Thursday, June 13, 2019

Central Park Reservoir Goslings in Trouble (Deja-Vu)?

It's one year since 8 of 9 Reservoir goslings in Central Park mysteriously perished -- one month after they hatched.

As of last week, there were once again 9 goslings at the Reservoir and once again they were nearing the one month mark.

As of yesterday, there are only 8 goslings. 

Too much this year seems ominous repeat of last year.

Up until almost a month ago, the landscape surrounding the Reservoir was almost entirely devoid of foliage and vegetation.
And while some plants have been allowed to grow back, the question remains, is it too little, too late?

Reality is, that the Central Park goslings are unusually small and scrawny for their age -- especially compared to goslings in Cortland, NY (where I currently live) who are only a couple of weeks older, but far bigger and more developed.

At least one set of Reservoir goose parents (John and Mary) are highly experienced in successfully raising young and yet they have already lost two of their four goslings.

The other two sets of newer parents (each with three goslings) appear to be struggling to hang on with their babies.

It doesn't look good for any of them. Failure to thrive is an almost sure predictor of early death.

I don't know how many people read this blog or how many might live near the Central Park Reservoir.

This blog post is a plea to any close to Central Park to please bring supplemental food to the remaining goslings!  This could be in the forms of cracked corn, duck pellets, dry cat food, peanuts, peas or whole wheat bread or crackers.  --- Anything to prevent them from fading away and dying.

If you can only get to the park once a week or so, consider spreading extra food along the rocks for the goose families to eat later.

As of yesterday, the families were reported to be together at the North East side of the Reservoir.  Hopefully, they stay together for easier feeding and greater protection.

Considering all the anti-feeding propaganda in New York City, as well as the new park "rule" about to be implemented this summer, it behooves one to make this kind of plea.

But it really does appear at this point, to be a matter of life and death, or, in other words, a very sad deja-vu.


Thursday, June 6, 2019

"You Can't Always Get What You Want....."

"But if you try sometimes, you find, you get what you need."

 More than once in life I have known the lyrics of an old Rolling Stones tune to play out in real life.

Many of us worked hard to try and defeat the proposed Wildlife Feeding Ban in New York City Parks.

But barring some last minute miracle, it is being adopted anyway.

This is certainly disappointing news. Not only is the new "rule" completely unnecessary, but if aggressively enforced, it will punish the few kind-hearted people feeding hungry birds and squirrels in parks for acts of mercy.

It's easy during times like this to think one's efforts in what seems, a "losing cause" have been wasted; our words went unheard, our pleas for compassion, ignored.

We were invisible.

But sometimes we have to look beyond the obvious to see the whole picture as things are not always as they seem.

Yesterday, the Central Park Facebook page put up a video:

It show workers attached to harnesses cleaning up some of the debris tossed onto the Jackie Onassis Reservoir.

The video appears to have recently been filmed in early April as there are Cherry Blossoms on trees.

This is shortly after the time a number of us posted photos of some of the garbage floating in Reservoir water, as well as a barren landscape in which all of the foliage had been chopped down and removed.

Roxanne Delgado of the Bronx Animal Rights Electors had made it a point to highlight the Reservoir as example of destroying natural  food sources for park wildlife, while at the same time failing to clean up garbage.

It seems some people in the NYC Parks Department and Central Park Conservancy finally listened.

But even more important than cleaning up garbage alone, was allowing the vegetation and greenery to grow again.

And over the past six or seven weeks that finally appears to be happening again.

The vegetation and foliage is a critical food source for growing goslings and other park wildlife and waterfowl.

Over the past month, 10 goslings hatched at the Reservoir.

To this point, only one has perished.

It's too early to say whether the remaining 9 goslings will survive long enough to fly out of the Reservoir with their parents in August.
But matters appear far more promising than last year when 8 of 9 Reservoir goslings perished, most likely due to malnutrition.

At least this year, there is growing and robust plant life at the Reservoir, prompting one of the Central Park workers to remark, "We are busy keeping everything nice and green."

 So, on the surface, it appears we lost the battle to protect city park wildlife and the people who feed birds and squirrels.

But while partially true and disappointing, the larger battle might have actually been won -- that of protecting and even providing natural food sources for the wildlife of NYC parks.

As for the question of people supporting hungry wildlife during harsh winters when snow covers the ground and watercourses are iced over, we have to hope that no sane Ranger or cop is going to ticket or haul off to jail, some elderly or disabled person or child tossing bread to a hungry duck or squirrel.

Were that to occur, it would make a tantalizing front page story for the New York Post or Daily News and certainly reflect badly on the Mayor of NYC as well as the city itself.

I said from the beginning that the proposed rule banning wildlife feeding was a "solution seeking a problem."

 Any photos showing "arrest" of a senior citizen or tourist for wildlife feeding would indeed be a problem that a city already beset by real crimes would not need.

But that is the choice the city of New York has made.  It will now have to live with that decision -- and any consequences from it.

As for those of us who fought against the proposed ban, no, we did not get what we wanted.

But we hopefully got what was needed for NYC park wildlife to still survive and hopefully thrive.

Only time will tell for sure.

But for sure, it is never wasted time to fight for what is right -- even if not realizing the fruits of those labors at the time.


Friday, May 24, 2019

Summer Rerun?

Last summer was rough for the wildlife of Central Park.

More than 300 Central Park raccoons sickened and died.

Eight of the nine goslings at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir weakend and perished before a month old.  (These had been the only goslings allowed to hatch in all of Central Park last year; thus only one survived in an 843 acre park.)

Both, mallard and goose numbers were down in Central Park during the summer molt, though the reasons for that are not clear.

We are not yet into the summer of 2019.

But so far, signs are that it will mostly be repeat of 2018 and possibly worse.

Once again, the only goslings allowed to hatch are seven at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir. (Other geese nested, but no other hatchlings.)  Already, at least one of the goslings has perished over the past week.

And while reports and photos are scattered, they sadly seem to suggest surviving goslings are slow in growth -- or at least compared to goslings in other areas.

Goslings in Cortland, NY (where I live) hatched a week earlier than Central Park goslings, but they are nearly twice their size.
Part of me wants to think that maybe geese in upstate NY are bigger and more robust as we have much harsher winters than NYC, but that is probably denial.

I am concerned for the goslings at the Reservoir -- but desperately hoping I am wrong.  Perhaps I am just needlessly worrying due to past negative history in Central Park.

Certainly, all NYC parks are hostile to Canada geese.
And sadly the hostility is no longer limited to geese alone.

Although the city has made no official announcement yet, the Wildlife Feeding Ban appears to be a done deal.

The Parks Department pushed it and the Mayor supports it.

Bronx Animal Rights Electors is planning another rally in a couple of weeks at City Hall, but unless Roxanne can attract a substantial crowd of protesters to the ban or there is serious media coverage, the ban will go into effect this summer.

So, in addition to the removal of many natural food sources (nut, seed and fruit-bearing trees; vegetation), disbursement of pesticides and employment of wildlife harassment services such as "Geese Police," supplemental food sources as represented by human feeders will also be "removed" through banning and criminalization.

It's hard to imagine a summer much worse for NYC park wildlife than what was last summer.

But this upcoming summer might be it.

Two weeks ago, I asked if most New Yorkers really want wildlife-empty parks?

I don't know that New Yorkers actually "want" parks with little to no wildlife.

But nor do they seem to object.

Perhaps the only thing necessary for misfortune to prosper is good people doing nothing.


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.

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."

               . .................................................

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.

                ........                        ............                .........

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.

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.

            .                        ..........................

"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.