hungry. We are so desperate; so cold!"

 But come the spring and fair weather, there is dramatic change.

 "What, you again? What do you want? Go away. We don't need you!"

 It is more than a three mile walk to and back from my local park.

But these days when going there, the mallards are usually resting and sunning themselves on the grass. They can't be bothered to get off their butts and walk ten feet to greet me. It's way too much effort!

So much for gratitude for helping them get through a tough winter.
The mallards are a greedy and totally narcissistic bunch, sad to say.

But Canada geese?  Ah, they are different!

Like the mallards, the geese appreciate some human support during harsh winters.

But unlike mallards, the geese don't forget who their human friends  are -- even during fair weather and even when they don't need human handouts.

When arriving to the park yesterday, most of the mallards, domestic ducks and even Chinese geese were off in snoozeville.   Nestled in the tall, fresh grass, most heads were tucked in backs and there was barely a stir. I am reasonably sure they were aware of my presence, but unless I brought sun tan oil, they weren't interested.

 "Don't go away mad, just go away." I could hear their collective minds say. "We're good. We don't need anything!"

I looked for the new goose family.

Bogie and Bacall had just hatched goslings two days before, but when last seen, the babies were safely tucked under Mama's wings while the family rested. They were too far away (behind the fenced area) to photograph.

I finally did see the family yesterday, but like two days before, they were far back in the wooded deer area. But this time, I could make out a couple of tiny, yellow heads bobbing up and down in the grass.

But still too far for me to photograph.

I stood at the fence for a while on what seemed a lazy, spring day.  Even the deer were apparently taking it easy somewhere amongst the wooded trees.  No one was interested in seeing me.

But, wait. Just as I was about to turn around and head for home...

 Bacall suddenly started flying forward!  And three bouncing balls of yellow fluff began running behind her, followed closely, by an anxious dad.

In an instant, the family was before me. And though I tossed some duck pellets and a few small bits of bread, neither parent was particularly hungry -- though the babies nibbled curiously.

Bogie and Bacall proudly brought their babies before me, both to greet and to show off.

They stayed a few minutes and obligingly posed for photos and then retreated peacefully back to the wooded, grassy area; babies merrily trotting beside them. It was sweet of them to make my long walk to the park fruitful and fulfilling.

And so yes, some people are only friends during good times. And most ducks seem only interested in friendship during bad times.

But geese?

Ah, geese never forget who their human friends are and they are always there for you come fair weather or "fowl."

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Theories, Guesses and Lies -- Keep the Salt Shaker Handy





Over the years, those struggling to protect the wildlife of city parks have had to contend with many false claims put forth by those advocating for destruction and/or "discouragement" of park wildlife.

 The most recent theory to be "tossed at wall" is the suggestion (by a feeding ban supporter) that the 8 of 9 goslings who perished at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir last summer were all likely victims of "Snapping turtles." 

 Of course there is no evidence to back up this claim nor even documentation to show Snapping turtles actually exist at the world famous location. 

Neither myself nor friends have ever seen a Snapping turtle at the Reservoir and I personally was there thousands of times. (Snappers do however live at some of the Central Park lakes and ponds.)

But even if we assume (for sake of argument) that Snapping turtles exist at Reservoir, the suggestion that they suddenly took out 8 of 9 otherwise healthy goslings more than a month-old and within a week is preposterous.

Goslings move fast and have two protective parents. Snapping turtles move extremely slowly and mostly stay at the bottom of the water in sand or mud.

Moreover, Snapping turtles are omnivores who mostly eat plants, worms, insects, fish, frogs or ailing birds.
Despite Snapping turtles at Turtle Pond and the Lake in Central Park over the past decade, no goslings fell victim to them.

Of course, I have no "hard evidence" that the demise of the 8 goslings last summer was due to malnutrition. 

But that theory is based on circumstantial evidence:

It is fact that the "natural food sources" for goslings (plants, grass, vegetation) were destroyed around the Reservoir last spring.

It is fact that goslings have to constantly eat in order to attain adult size and flight within three months of age.

It is fact that all 8 goslings perished at about a month-old and all within ten days of each other. 

Ruling out deliberate poison as possible cause, that leaves few options. (No dogs, foxes, coyotes or fishermen around Reservoir.)

It is possible that poor nutrition left goslings in a weakened state, thereby making them vulnerable to predation by regular turtles or hawks. In such case, malnutrition is contributing and primary (if not final), cause of death.

One of the most popular "theories" (especially on the Internet) by those opposing any support of park wildlife is that human feeding (especially bread) "may cause Angel Wing."

 The key word in that sentence is "may."

 I could claim that drinking coffee "may cause insanity in humans."

 That doesn't mean it does. 

 "May, might, could and can" are disqualifying (or guessing) words that don't require actual evidence to back then up. 

And so we find little evidence to back up the charge that bread causes Angel Wing.  On the contrary, the few scientific studies done on this question suggest the condition to be primarily genetic in causation. (It mostly occurs in domestic fowl raised for meat or eggs.)

Even more to the point, Angel Wing rarely occurs in wild mallard populations and these are the birds most fed bread in public parks.

Another "may" that is particularly disconcerting is the claim that human feeding "may delay bird migrations."

Bird migrations are established over thousands of years. And while there are occasional variations due to climate changes, presence of predators or available natural food sources, birds don't alter migratory patterns based upon some humans feeding treats. When the calendar tells birds to move, they move.

So far, we have discussed theories, guesses and speculations.

But there are times when park officials and representatives outright lie to people. Such was the case in 2010 when park spokespeople from Prospect Park told questioning park goers that the park's 360 molting geese and goslings "flew to a nearby cemetery."

 The truth was, the geese and their babies had been rounded up at dawn on that sultry July 8th morning and sent for gassing.

The bottom line to all this is that unfortunately, one cannot take as "fact," claims and charges made by those whose goal appears to be the destruction of or pushing out of wildlife from city parks. - - Especially when those claims are preceded by unprovable, "May, might, could or can."

It's important to require evidence of claims and not just take at face value.  A salt shaker seems to be sad necessity when communicating  with park officials and representatives. 


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