Saturday, April 19, 2014

Among the Geese, Love in Bloom


Romantic goose pair at Turtle Pond in Central Park yesterday.
Love in bloom.
Shortly after mating, the gander flaps wings in celebration while female splashes herself with water.
The last of the migratory Canada geese passed through Central Park more than two weeks ago.
.
What remains now are those few "resident" geese who either plan to nest again or seek Central Park as safe place to go through the molting period in June/July when they lose their flight feathers.
.
Continued goose harassment by Geese Police has resulted in only the most bold and adaptable geese remaining in Central Park.  -- those not deterred by chasing dogs, dominant paired geese and large volume of human activities.
.
Currently, that appears to be less than a couple of dozen geese throughout the entire 839 acre park.
.
Dominant "alpha" goose pairs (such as Napoleon and Josephine at Harlem Meer) have claimed territories at the Meer, the Boat Lake and the Jackie Onassis Reservoir.
.
Yesterday, I noted the dominant goose pair at the Reservoir chasing off three geese who had stopped by and were peacefully gliding across the water.  The trio was unceremoniously given the "bums rush" and quickly had to depart.
.
Fact is, we really don't need "Geese Police" when the geese themselves do an excellent job of limiting numbers allowed to share the watercourses throughout spring and summer. Rather, the endless human harassment seems just another way to squander money and celebrate our seeming intolerance for (and ignorance of) wildlife.
.
Surprisingly, Napoleon and Josephine at Harlem Meer, do seem to be tolerating one other goose pair still remaining at the lake -- as long as the secondary pair keep only to the east side.  A peaceful truce and understanding seems to have evolved among the four geese over the past couple of weeks with each pair keeping to their designated sides of the lake.
.
But, prepare as some geese might for nesting, the reality is that if Central Park follows the same path as last year, no eggs of Canada geese will be allowed to hatch this year either as all were addled (oiled) last year.  
.
Personally, I don't look forward to seeing any geese actually nest in Central Park as it is heartbreaking to witness the couple's grief and mourning when their eggs fail to hatch.
.
The geese go through so much when nesting.
.
The gander has to stand guard of mate and nest for roughly 28 days with little rest. The goose loses up to 25% of her body weight when sitting on eggs with very little time to eat.
.
Last year, when finally realizing their eggs were unviable, all geese actually "mourned" their losses for at least a couple of days, standing forlornly over the broken eggs (especially the females).
.
Eventually, the geese moved on of course, because that is what nature compels them to do.
.
But, I personally have little doubt that the losses of their offspring probably stay within the hearts of the geese for a long time.
.
In short, it is beautiful and exciting to witness love in bloom among the geese during the glorious and life affirming spring.
.
But, it is heartbreaking to witness their endless persecution and stress throughout the summer. 
.
Perhaps modern human culture doesn't have much tolerance and respect for "love" these days -- unless it is love of self alone.  -- PCA
.
.
.
                                                   ************ 

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Mad Men of USDA Wildlife Services and 5,638 Dead Geese



Canada goose. In the "make work," golden egg cross hairs of USDA Wildlife Services.
5,638.
.
That is the number of Canada geese snuffed out in New York City since 2009 at a cost of hundreds of thousands of tax dollars. 
.
.
But, what was it all for?
.
According to the USDA Wildlife Services' own report, the number of airline strikes with Canada geese has remained virtually unchanged over the past five years despite the mass carnage and squandering of tax dollars.
.
.
USDA WS attempts to justify the massacres by claiming parts of the geese are fed to hungry people.
.
But, although a Canada goose typically weighs around 12 pounds, less than a pound of meat per bird was and is actually donated.
.
And of this, WS writes:
.
"The breast tissue of resident Canada geese was determined safe to eat.  The greatest risk identified from eating goose breast was from non-toxic steel shot being imbedded in breast tissue and someone biting down on shot which might damage a tooth."
.
Well, what could be more delectable when eating than to chomp down on some steel shot and possibly breaking a tooth?
.
Surely, the people must be lining up for this gourmet treat!
.
Wildlife Services bases the so-called public desire for goose meat on some comments posted on a New York Times blog article following the gassing of 368 geese from Prospect Park in 2010.
.
But, they conveniently overlooked hundreds of public comments (to the same site) condemning the goose slaughters in Prospect Park outright.  
.
Talk about seeing only what one wants to and twisting that around to fit whatever cruel, pointless and "make work" agenda one is touting.
.
One has to hand it to Martin Lowney and the rest of his cronies at Wildlife Services for PR "spin" that would rival any of that from AMC's fictional "Mad Men."
.
Over the years, they have successfully manipulated the public and the press to believe that Canada geese were the menace of the skies and pollutants of the waters and that the only way to perennial bliss and "airline safety" was to embark on a mass killing campaign of these otherwise peaceful and majestic birds.
.
But, the pathetic reality is that even when a airliner goes down in the water (due to non-bird issues) we cannot find it for all the other "debris" we have wantonly dumped in our oceans over the decades.
.
Perhaps we can blame that on the geese, too?
.
Yes, Martin Lowney and WS are the true masters of Mad Men spin.
.
Who else could get away with dressing up mass wildlife massacres as "euthanasia" and "feeding the poor" with teeth crunching steel shot?   -- PCA
.
.
.
                                                     ************

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Aftermath of "Polar Vortex" and Seasonal Transition for Waterbirds


Mallard pair at Harlem Meer.  Those ducks not already paired up from early winter could be in for a rough spring.
Napoleon at Harlem Meer.  On constant look-out for any geese wandering into his and Josephine's space on entire west side of lake.
Bottoms Up! Open water at last!
Northern Shovelers at Jackie Onassis Reservoir. At last open water to dive under.
Migratory Canada geese at Reservoir -- like statues on the water as they try to catch needed rest.
A proud Josephine at Harlem Meer as she and mate, Napoleon prepare for nesting.
Winter may have finally ended (at least according to the calendar), but this past season's "Polar Vortex" and its deadly impacts upon water birds are still occurring according to a recent press release from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC):
.
.
From the report:
.
"Because of cold temperatures and iced over waters, many birds have suffered food deprivation since early winter, and are only now starting to die off in great numbers."
.
The winter was especially harsh on various varieties of diving ducks, swans, coots and cormorants (birds dependent upon fish and water plants) as well as presumably, most wildlife.  
.
In personal limited travels and observations, I have noted that despite all Central Park watercourses now unfrozen, mallards are still unusually hungry, perhaps seeking to compensate for calorie deprivation over the winter.
.
Nevertheless, despite the aftermath and repercussions of an unusually brutal winter throughout most of the country, normal spring rituals progress.
.
Migratory Canada geese are still passing through Central Park en route to places far north such as Canada and the Sub Arctic.  They are typically observed trying to catch brief rest on the waters of the Jackie Onassis Reservoir or the Boat Lake before moving on their treacherous spring journeys.
.
Unlike the migratory geese who often appear like statues on the water bobbing up and down with the currents, resident Canada geese in Central Park are anything but quiet and subdued.
.
On the contrary and as previously described, the inevitable "rites of spring" are occurring with the dominant or "alpha" pairs of geese claiming nesting territories and the rest of the geese battling out places and hierarchal order in individual flocks. (This is currently most notable at Harlem Meer.)
.
Lots of honks, wing flapping, chasing and harassment among the ganders, accompanied by the occasional holding down in the water.  All this while other geese look on like spectators at a boxing match or mated females cheer their boys on.
.
But, if the resident geese are loud and cantankerous, it is nothing compared to the mallards of whom even dominant hens often take part in spring ritual battles.  (Sometimes I think that mallards are similar to dogs in that some of the meanest battles are among females.)
.
Nothing is in fact, quite so formidable in the mallard world as a mama mallard with half-grown ducklings. 
.
I recall in the early fall of last year, a mama mallard and her then adolescent ducklings who could empty the entire north bank of Harlem Meer of other mallards just by showing up. Any mallard who dared to hang around a bit too long was quickly given the bum's rush by the entire family.
.
Last summer, a mama mallard used to leave her tiny ducklings with "Cago" (the female loner Canada goose at the Meer at that time) to baby sit while she ran off to attack all other mallards in the area.
.
Perhaps female mallards have to be tough because they don't usually have the benefit of their male partner drakes when raising ducklings.  This is very unlike the Canada geese in which the gander plays a huge role in helping to raise and protect goslings.
.
But, female mallards can be victims, too.
.
Those hens not already paired up by early spring can find themselves endlessly harassed by multiple drakes to the point of near exhaustion or even in extreme circumstances, death (although the latter I have never personally observed, but read about).
.
As noted in the previous blog entry, this appears to be the reason most mallards actually pair up during late fall or early winter (when drakes actually take on their bright colors again).  It represents protection and later security for both, hens and drakes from the otherwise harsh rituals and battles of spring. It also insures them a higher place in the flock in terms of social hierarchy.
.
In geese too, those geese not already paired up by early spring are subjected to harassment by other geese and low status placement in the flock.
.
To the occasional observer, water birds on a lake or pond may look the same all year.
.
But, take closer look and you will note the inevitable changes that occur all year long in behavior, physical condition and in some cases even appearance and color.
.
Ducks for example, indeed had it very hard this winter with cold, ice and ultimate starvation taking out many of their numbers.
.
But, come the spring and all the normal rituals again occur with mallard pairs staking out their territories and chasing any "interlopers."
.
As for the geese, it seems winter wasn't quite the grim reaper for them as it was sadly for other birds.
.
But, careful observance of the geese over the winter predicted the harsh and unusual changes about to occur long before the human meteorologists did.
.
The geese knew well when to pack up and ship out before any of us even knew what a "Polar Vortex" actually was.   -- PCA
.
.
.
                                 
                                            **************

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rites of Spring and Intents of Napoleon and Josephine


Napoleon flaps wings and sticks out chest in victory celebration after successfully chasing offending gander from territory.
Love in bloom.
Napoleon standing guard while Josephine "calorie loads." All necessary in preparation for challenges of nesting.  
The ice has finally melted at Central Park watercourses and new buds can be seen on many of the trees.  Robins are once again flying around Central Park and the migratory Canada geese (on way to the Sub Arctic or Canada) stopping briefly to rest and refuel announce their arrivals to and departures from Central Park with wild exuberance. 
.
But, perhaps the greatest sign of newly arrived spring, is the pairing up and claiming of territory amongst the park's water birds.
.
It is common now to see pairs of mallards strolling romantically along park lawns or sunning themselves on a rock. Other times, what I refer to as "bar room brawls" are also common among the mallards as the drakes chase off other ducks who venture into their space or make a move toward their hens.
.
Most of the paired ducks actually chose their mates during the winter so as presumably to protect themselves from the inevitable battles for mates and territory of the spring. However, such pairings are not obvious in winter when all the birds huddle together for warmth and searches for available food and open water.
.
Winter is a matter of survival.
.
Spring is battle for territory and mates as well as celebration of new life.
.
Perhaps nowhere are these "rites of spring" more obvious than in a particular pair of Canada geese who have been staying at Harlem Meer for approximately two weeks.
.
The pair who I have named Napoleon and Josephine ("Josie" for short) have claimed the entire western portion of the lake.  Though there are presently about a dozen other geese at the Meer, none dare to venture past an invisible line Napoleon has apparently drawn across the middle of the water.
.
Napoleon stands "guard" all the times I have seen him -- usually on a rock, allowing him full visibility of the entire lake. His lady, Josie, is free to fill her belly by grazing on the nearby lawns or even begging treats from humans. So far, in about two weeks, I have never seen Napoleon take time to feed, his eyes are so constantly fixated on the lake and its other goose inhabitants.
.
While the other pairs of geese at the Meer are mostly respectful of Napoleon's territorial claims, there is the occasional pair (and yesterday, two) who, either out of carelessness or some type of "dare-devil" attitude, venture over the invisible line on the water.
.
When that occurs, Napoleon -- like a bat out of hell -- suddenly veers across the water, wings flapping wildly, neck stretched out and loudly honking, to nail the offending gander in the butt and chase off the water.  (Talk about "kicking ass!")
.
Napoleon continues to stalk and harass, forcing the challenging ganders to take flight.  Napoleon then chases them full circle around the entire lake until finally, the offending ganders are forced to land on the water far to the east of where they were first attacked.  There, they eventually rejoin their mates who offer condolence and support. 
.
While all these antics are occurring, Josie remains confidently on the grass or in the water, looking up and cheering her man on with loud, encouraging and celebratory honks.
.
"You go, my love!  Show them who's BOSS!"
.
When at last, Napoleon returns to Josie, the two celebrate victory with a cacophony of exuberant honks while Napoleon flaps his wings and sticks out his chest:  "No one messes with me or my lady! -- NO ONE!"
.
And yes, so far not one visiting migratory or resident goose has gotten one inch over the invisible line in the water without getting his butt royally kicked by Napoleon while  cheerleading Josie eggs him on.
.
The two "lovebirds" have complete charge of the entire west side of the lake while all the other (less mature) geese are forced to compete for limited space on the east side and engage in their own little "dominance displays" probably in preparation for the days they too, will be driven by nature and time to nest.
.
When that occurs, the female goose will spend the entire early spring eating -- i.e. calorie loading -- (as Josie is doing now) and cheering on her mate, while the gander "stands guard" virtually 24/7 in preparation for battle and territorial claiming.
.
The challenges of actual nesting are, after all, among the greatest challenges for geese.
.
During nesting, the hen virtually "fasts" for 28 days while sitting continuously on her eggs while her gander has to be on constant look-out for any predatory threats. Both geese have to be immediately prepared to defend nest and eggs should threat arise.
.
During nesting, the typical female goose will lose 25% of her body weight.
.
.
This helps explain the seemingly voracious appetites of soon-to-be nesting hens and the hyper vigilant, seemingly "aggressive" behavior of their ganders.
.
It's all necessary if they are to successfully nest and raise young.
.
Currently, the hundreds of geese commonly seen at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park these days are migratory geese, just stopping by briefly to rest before traveling on to the Sub Arctic or Canada.  They barely move on the water from sheer exhaustion and are mostly very quiet except when either arriving or departing. Some even try to catch a quick nap on the water by turning back their heads into their backs.
.
However, the antics and dominance displays at Harlem Meer are mostly our local "resident" geese.
.
And though there are roughly only a dozen (sometimes a few more if migratory geese temporarily stop to rest), it is my speculation that only two of the geese are actually intent upon nesting. 
.
If only Napoleon and Josephine knew that no eggs of Canada geese will be allowed to hatch in Central Park as they will be promptly oiled ("addled") by Geese Police.
.
It seems the geese have figured out all the ways to deal with the challenges of nature --except those from humans. -- PCA
.
.
                                           ***************

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Brutal Winter's Impacts Upon Water Birds


Visiting Canada goose during temporary fair weather. He and flock were gone the next day as temperatures took dive.
"Snow, snow go away. Come around another day."
Frozen ducks on ice.
Scrambling for long fallen chestnut remnants.
While both national and local media has widely covered the brutal winter befalling most of the country and its effects upon humans, virtually nothing has been reported of this merciless season's devastating impact upon wildlife.
.
That is, until recently:
.
.
There can be little question that this particular winter is already and will result in staggering losses to birds and wildlife of all kinds. Not only from the standpoint of starvation due to deep snow and frozen watercourses cutting off food supplies, but also the anticipated floods to come when spring ice sheets finally melt and over-swell rivers, streams and ponds. Eggs of many ground nesting waterfowl will be lost in rising flood waters and many animals will be forced into retreat from low lying land areas.
.
Personally, I have seen startling changes in the waterfowl in just my small egosystem, Central Park.
.
During an average New York City winter, more than 200 Canada geese and a variety of ducks would stay for approximately six weeks at Central Park's Jackie Onassis Reservoir.
.
The migratory geese and ducks arrived early in January as expected.
.
But, they were there less than a couple of weeks before steady sub-freezing temperatures, numerous snow storms and finally a completely iced over Reservoir drove them out.
.
Geese left several days before weather took its unyielding plunge, so it's presumed they still had time to fly south or make other adjustments. But, its anyone's guess where the migratory ducks went.
.
Mallards toughing it out in Central Park this winter have not had an easy time of it.
.
Virtually all watercourses are entirely iced over with the exception of small pools of open water still at the Boat Lake and South Pond.
.
When snow is covering the ground (as it has for most of the winter) the birds are cut off from nearly all food sources.
.
In recent days, I have seen mallards scrambling for long fallen chestnuts on the ground that were apparently softened from the snow. And it has become common to see them squatting on ice or frozen ground in seeming attempt to keep their legs reasonably protected from bone chilling cold.
.
Perhaps though, the most startling behavior change on part of the mallards is their willingness and in fact, eagerness to directly eat from human hands (something very unusual for mallards).
.
Despite my and a few other people's attempts to pull the mallards though this harsh and unrelenting winter by feeding, a number of the birds have perished both in Central Park and Prospect Park that we know about.
.
Recently, a mute swan at Prospect Park was also found dead on the ice.
.
As for the few geese remaining locally, a couple of them had to be rescued recently from Prospect Park, one of whom was entangled in fishing line.
.
There are still a mated pair of geese toughing out the winter (and Geese Police) at the Boat Lake in Central Park and there are a couple of gaggles of Canada geese occasionally dropping into Harlem Meer and the Boat Lake -- but only when the weather is reasonably nice.
.
As mentioned numerous times in this blog, I would know what old man winter has in store just by noting the behavior of the geese.  -- When the geese show up, you know you are in for some fair weather.  When they leave, you know things are about to turn to crap either with heavy snow or fast diving temperatures.
.
The five geese at Harlem Meer this past weekend for example (when temperatures swelled to mid 50's) were gone by Sunday evening.  Since then, temps plummeted to 12 degrees this morning.
.
I still don't know where these geese go when they leave Central Park.  But, its got to be some place with decent cover from punishing winds and presumably still containing some open water.
.
Its just hard these days to figure out anywhere on the East Coast (or for that matter, most of the country) that might be.
.
For now, my 50 or so, die-hard mallards at the Meer are still scouring the grounds for any remnants of broken chestnuts and perfecting their skating skills on frozen blocks of ice.
.
I can't in fact, remember the last time I saw open, moving water at either Harlem Meer or the Jackie Onassis Reservoir.
.
Hopefully, both watercourses will be thawed out by June and the ducks and geese can once again swim. -- PCA
.
.
.
                                                     **********

Monday, February 24, 2014

Spring Teases, Arctic Freezes and Hopefully Warm Hearts


Geese returning to Central Park during brief spring tease.
Little girl takes delight in hand feeding geese and mallards.
Geese and ducks finally able to find some exposed soil for grazing.
Mallards pecking through thin snow to seeds underneath.
We were finally able to scrap gloves, scarves, boots and winter coats this weekend for lighter fare as temperatures swelled to balmy fifty degrees plus.
.
The temporary spring tease brought families, runners, cyclists and children back to Central Park, as well as several small flocks of Canada geese.
.
The geese have been bouncing around between the Boat Lake and Harlem Meer over the past week which appears to be good news for "Loner," the solitary Canada goose who had been hanging with a mated goose pair at the Boat Lake for the past several months.
.
I expressed concern for Loner to my friend, Liliana (who daily monitors to the Boat Lake) because in another month, (i.e. breeding season) the mated pair would no longer accept Loner and the gander would likely run the friendless, solitary goose off from potential nesting area and the lake itself.
.
But, it seems now that fear may not actually materialize.
.
Liliana reported today that as of this morning, only the mated pair of geese were at the Boat Lake.
.
It appears that Loner finally joined one of the visiting flocks over the past weekend. -- An action that was necessary to insure his ultimate survival.
.
Loner had to realize that the somewhat comfy situation of tagging along with an established pair through the winter (without personal mate and flock) would not last through the coming seasons.  If he was to take action, he had the opportunity this past week and he apparently took it.
.
Liliana also reported seeing one goose at the Boat Lake a few days ago with an id band on her right leg. This suggests that "Bandy," the goose who was alone at Harlem Meer for a couple of weeks also joined (or rejoined) one of the flocks (as suspected).
.
In essence, it is good news that both "loner" geese of Central Park have seemingly found flocks to once again become part of. As reported previously in this journal, the long range prognosis for "loner" geese without mates or flocks is extremely grim.
.
Nevertheless, not all of the wildlife news from city parks this winter is good.
.
Last week, a park maintenance worker reported to me finding several dead mallards at Harlem Meer over the winter.  (Bird lovers at Prospect Park in Brooklyn have similarly  reported the losses of at least four mallards over the winter.)
.
I told the young man that the deaths were not due to the birds freezing to death, but likely starving to death.
.
Throughout most of the winter, the lake at Harlem Meer has been a frozen block of ice with no open water.
.
For the past month, the lawns in Central Park (and other parks) have been covered in more than foot of solidly packed snow thereby preventing waterfowl from grazing.
.
In essence, the natural food supplies for ducks, geese and other waterfowl have been completely blocked off by either heavy snow or thick ice most of this winter.
.
This has resulted in particularly bold and risky behavior -- especially on the part of mallards.
.
In all the years of feeding Central Park mallards over the winters, I have never experienced them eating directly from my hand unless physically compromised in some way, such as a crippled leg.
.
But, in recent weeks, it has become the norm rather than the exception that mallards search human hands for food.
.
Liliana reports the same.
.
This suggests that so desperate are the waterfowl for food, many are willing to take risks they would normally never take.
.
Geese, being generally a bit more social, confident and human trusting than mallards do not necessarily have to be faced with life threatening circumstance to take food from human hands.   But even the geese have displayed more risk taking behavior and seeming desperation than usual -- even walking up to small children.
.
This past weekend, the birds got a bit of reprieve from relentless cold and constantly gathering snow.
.
But, Harlem Meer still remains encased in ice and most of the grounds still covered in thin sheets of icy snow. 
.
While it was comforting last night to see some mallards finally able to graze on some newly exposed soil and grass for the first time in weeks, that is a scene likely to vanish as qiuickly as it appeared.
.
The weather forecast for the rest of the week is a "return to the Polar Vortex" with temperatures plunging to low teens and more snow to come.
.
The geese will likely take off again (except for the mated pair at Boat Lake) as will most people stay away from city parks.
.
It will mostly be the "diehard" mallards remaining huddled and cringed down on the frozen ice and a few diehard feeders trying to prevent further mortalities this winter.
.
I hope if there is anything this journal accomplishes over the years, it is to awaken others to the struggles of wildlife over the seasons and to hopefully inspire others to the desire to lend a helping hand when necessary -- despite signs and rules in urban parks often dictating otherwise.
.
That only cold, restricting and unrelenting winters might hopefully give way to and engender warm, generous and eager hearts.  -- PCA
.
.
.
                                                     ********
   

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Bright Red of "Canada Goose" Garment Labels - A Message of Animal Suffering


The real Canada goose may be beautiful. But, nothing pretty or technically evolved about the torture and death of coyotes and geese to produce garments of animal suffering. Down is dead. 
Here in NYC, the bright red designer labels imprinted upon outerwear sleeves are seen everywhere. 
.
But, the critical article below focuses on the horrific trapping of coyotes as trimming for popular "Canada Goose" jackets and coats:
.
.
Of course, it is not just coyotes who suffer the tortures of the damned to produce these products.  Geese are either slaughtered for down filling or in some cases are lived-plucked.
.
Earlier in the season, I purchased 100% man-made (polyester fiber) puffer coats for myself and my daughter from Abercrombie and Fitch similar in appearance to the "Canada Goose" stuff. (Its important to carefully read labels inside coats and jackets to determine all materials used for it.) Even in minus 12 degree Buffalo weather, Tara, my daughter, says its the warmest coat she has ever had. 
.
My coat has a faux fur trimmed hood which has kept me toasty all winter. The coat has become my most treasured possession -- especially in this particularly frigid season. When last month, temperatures plunged to 8 degrees in New York City, I walked through Central Park with just a thin sweater under my coat and was perfectly fine.
.
There is no excuse in the word to market garments of such unspeakable animal cruelty when we have the technology today to produce incredible outerwear that is both fashionable and far warmer than anything on an animal.
.
The article above is important and should be shared with anyone thinking of buying Canada Goose products.
.
The bright red of Canada Goose garment labels might as well be written in the blood of their victims.  --PCA
.
.
.
                                                ********