Saturday, March 28, 2015

Love in Bloom -- He Had Her At the First Quack


Willow and Woodie -- Love blooms quickly among the needy and few.
He had her at the first quack.
Perhaps because their numbers are so few in Central Park, it didn't take long for the two wood ducks, (meeting for the first time yesterday) to strike up a seemingly hot and heavy romance.
.
Last night, I did not see Miss. Willow in her usual spot seeking treat. In fact, I did not see her at all on a quick trip around the Reservoir. It seems she and her new beau (who I shall call, "Woodie" -- yes, very creative) went off on some romantic jaunt.
.
But, both were back at the Reservoir this morning, swimming and hanging out together, like a long bonded couple.
.
Love apparently blooms quickly in the wood duck world.
.
But, I am happy for Miss Willow (who may not really be a "miss" anymore). It wasn't easy getting through this tough winter as a lone wood duck amongst so many bigger, quicker and very hungry mallards and geese.  Not only did Willow have to contend with bitter cold, ice, snow and nearly non-existent food supplies, but also being the odd (and tiny) duck out. She literally had to battle for everything.
.
Fortunately, the mallards were too intent on just surviving to waste energy picking on or bullying Willow. Still, it must have been a very lonely winter for the little wood duck who though not harassed by mallards, was not befriended by any of them either.
.
As for Woodie, he is not really "new" to the Reservoir. He is probably the same male wood duck who has spent the last two springs and summers at the Reservoir. (There was never a woodie girl for him to take up with before.)
.
I don't obviously know where Woodie spent the winter, but it must have been quite the pleasant surprise to arrive back at the Reservoir yesterday to find a pretty lady in waiting!
.
As noted, Woodie did not waste a minute on formalities, flirting or puffing out his chest.
.
He didn't need to.
.
He had Willow at the first quack. 

And yes, it must be true, that loves comes eventually to all who wait. -- PCA






                                                   ************




                                                        

Friday, March 27, 2015

To Hold On Just a Little Longer -- A Goose's Challenge


The season not kind to this migratory goose covered in water, mud and possibly oil.
But, on the bright side, a male wood duck showed up this morning. Can romance be in the air for Willow, our little female woodie?
Can our water-logged goose hold on a little longer?
Perhaps to eventually be like this proud gander this morning after romantic conquest.

This has been the winter of my discontent. And though it has officially departed, its deadly aftermath remains.
.
Two migratory Canada geese perished at the Central Park Reservoir this week. One appeared to have died from natural causes (starvation, exhaustion, illness?). The second one yesterday appeared to have been preyed upon. Perhaps s/he was simply in too weakened a condition to escape or resist predation by a hawk. There was a bloody mess of feathers and body parts on the ice yesterday morning.
.
If these sights weren't sad enough, this morning another goose appeared to be in bad shape.
.
True, it rained yesterday and last night in New York City. But, the water, mud and perhaps oil soaked into the goose wasn't natural. Either the goose is suffering infection, illness or parasites or he is simply too weak to properly preen and waterproof his feathers.The goose appeared young and (on the bright side) was eating.
.
Unfortunately, attempting to rescue a sick water bird at the Reservoir is virtually impossible due to the lack of access for either pedestrians or even park rangers (so I have been told).
.
The only hope for the water/oil soaked goose is that he can somehow make it through long enough to gain waterproofing on his feathers again. But that is a long shot -- especially in light of temperatures again dipping to 15 degrees below normal for this time of year (equivalent to first week in February). Geese need waterproofing of their feathers for insulation.
.
If nothing about this past winter was normal, there is little about the current goose migrations that are normal, either.
.
Usually by this time, most of the geese have completed migrations back to their northern nesting grounds and there are few, if any at the Central Park Reservoir.
.
But, for than a week there have been at least 200 geese at the Reservoir every morning and even in the evenings.
.
While I surmised these were different birds each day as migrating flocks flew in and flew out, I am now not so sure.
.
As noted, I've seen very little flying (either in or out of Reservoir) over the past two weeks.
.
Mostly, what is observed are geese resting, unmoving on the ice -- like statues. (Yes, at least 65% of the Reservoir is still covered in ice despite the warmer temperatures over the past week.). Most of the migratory geese appear exhausted and spent. I am now speculating that most are too depleted and weak to fly out on their normal schedule.
.
Perhaps they are just taking extra time, waiting for more ice to thaw, which then opens up food sources? This in turn should replenish their strength and energy sufficient to continue their long, arduous migrations back north.
.
While most of the images have been grim and desperate over these past several months, there are, nevertheless, a few hopeful signs on the horizon:
.
This morning, one gaggle of geese were observed splashing, preening and even diving for food under newly opened water. (One pair was even seen mating in the water, but I arrived too late to get a photo. -- I did however, capture the post-coital, proud, wing flapping of the gander!)
.
Such indeed were sights for sore eyes as so far, I have seen very little territorial or mating behaviors among the geese. And I have seen virtually no diving under water for food as there has been so little open water.
.
Another bright happening today was the sight of a male wood duck who magically showed up since yesterday. Can romance possibly be in the air for our lone, surviving little female wood duck, Willow? It is quite possible. Stay tuned on that one.
.
So, perhaps there is hope that there will finally come a spring?
.
That only we can finally get past the grim aftermaths and death grips of a winter that seemingly never wants to leave.
.
But, for the moment, I am simply hoping that our water and mud-logged goose can somehow make it through these next challenging weeks.
.
A promise of warmer, sunnier days await -- if he can just hold on a little longer. -- PCA
.
.
.
                                                  **********

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Winter of Deadly Consequence for Geese and Other Wildlife?


Migratory geese swimming around ice still covering most of Central Park Reservoir.
Migratory geese resting on Reservoir a couple of days ago, before taking off to return north.
 
The steady drip, drip of information continues to trickle in regarding water bird deaths due to starvation this winter. As frozen watercourses finally begin to thaw, bodies are  now washing up on shorelines.
.
Canada geese have been hit particularly hard, but one suspects that is partly due to their bodies being easier to spot than smaller and more elusive ducks and coots. One can only guess at actual body counts of wildlife that perished this winter, but for sure, as numbers are only now being reported from specific areas, they have to be substantially high. Two thirds of the country was actually impacted by this unusually brutal winter.
.
.
One wonders in light of high waterfowl mortality this winter, if USDA Wildlife Services will again descend upon NYC this summer to round up and send to slaughter, hundreds of our resident Canada geese who still call NYC home?
.
I am not sure if USDA WS actually keeps track of falling goose numbers as they seem to continually quote figures from as much as ten years ago. -- Before more than 5,000 geese were captured and killed by WS over the last five years.
.
It's a funny thing about government and even private contracts.  Once singed and put into motion, they don't appear to be amendable by changing circumstances.
.
Central Park for example, has a contract with Geese Police for year-round goose harassment and egg destruction (with exception of molting period in the summer). This despite the fact that the number of resident geese in 843 acre Central Park has dropped precipitously over the past five years -- from hundreds to less than 40 over the past two years.
.
I don't know how much money is being spent for the daily goose harassment program, but it's truly ludicrous to note Geese Police sending out dogs or shooting off noise makers to "scare off" two geese on a large lake or even worse, harass migratory geese who merely stop in Central Park to briefly rest during long and arduous migrations.
.
Fortunately, since Geese Police has no access to the Central Park Reservoir, it is the one area in all of Central Park where the birds (not just geese, but other water birds) are not continually harassed.  Presumably, this explains why so many water birds flock to the Reservoir even in fair weather. It's the only area in the park where they have some measure of peace. (No fishermen, dogs, human activity or harassment.) There are however, red- tailed hawks who fly around the area and occasionally take out a duck, so the birds do have to be on constant vigilance.
.
This morning at the Reservoir for example, all the ducks and a few geese suddenly bolted when a red-tail hawk flew low overhead. (Sometimes I think the hawks get a kick out of terrifying the water birds.) I have never personally seen a hawk actually attack or kill a duck, but I have been told by others that they occasionally do. From the reactions of the ducks and even geese, I have to surmise the stories are true.
.
There were not as many migratory geese at the Reservoir this morning as noted over the past two weeks (less than a hundred).  But since I went to the park a little later than usual, it's possible many had already flown out earlier to return to Canada.
.
I have not been as fortunate during this migration to see as many of the goose skeins actually flying in or out as during their past travels. I suspect that is because many of the geese are arriving or even departing during the night.
.
Of the flocks actually observed arriving or departing, most have been in the early evening.
.
Another thing that has been different is that the geese observed flying have been in much smaller flocks than noted in the past. It was, for example, common to see skeins as large as 25 or even more flying in the past.  This spring however, I have not seen any skeins larger than a dozen or so geese. (Photos of large flocks of flying geese posted in this blog a few days ago were actually from last year.)
.
I wonder if that is an indicator of just how deadly this past winter may have actually been to our beloved geese?
.
I hope USDA Wildlife Services, New York City and Central Park are taking note. However, cumbersome or inconvenient to change contracts, perhaps its past time to do so.
.
History has proven that no matter how "plentiful" a species may appear to be, a variety of circumstances or perfect storms, so to speak can sometimes have unexpected and drastically reducing consequences. This winter may have been one of those perfect storms.
.
I dread the day of going to Central Park and seeing no geese at all. -- Something that unfortunate to say, has already been experienced more than a few times.   -- PCA
.
.
.
                                               ***********

Monday, March 23, 2015

Migrations a Hard Stress on Birds -- Not All of Whom Make It


Migratory geese arriving to mostly still ice-covered lakes and ponds.
Migratory goose catching much needed shut-eye after long and taxing journey.
Ah, sweet rest at last!
Like statues on the frozen ice.
So close and yet so far. One of the ones who sadly did not make it.
And one of the ones still making it.
Rest before take-off again.
 
Winter officially ended several days ago, but one would never know it in New York City.
.
On the first day of Spring, we received almost 5 inches of snow in the city. Though the following day warmed enough to melt the snow, temperatures have since dropped to the 20's and 30's.
.
And as further reminder that winter has not gracefully exited, there was a Canada goose floating belly up in the icy water of the Central Park Reservoir this morning.
.
Sight of the dead migratory goose saddened, but did not totally surprise me. As noted repeatedly in this blog, this has been a brutal and deadly winter for many water birds (including 10 deaths at the Reservoir, despite myself and a couple of other people feeding everyday). That some are still dying in its aftermath can hardly come as surprise. Reality is, that most smaller watercourses are still heavily iced over and conditions in NY still wintry, despite the calendar change in season.
.
(In Idaho last week, 2,000 migrating snow geese "fell dead out of the sky" though in that case, it is speculated that avian cholera caused the deaths, rather than weather conditions.
.
Nevertheless, bird migrations have to move on and are actually at their peak now as this article details:
.
.
At the Central Park Reservoir, the migratory geese have been arriving and departing on a daily basis.
.
Usually most mornings of the past week, there are about 200 geese at the Reservoir. By evenings, most if not all, are gone to be replaced by another 200 or so the following day.
.
Though in the past, it was typical to see the geese flying out of the Reservoir in the early mornings, the last few days have shown a marked  difference in the routine.
.
It appears most of the geese must be arriving overnight, as by the time I see them in the mornings, they are resting, quiet and barely moving at all on the ice. If anything, they simply appear exhausted after what are presumably very long journeys through some inhospitable conditions.
.
Migrations seem to be (to put it mildly) quite taxing on the geese. Even tossing food to my regular group of ducks is not enough to stir most of the geese from their greatly needed rest and a few moments of shut-eye.
.
Still, it was sad to note this morning, the one goose, who having made it through a merciless winter and at least half of the migratory route did not possess the necessary strength nor nutritional back-up to get her/him through the rest of the way.
.
So close and yet so far.
.
Rest in final peace, little one. -- PCA
.
.
.
                                             ***********

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Good News/Bad News -- Bird Migrations, Bird Strikes



Migratory Canada geese arriving to.... 
and departing the Central Park Reservoir
"They should get rid of them!" quips the old woman.

The good news is, bird migrations are in full swing now.
.
The bad news is, bird migrations are in full swing now.
.
Yesterday, a passenger airliner en route to the Virgin Islands struck a migrating flock of geese and had to return to JFK airport. No one was injured and the plane showed no obvious damage, but was taken out of service pending further inspection. Except for the inconvenience to passengers, this was a "non-incident." (Although to the geese who perished, the event was catastrophic.)
.
Nevertheless, the story headlined most of the local news yesterday, prompting one old woman interviewed to quip, "They should get rid of them (the birds)! They shouldn't be there in the first place."
.
.
Speaking personally, this is very frustrating.
.
Normally, the sights and sounds of goose and other bird migrations are very exciting and something I look forward to twice a year.
.
But not when something natural that has been occurring for eons results in news stories like these and people complaining that birds should be, "gotten rid of."
.
One has to reasonably fear an escalation in government orchestrated goose kills in New York City -- as if 5,000 resident Canada geese gassed and slaughtered in NYC over the past five years wasn't enough.
.
Unfortunately, killing thousands of resident geese in the summer months who barely fly over park trees does absolutely nothing to prevent planes from flying into migratory geese traveling over the Atlantic flyway in the fall and spring. It just makes people like the old woman interviewed "feel good" that something is being done, when it fact, nothing productive is accomplished.
.
The one technology that would be most effective in preventing bird strikes is the implementation of Avian Radar at airports which is already in use in countries like Israel and Japan, as well as Texas and Washington in the states.
.
But, apparently the Port Authority and the New York City airports don't want to invest the money in avian radar, as this recent NBC report describes:
.
.
It's apparently much easier and cheaper to kill geese living in local parks and then tell the public "something is being done" to address airline bird strikes when that something is akin to arresting people in Boston for crime problems occurring in New York City.  It makes about as much sense and accomplishes the same result: Punishing those having nothing to do with the incidents, while at the same time, rejecting technologies specifically designed to prevent the incidents in the first place.
.
Last night I watched as flocks of migratory geese  flew into and out of the Central Park Reservoir en route to long journeys north. 
.
It was like being at an airport and watching incoming and departing flights.
.
But my enthusiasm and excitement were dampened -- especially when watching the outgoing goose flocks rise high in the skies and towards the clouds drifting north, honking in their anticipation and excitement.
.
I had to hope that some airliner was not going to suddenly obstruct the path they have been taking for thousands of years.
.
Yes, the good news is that bird migrations are now in full swing.
.
But, the bad news is also that bird migrations are in full swing.
.
May God bless and keep safe, their treacherous routes. -- PCA
.
.
.
                                                 ************

Saturday, March 14, 2015

In Praise of the Quiet, Unsung Heroes for Animals


Liliana feeding hungry geese at frozen and snow covered Jackie Onassis Reservoir a couple of weeks ago.
Newly arrived American Black ducks at Reservoir.
The geese have now departed to spring breeding sites,but the hungry mallards remain.
 
Every now and then a story comes along that makes you stop and say, "Wow, there are true heroes for animals in the world!"
.
Such a story (below) is of three men in Branford, Connecticut who, upon noticing geese starving to death in their community due to the brutally harsh winter and frozen shoreline, took decisive action to save them:
.
.
This blog entry today is dedicated to all the unsung heroes of this winter who, like the three men of the article, trudged out on bitterly frigid days, navigated ice and snow and dug into their own pockets to feed and ensure that the strays, birds and other wildlife trying to endure this unusually punishing winter somehow made it through.
.
Most of them don't get stories written about them in newspapers. Most don't have cameras to document their efforts, facebook pages to elicit "likes" or organizations behind them to raise money. Many don't even have cell phones.
.
Usually, but not always, they are senior citizens usually living quiet lives who have a particularly kind heart and open eyes to the homeless animals in their neighborhoods or the wildlife struggling through a tough winter.
.
One such person is my friend, Liliana who has been inspiration for me.
.
.
Liliana lives a very simple life without luxury and frills.
.
But, don't let that sparton life devoid of adornment, high tech devices or pretense fool you.
.
Because underneath the plain clothes and lack of financial and wordly assets of my friend is a very sharp, resourceful woman who knows how to get what she wants and needs -- particularly for the animal friends she so fervently loves and respects.
.
Liliana is not above searching out or even asking for handouts and price-cut, day old bread and bagels from local stores or trudging out to a small, out-of-the way, Queens pet supply store where she gets a "special deal" on cracked corn from the older, immigrant store owner.  
.
A couple of weeks ago, Liliana even fenangled a free ride on a NYC bus to get to the CP Reservoir with her shopping bag full of bagels.  "Please, I am just an old woman with no money, trying to get to feed some hungry birds in the park. If you can take me a few blocks, fine. If not, I will get off."
.
The bus driver allowed Liliana to stay on for the roughly ten block bus ride. He too, was a hero.
.
This has not been a kind winter for my friend.
.
Liliana suffered through a bout of what seemed flu in February. But since she didn't go to a doctor, it's hard to know what kept her bed ridden and weak for nearly two weeks.
.
Recovery has been slow and sporadic. Some days, Liliana is well and on the go. Other days she is lacking in strength and energy.
.
Liliana hasn't been able to get to her Irish friend in Queens for the cracked corn since her illness and he doesn't deliver. But, mostly she has been apologetic to me for not being able to supply me with the cheap bird feed that she had been bringing over the past two years.
.
"Liliana, please!" I admonished. "I am able to buy the black oiled sunflower seeds at Petco. Don't worry about it. The main thing is for you to take care of yourself and get your strength back!"
.
If ever there was a person who perfectly embodies the term, "resourceful," Liliana is the one. Nothing stands between Liliana and a sick bird needing rescue or just a handout of a little sustenance to help the birds get through a particularly brutal winter -- even her own health.
.
The temperatures have finally warmed in New York City to seasonable levels and we have had no new snow in more than a week.  But, the watercourses remain iced over, new grass is yet to bloom and the birds remain ravenously hungry.
.
I have yet to see the flocks of migratory geese flying into and temporarily resting at the Central Park Reservoir, though the 40-50 geese I had been feeding through the last leg of winter all departed this past week -- perhaps the first real sign that spring is actually on the way.
.
Still, the mallards remain and new ones seem to have joined them over the past week. There are currently at least 200 ducks at the Reservoir, including some newly arrived American Black ducks.
.
Despite the feeding of myself and people like Liliana and unnamed others, geese, ducks and other water birds perished over this winter in Central Park. And while we can feel gratitude and relief that there were true heroes like the men described in the opening article, the reality is that countless waterfowl have starved to death all over the country this winter that we will never know about.
.
Unlike many of the quiet, unsung heroes going out in the dead of night to feed homeless cats, dogs or navigating ice and snow covered parks this winter to feed starving water birds or other wildlife, I am lucky to have a computer, a camera and access to social media sites.
.
Each day I'll spend a couple of hours on Facebook reading about the efforts of some Animal Rights activists to "free" animals from virtually any care, work or interactions with humans. There seems to be this idea that animals living free "in the wild" live a kind of utopian life, "free" of stress, suffering or hardship.
.
.
One can't help wondering if many of these same people have actually spent time observing (or trying to help) animals "living free" in the wild?
.
Sure, animals in the wild enjoy special times of relative peace, fair weather, courtship and procreation.
.
But, most of their time is spent in searches for food, safety, protection from elements, position in flock, herd or pack, securing of a mate and protection of young from predation or starvation.
.
I am not sure if animals have actual concept of "freedom."
.
But, if so, freedom actually comes at cost and the stress of constant decision making, some of which doesn't always work out well for the animals (as it doesn't always for humans).
.
The bottom line is that whether "free" and living in the wild or domesticated and under the care and responsibility of humans, life for any animal is rarely free of any and all suffering or stress, as it rarely is for humans regardless of whether they are rich or poor.
.
The only way to end all suffering on earth is to end all life on earth.
.
My personal philosophy is rather than work to remove animals from our world, it is more productive to work to keep them relatively safely here.
.
For that reason, I choose as my personal animal heroes, those people working to save animals through veterinary or rescue work, those like Liliana and the men feeding starving geese (and other animals) and those otherwise working to keep animals in our world while at the same time, working for laws to better protect and ensure their safety and rights.
.
The other stuff, leave to the rantings of social media, little of which actually plays out in the real world where a laptop or cell phone is just another piece of disruptive, disposable and meaningless plastic in a landfill. 
.
The real world is an old woman asking for a free ride on a bus to go feed some starving birds. 
.
But, oh how that made a difference to those hungry ducks and geese on that frigid and snowy night in New York City!  -- PCA
.
.
.
                                                   ********