Sunday, September 26, 2010

Seasons of the Witch

(Pictures: 1-- Chance, a feisty Pomeranian. 2-- A goose who is grateful there are feisty Pomeranians in the world.)
I am like some mad woman on a mission lately.

Trying to observe, spend time with and take as many photos and videos of Canada geese as possible.

Why is that?

I am not really sure.

Perhaps its because something in me fears that Canada geese will not be around five or ten years from now.

So, I am trying to gather up as much as I can while the opportunity still presents itself.

No matter what web site one goes to read articles or research information on Canada geese, there are almost always ads promoting "humane" ways to "get rid of nuisance geese."

And that constitutes the more positive stuff one finds about the geese these days.

At least 95% of the news articles on Canada geese in recent weeks are about the hunting of them.

The other 5% are mostly about "humane" ways to "manage" the geese or a goose shot and presumed to have drowned near a church gathering or another goose walking around with an arrow through his/her neck. I posted some of the articles to our Facebook page. But, were I to post all the hunting articles, people would presumably leave the FB page in droves. Such articles are not pleasant reading material.

The same is true of Canada geese if one goes to YouTube to search videos of them.

Most of the videos of geese are hunting or "calling" clips. (No, not the geese calling, but hunters trying to imitate them.)

The other day, I forced myself to watch a "featured" YouTube video of geese hunting in Wyoming.

It was totally disgusting.

Virtually ALL the geese flying in their familiar V formations were blown out of the skies. The numbers had to run into the hundreds, while the video makers, played Bon Jovi's (Shot Through the Heart and You're to Blame) "You Give Love a Bad Name" in the background.

I commented that this video gave humans a bad name.

I then posted the video to our FB page because its important for people to understand exactly what is happening right now with geese all over the country.

It is literally open season in every state on the bird, hunters call "honkers."

But, of course, some might argue that hunting is restricted to "only" the early or late fall.


So, lets look at the other seasons:

In winter, many animals die depending on the severity of the season and the difficulties in finding food when waters freeze over and snow covers the ground.

This past week, many fish and Canada geese perished in a severe hail storm that hit one of the Midwestern states. And we are barely into the fall.

Winter and nature can be cruel. Very cruel.

But, spring can be even crueler.

That is when human efforts such as harassment, nest destruction and egg addling can add to the woes of Canada geese at a time the birds might normally try to "recoup" from whatever losses and damages the species suffered over the fall and winter.

True, Canada geese are amazingly resilient, adaptable, prolific and they are among the most vigilant and protective parents on the planet.

But, can they truly regroup and proliferate when there is such widespread and coordinated efforts to prevent their offspring from being born? These efforts now span the entire country, from public parks to golf courses to farm lands to any areas where there are lakes, ponds, streams -- or Canada geese.

Then of course, there is the dreaded summer.

The four or five weeks when Canada geese cannot fly due to seasonal molting and thus become "sitting ducks."

And for those urban areas that cannot allow hunting and don't bother with the nest destruction or egg addling, there is the option of rounding up and gassing whatever Canada geese might be residing in a public park or other Metropolitan area.

In New York City's Prospect Park for example, USDA workers went in the wee hours of last July 8th, rounded up and gassed the park's ENTIRE Canada goose population: Three hundred and sixty five resident geese and goslings. Three migratory Canada geese identified from other states!

It apparently did not matter to city and park officials nor the USDA that a few of the geese were not resident to Prospect Park. Nor, did it matter that at least two of the geese were "favorites" of community members. The geese had names and had even garnered media attention. "Beaky" had a deformed beak due to a fishing line injury and "Target" had survived being shot with a bow and arrow. But, even these two "special" geese were not spared in the slaughter.

So, why should we believe that any geese will be spared now in this governmental and societal sweep to "rid" ourselves and the country of "nuisance geese?"

Not only do Canada geese have no safe place to go in these days of "mitigation," "management" and decimation of their species and offspring, but nor do they have a safe or peaceful day or season.

Last night, while photographing some of the geese at Harlem Meer, a group of adolescent boys came by waving broken tree branches at the geese. They attempted to hit the birds while chasing them into the water.

"What the HELL are you doing?" I yelled to them. "Leave them ALONE!"

The boys appeared startled that anyone would bother to admonish them about the "nuisance" geese and for a moment stared at me incredulously .

At that instant, one of my dogs started barking furiously at them and the boys took off running.

Small wonder that these bullies who were so "brave" at terrorizing defenseless geese, were themselves terrified by a fifteen pound Pomeranian!

And perhaps it is that way with all who want to vilify, bully, scapegoat, "witch hunt" and destroy the geese? Behind those mighty curtains of the great Oz, are there scared little entities who really don't know much about anything, least of all, Canada geese?

And, like the "tough" boys who ran threatening and waving sticks at the geese, do they too assume no one will care or will question what they do?

That only I could "sic" my Pomeranian on all of them.

"Good boy," I said to Chance last night.

The geese may not have a safe place or a safe season, but at least for a few hours, they had a safe night thanks to a feisty little Pomeranian dog. -- PCA


Friday, September 24, 2010

No Place to Go and No Country to Call Home

Its been some weeks since I've written in this journal.

That is because I have mostly been preoccupied with gathering as much information as possible on Canada geese. That means pouring through articles, videos and doing my own observations and taking photos and videos of the geese who come and go at Harlem Meer.

Most of these articles, videos and photos are posted regularly to the Facebook page especially devoted to this issue and whose main goal is to insure that gassing of Canada geese will never occur in Prospect Park again:

There is some encouraging news on this particular front:

Yesterday, the Prospect Park Alliance announced the first meeting of a special wildlife Committee that has been set up and whose first mission is to figure out humane ways for "management" of goose population at Prospect Park. Members of the Committee include HSHS, Audubon Society, Brooklyn Bird Club and Geese Peace.

It is highly unlikely that gassing would again be considered as a means of goose "management" at Prospect Park. Or, at least anytime soon.

(Press release and article from NY Observer posted on FB page.)

While this development suggests that some of our protests and work on the geese issue have paid off, it is way too early to "celebrate" in any way.

For one matter, this development only applies to Prospect Park, not any of the other parks or locations around the city where geese have been systematically and cruelly rounded up and gassed during the summer weeks when they molt and are unable to fly and escape.

Moreover, Prospect Park did not admit to any culpability for the massacre of 368 geese and goslings that occurred within its park this past July 8th. Rather, it chose to put all of the responsibility and blame on both, the city and the USDA.

Nevertheless, these issues aside, it is encouraging to know that one of our major parks IS finally and hopefully serious about some proper stewardship of the park's wildlife and has put together a committee of mostly credible and reputable organization spokespeople and experts. It should be added however, that the Committee also has a representative from DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) which was one of the agencies involved in the decision to "cull" thousands of Canada geese throughout the Metropolitan area.

A lot remains to be seen. While the establishment of the wildlife Committee for Prospect Park represents an important step in the right direction, it by no means represents either the solutions or the changes we would like to see for Canada geese in general. As noted, its scope is limited only to Prospect Park.

Meanwhile, the "expanded" hunting season has begun on Canada geese and as these words are being typed, thousands of these birds are being blown out of the skies each and every day, all over the country.

The "goal" in New York State alone is to "reduce" the Canada goose population by 2/3rds, from an estimated 250,000 down to less than 80,000. That means 170,000 of these magnificent birds are quite literally on the chopping block.

The actual numbers of Canada geese can be very deceptive.

Since they are such family and group oriented birds, one tends to see many of them congregated in specific locations (or, more likely, none at all).

It is not unusual to see a hundred or more Canada geese gathered near a lake, pond or golf course.

In those instances, many people will proclaim, "We have been invaded by the geese!" Or, "There are way too many of them!"

But, what really, is, "too many?"

Currently, there is an estimated 3 million Canada geese throughout the United States.

That doesn't really seem like such a huge number considering we have more than 310 million people in our country and we kill more than 3 million cats and dogs in shelters every year. I am not sure of the number of cats and dogs living in human homes, but it seems reasonable to guess it to be more than 100 million.

So, why is this number of 3 million estimated Canada geese throughout the entire country considered to be "overpopulation?"

We have to remember that in the middle of the last century, Canada geese were almost driven to the brink of extinction through over hunting and destruction of habitat.

Attempts were then made to "captive breed" Canada geese and release the descendents to various parts of the country, particularly in the North East. (This was mostly to guarantee that hunters would have geese to shoot at.)

However, what our brilliant "wildlife biologists" didn't figure on apparently was that geese captive bred and released in this country did not have reason to "migrate" to the Arctic.

Most of the geese stayed in this, their birth country and were then termed, "Resident Geese."

Governmental "experts" also didn't seem to realize the intelligence of the geese, their exemplary parenting, protection and adaptability skills and their acute senses to avoid danger.

Canada geese are capable of thriving in and near human environments, including cities. In fact, there is speculation (and it actually makes sense) that many geese choose to flee to or stay in urban environments as heavily human populated cities and towns usually afford the animals protection from hunters and guns.

So, now, fifty years later, government officials and wildlife biologists (seemingly in embarrassment over the TOO successful "breeding and release" programs) want to suddenly undo the protections for Canada geese under the Migratory Bird Act Treaty and offer them up as seemingly endless targets for hunters!

That is, when we're not gassing, destroying eggs or nests or "harassing" the birds first.

Question is, if we almost drove these birds to extinction in the last century when we didn't have half the "harassment" and destroy methods we do now, what does that say for the future of Canada geese when we do have all these means to terrorize and exterminate them?

What if the mission to destroy is even half as "successful" as the one to captive breed and release?

Recently, in referring to our country's seeming war on Canada geese, there was an article published in the Japan Times entitled, "No Country for Millions of Canada Geese."

How descriptive and accurate.

Though they may be called, "Canada geese" and though the war against them might be centered in this country, the truth seems to be that these proud and majestic birds --who can fly and cover thousands of miles in one day -- no longer have safe place to go or country to call home. --PCA


Sunday, September 12, 2010

New Arrivals

Pictures: 1-- New arrivals. Migratory geese joining already established families. But, all getting along. 2--Lillith, still swimming on the lake both day and night, calling out for presumably a lost mate. 3--A friendly chap checking me out. 4-- Just a pretty pair at the Meer. 5-- Joey. Happy at last. Hanging out with a family of accepting Canada geese.

I took the dogs on a little trip to Harlem Meer yesterday to visit our friends, the geese and take some photos. It was a bright, sunny day and yes, the geese were all out there. At least 8 to 10 families now. Seems some of the migratory birds are starting to arrive and to the casual observer, the numbers look big, though the geese are mostly concentrated in small areas around the lake.

The new geese are much more wary, nervous and jumpy than what I am used to seeing. Its almost as if they have gotten the message that they are not too welcomed any place these days. Its sad in a way, but also somewhat extraordinary, the acute perceptions and perhaps even intuition these birds truly seem to have.

So far, most people seem to be cool with the geese. But, of course one worries that if some start bitching, the park will soon send the Border Collies after the new arrivals to chase them away.

"Lillith" the lone goose who swims around the lake constantly (both day and night) calling out after a presumably lost mate was there yesterday and as usual s/he was on the lake honking. I was able to get a pretty decent picture of Lillith even though s/he was some distance away. S/he appears thin in the photo and I wonder if this goose is regularly eating? A friend says that with time, Lillith will find a new partner. I hope so, but don't know that as a fact. I worry about this one.....

Joey, the now lone white duck at Harlem Meer seems to have found new buddies with the geese. Instead of trying to tag along and force himself on the two alpha ducks at the lake, (Brad and Angelina), he has wisely chosen to instead hang out with the geese all the time.

That is good because the geese don't bother and harass Joey as the lead drake, Brad did.
It was quite nasty to watch Brad constantly chasing off and attacking Joey. I really hope the park lets the geese stay. -- As much for Joey's peace and security as anything else. Joey seems quite happy and embolden since the geese arrived -- even to the point, of sometimes chasing them!
There is also a new swan who arrived at the Meer more than a week ago. At first, I thought he might be the male mate of the female swan who died over the spring and who, a couple of weeks later, vanished after the loss of his partner. But, the new swan is definitely not that one. This one is HUGE almost to the point of being scary looking. No kidding, he stands at least 4 feet tall! But, he's actually a mellow fellow and minds his own business. Of course all the people seem thrilled to see a new swan back and he is the subject of hundreds of photos -- besides mine. ;)

Anyway, enough with my rambling. Included here some new pictures from yesterday that I hope bring a smile on this weekend otherwise of sadness and reflection over 9-11. -- PCA

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Lost Soul

The "expanded hunting season" on Canada geese has already begun and across our lands and over the coming weeks, hundreds of thousands of both, residential and migratory geese will continue to be shot out of the skies on a daily basis.

I sometimes wonder if hunters ever consider that when they "fall" a goose, they are taking out someone's mother, mate, sibling or offspring?

Since the return of the Canada geese back to Harlem Meer a couple of weeks ago, I have noted one particular lone goose who is separate and apart from the others.

Day after day, s/he swims on the lake forlornly, back and forth from one end to the other seemingly in frantic search for what is presumed, a missing mate.

While swimming, the goose repeatedly calls out, a lingering, lost and haunting "honk" so reminiscent of the eerie cries I heard from Binky, the first night his family left Turtle Pond and the flightless, "Angel Wing" gosling was deserted and left alone.

It is apparently a call for the lost.

I feel a sense of pain for this particular mateless goose. S/he may appear to the casual observer like any other goose at the meer, but s/he is not. S/he is apparently without family, group or mate. And that is in reality, a sad situation for a Canada goose.

Thus, the constant searches and calling out. A calling out for something that cannot return to her/him ever again.

But, it is not a matter of the goose requiring rescue.

S/he has no obvious physical illness or injury.

The goose's injury is of another kind. -- Injury to the soul.

And there is no remedy or "rescue" for that.

Hopefully, as with most humans, time itself will eventually heal the wound and sense of loss to this perplexed and distraught soul. Perhaps the goose will ultimately find another mate.

But, to be truthful, I don't actually know that much about Canada geese and how quickly they "heal" and rebound from loss of a mate.

Almost all that is out there in terms of information on these animals has been written by those who pursue, lure, decoy and shoot them.

But, why should we believe anything they say, if the hunters never bother to think about or care what mate or family member they are taking out when shooting at other species?

One has to figure if they actually thought about these questions, they wouldn't be able to kill these devoted, proud and magnificent animals in the first place. -- PCA