Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Sad and Sordid History of Bird Harassment in Central Park

In the fall of 2009, I complained to the Central Park Conservancy about Canada geese being harassed at Harlem Meer by a company called, "Geese Relief." 

I was told, "We are harassing the resident geese to make room for the migratory geese."

(This explanation made little sense as most of the migratory geese either briefly rested at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir or wintered at Reservoir from December through March. Geese at Harlem Meer had nothing to do with them.)

At least the Conservancy acknowledged the harassment. To its credit also, the Conservancy appeared to realize the importance of protecting migratory bird species as mandated by the federal Migratory Bird Act Treaty.

These days, when questioned about harassment, Conservancy employees repeatedly deny that any harassment is being conducted. Either the Conservancy is engaging in activities that it fails to inform employees of, or the employees are told to lie to the public. Neither speaks well of an organization seeking support and trust of the public.

I have recently been informed by a Central Park vendor that a new goose harassment company, "Geese Chasers," has been using dogs for months to harass water birds from Central Park lakes and ponds at night.  (See photo of vehicle.) Another eyewitness reported seeing Geese Chasers use DRONES to "attack" geese on the water early one morning.
This helps explain why duck numbers have plummeted throughout Central Park over the past year.  When questioned why ducks were disappearing in Central Park, employees have consistently misinformed the public by claiming the "ducks just fly away."  Ducks that had been at the park for years didn't just up and "fly away." They were harassed and terrorized into leaving; their habitat cruelly banished and denied to them.

It must be noted that it is nearly impossible to harass one species of bird without terrifying and chasing out others.  I personally witnessed "Geese Relief" hurling a heavy object attached to a rope on ice one night at Harlem Meer many years ago to scare away geese.  EVERY bird that was on the ice and in water panicked and took off vertically for the skies.  These included Mallards, Northern Shovelers, Coots, Swans and some smaller ducks. 

There was not one bird left on the lake and many of these had been migratory, as it was December.

The following day I complained to the Conservancy and Geese Relief was immediately fired as they did not have permission to use anything but dogs for harassment.

The following spring Geese Police was hired and utilized up until the last year or two.

I don't know what happened with Geese Police, but the new company seems to be using methods (drones?) that are terrorizing far more than geese from Central Park. Even birds who had been at CP for years are now gone.

Since there are few resident geese (or ducks) left on CP lakes and ponds to harass, the question becomes, "What is the purpose of goose harassment this time of year?"

To harass MIGRATORY birds? -- The very birds the Conservancy claimed ten years ago to be trying to "make room for"?

On this note, it is vital to find out if harassment is being conducted at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir as that is where most of the migratory birds briefly rest or winter. But it is difficult to get honest answer from an organization that admits to no harassment at all.  This history of recent lies by the Conservancy is extremely unbecoming to an organization relying on public support.

In recent months we have learned that 30% of the world's bird populations have disappeared over the past 50 years.  Loss of habitat and heavy pesticide use are the leading causes of animal and bird extinctions. 

Please don't tell us there are "plenty" or "too many" Canada geese. We used to have hundreds of millions of Passenger pigeons. (There are 3.8 million Canada geese.) Any species is vulnerable to extinction when humans declare "war" on them and banish them from natural habitats.

The Central Park Conservancy of a few years ago did not conduct goose harassment during the winter and it did not knowingly harass migratory birds.

Why is it doing these things now and why is it repeatedly lying to the public (and employees?) about these unsavory and cruel activities?

The public deserves honest answers as the truth eventually reveals itself anyway. The persistent denials and lies are insult to intelligence and unbefitting an organization of international reputation. 

 Indeed, the denials and lies are also the real reasons why a million species now face extinction. We need not look to the far corners of the globe for answers. We need only look at -- and question the actions of our own local parks.

Such senseless and unpardonable tragedy.

Sent from Samsung tablet

Sent from Samsung tablet

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Miracle Seven -- Despite Impossibe Odds, Reservoir Goslings Healthy and Flying

                 One of the Miracle Seven now at Harlem Meer. (Laura Taylor) 

It may seem overly dramatic to refer to seven juvenile geese as, "The Miracle Seven," but it isn't. 

For one matter, it is a small miracle that the goslings hatched at all at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park.  New York City is in contract with USDA Wildlife Services for Canada goose egg destruction throughout all five boroughs. 

Two other nests with goose eggs were destroyed in Central Park this past spring.  The only reason the eggs at the Reservoir were unharmed was because agents from WS were "not able to gain access" to the Reservoir rocks in order destroy the eggs there. -- This from a USDA WS report. (DEP staff must have been out to lunch the day WS showed up to egg-kill.) 

Of the ten goslings who ultimately hatched at the Reservoir in May, three perished within the first few weeks. The deaths were likely due to malnutrition as vegetation is routinely destroyed along the Reservoir rocks, leaving scant foliage and grass for wildlife to eat there. 

Then, in July, with goslings barely two-months-old, the vegetation was again demolished, leaving nothing but a patch of Poison Ivy -- something inedible for growing goslings and molting geese, unable to fly. 

The goslings were doomed and their adult, flightless parents were also in danger of starvation. 

Park Rangers and the Central Park Conservancy consistently lied to concerned citizens calling about the deplorable cruelty, claiming that frail, flightless goslings were able to "go over fences" to eat grass on the outside of the Reservoir wall. The severely undersized and skinny goslings were barely able to navigate the rocks, let alone fly over walls and fences at only 7-weeks of age!

Fortunately, those familiar with gosling capabilities (as well as the long history of lies from the Central Park Conservancy and some Park Rangers) didn't buy into the outrageous fabrication and formed teams of organized and reliable feeders to ensure the seven remaining goslings did not starve to death -- as 8 of 9 did the previous summer. 

With some people feeding twice a day and naturalist, Laura Taylor regularly feeding and documenting with photos and videos, the frail, under-sized goslings suddenly began to grow and thrive. 

It took nearly a month, but they finally filled out, developed flight feathers and began to look normal for their age. 

We are happy to finally report that all three families were able to fly out from the Reservoir over the past two weeks (on schedule!) and are currently feeding and expanding flight lessons for goslings at Harlem Meer in Central Park! 

It appears that some mallards have joined the geese at the Meer -- something nice to see considering how water bird-empty the Meer has been for the past several months (and most Central Park lakes and ponds still are). 

But before we break out any champagne bottles, let us consider the cruel actions of all New York City parks towards struggling wildlife and particularly against Canada geese.  Deliberate starvation campaigns are especially despicable and unpardonable. 

Already Central Park Conservancy has put up new "No Feeding" signs near the site geese and ducks are currently staying at the Meer and it's almost a given that they will soon send out dogs and drones to "harass" the few dozen water birds from the lake.  

No action is too low for them.  One park goer has even reported the Conservancy spraying and killing a hive of bees at the Ramble this past week. 

The war on wildlife is in full swing at all NYC parks. 

That is precisely why it is no exaggeration or dramatics to refer to the surviving Central Park goslings as the "Miracle Seven." 

They survived the impossible odds of New York City's perpetual war on them (but not without the heroic efforts of people like Laura Taylor and others). 

Indeed, the seven goslings are likely the ONLY goslings to hatch and survive in all of New York City this summer. 

That is not something to celebrate as much as mourn. 

Sent from Samsung tablet

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Urban Parks: Entertainment Centers or Nature Retreats?

A few weeks ago, I had opportunity to briefly revisit New York City (with my daughter and son-in-law) after having moved upstate a year and a half ago.   The goal was to revisit certain places that still held nostalgic meaning to me -- especially, Central Park.

While the car trips to and back were scenic and lovely and visits to old neighborhood places were warm and unchanged, I can't say the same for Central Park where the obvious changes were as far from warm and tender as bone-chilling blizzard is from a spring day.

In short, the trip back to New York City essentially destroyed any and all sense of nostalgia I may have held.  It was, in a word, depressing -- especially the visit to Central Park.

My daughter and I were taken aback and shocked when venturing into Harlem Meer.

Beautiful memories of a lake once thriving with mallards, geese and even a couple of swans was replaced with the stark and harsh reality of a completely waterbird-empty lake. Despite my daughter and I walking around the entire lake, we were only able to find (and count) eight mallards and one lonely Canada goose -- all resting quietly under a tree near the Dana Center.

We suspect the one (human friendly) goose is "Squally" who had to be rescued from the Meer last winter when she was suffering from emaciation and lead.  Apparently, after recovery at the Wild Bird Fund, Squally was released back to an empty lake with no other geese.

From Harlem Meer, my daughter and I went to the Central Park Reservoir where we fed the seven surviving goslings and their families.  The only reason these goslings are still alive after their food sources were deliberately destroyed at the Reservoir in early July, is the commitment and organized effort of a number of people to feed them on a daily basis.

Though their growth rate was slow compared to goslings of similar age in other locations, the Central Park goslings appear to finally be doing better now as new vegetation is growing.

As there were no other goslings in Central Park this year or last, it was particularly important to save these seven as they represent the possible future for any Central Park resident geese at all.  The babies are by no means "out of the woods" yet, but the future appears a bit more hopeful for the Reservoir seven than it did a few weeks ago.

But if we can feel a glimmer of hope for the few remaining geese in Central Park, it has otherwise been a brutal, terrible summer for Canada Geese across the country.

2,200 geese were rounded up from Denver, Colorado parks and sent for gassing.  Similar killings occurred in New Jersey, New York City, Alabama, Delaware and other locations around the nation.

Though the dreaded molt season has finally ended and geese are in the air again, there is truly no urban place in the country geese can be considered "safe" and not in the crosshairs of human wrath.

The first time when leaving New York City, there was an unspoken wish of wanting to return to it one day. But this time when leaving, there was no such wish; on the contrary, I could not wait to get back to Cortland where "my" park geese are neither harassed nor "culled" nor their eggs destroyed.

But then, my local park isn't striving to be an outdoor version of Madison Square Garden -- as too many urban parks appear to be doing these days.

Rather than places of "peaceful retreat to connect reflectively with nature," more and more urban parks are transforming themselves into places of endless human activities, as well as entertainment and sports venues.

But such is incompatible with nature and especially any urban wildlife and birds.

Present and future generations will have to decide if they want urban parks to be places of "peaceful retreat to connect with nature" (which was the original intent and purpose of Central Park) or tourist attractions and entertainment venues complete with amusement rides, fireworks, concerts, movies, sporting competitions and shows.

You can't have both.

The battle for nature and wildlife is virtually lost in New York City Parks where even sight of common mallards can now be counted on one hand.

The question is, has the New York City "model" now spread to urban parks around the country?

Judging from this summer's goose kill numbers in nationwide  urban parks, that appears to be so.

Out with nature and wildlife. In with the concerts, movies, weekly marathons, and fireworks.

No better way to "connect with nature" than to wage war on it apparently.

And yet so few seem to realize or even notice.

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."

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