Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bad News, Good News......

(Picture Left: All that remains. BradJoLina and small entourage of remaining mallards at Harlem Meer last night. Swan, geese, other mallards and shovelers chased off.)

The last couple of days have been a roller coaster of bad news, good news and concerning news.

I have logged events and they are as follows:

Thursday, 12-16-10 -- 6:30 PM

I am walking my dogs around Harlem Meer. Feeding bird and sunflower seeds to the three 'barnyard (flightless) ducks" (BradJoLina") on south bank of lake.

Lake 90% frozen. Groups of about 40 migratory geese, 40 mallards and shovelers congregated around pool of open water in middle of lake.

I notice white truck pull up on opposite side of the lake. Woman gets out and starts hurling metal canister on ice repeatedly. She draws it back and forth with cord attached to canister. The canister makes a loud noise when crashing onto ice.

At first I thought, "How nice. Must be a park ranger breaking up ice on lake for birds!"

But, then the geese started to send out "alarm" honks. Mallards began to panic. The three barnyard ducks (BradJoLina) suddenly bolted for the ice and skitted across to the middle of the lake. All the birds were terrified.

Then, almost all of the birds (with exception of three flightless ducks, one family of geese, one swan and a few mallards) suddenly took to the skies in a disorganized panic.

They flew higher than normal and flew in direction of LaGuardia Airport. Many planes flying low over the park skies as peak time for incoming and outgoing flights.

I walk to other side of lake to check out woman with metal canister.

I note sign on truck that says, "Geese Relief."

I ask the woman, "What are you doing?"

She turns around to face me with what seems, a stupid grin on her face.

She replies, "I am here to chase away the geese. Orders of Department of Parks and Recreation and the DEC."

"What? That is INSANE!" I admonished. "We need the geese here to try and keep some open water! There are three flightless ducks who will die here if lake freezes entirely over! Can't you see it is almost entirely frozen now? Can't you see there are planes flying low over the park? This is INVITING a collision!"

The woman doesn't say anything more and gets back in her truck and drives a short distance away and parks.

I stayed at the park for at least 45 minutes, hoping the woman would leave. But, she didn't and eventually my hands began to freeze (it was 27 degrees.)

I finally left. There were about 7 or 8 (resident?) geese on water along with a few ducks and the one swan. All of the shovelers were gone as well as most of the geese and mallards.

The woman was still parked a short way away. It was a given that she would return to harass what few remained of the geese on the ice.

Friday, 12-17-10. 9AM -Noon.

I call Park Ranger at Harlem Meer who informs me the lake is now entirely frozen. The swan has reportedly fled to the Reservoir. The Ranger has not see the barnyard ducks (BradJoLina). He told me there is "no plan" to rescue flightless ducks. I beg him to break up some of the ice for the ducks and assure him that I could get them if they needed rescue. They cannot be left to die!!

Park Ranger also tells me he does not personally support harassment program especially this time of year. "Its a waste of resources," he says. He adds that the geese were most likely migratory birds from Canada or Nova Scotia. They would leave in the spring. He also says that "other people" have complained about harassment of the geese.

I then call and speak to an official at Central Park Conservancy. She tells me harassment program in place at CP to "protect geese from being gassed as they did in Prospect Park." She adds, "We have to keep them moving." However, the woman is distressed to learn about metal canister and the fact it scared off almost all the other birds.
"That is not supposed to happen. I will take action," she promises.

Both people I spoke with promised to file complaints.

In addition to Park Ranger and Central Park Conservancy official, I also called and left complaints with 311 (The city hotline number), My Councilman, Assemblyman, State Senator and Dept of Parks and Recreation.

Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, 4PM.

I receive a call back from Central Park Conservancy. I am informed that "Geese Relief" has been relieved of its duties (good news!) due to the way the "geese chasing" operation was conducted previous night. A new group will be hired in spring. Long conversation with CP Conservancy official. State my objections to any form of harassment against geese in winter. I am told no further plans to chase geese until the spring.

I am further informed by CP Conservancy that it is never OK to chase other birds off and if and when that occurs, goose harassment operations are supposed to immediately cease action. They are also supposed to use the trained Border Collies.

Friday, Dec.17, 2010. 7PM:

Bad news when returning to the Meer. Only the flightless ducks there along with a small group of mallards who stayed and are now following BradJoLina. All the shovelers were gone. Most of the mallards. And the swan was gone. All but one goose were gone. The one goose is in the middle of the ice alone. I think he might be injured or for whatever reason was unable to fly away with the rest.. Will have to go back Saturday to check.

The Meer is all ice now except for one small pool of water the size of a living room near the Dana Center. I had requested the park ranger previous day to break up some of the ice and it appears he might have done that. The remaining ducks are all hanging in that area now, though they are very proficient at running along the ice.

Meanwhile, there are now many migratory mallards and Canada geese at the Reservoir (a safe place for them) and a group of geese on the Great Lawn (not so good.) The migratory birds are arriving now and presumably will stay here through the next two months.

Hopefully, they will be allowed to battle the winter in peace. -- PCA


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