Monday, December 20, 2010

Damage Done

(Pictures: "Peace Interrupted." -- Hector (the swan) and geese at Harlem Meer last week. Since then, the peace of the scene has been dislodged and all the birds sent scattering in the skies due to "geese harassment program" in park. Only BradJoLina, [the three flightless ducks] and a small group of mallards remain at the meer and they are in the struggle of their lives to maintain a small pool of open water.through the now freezing temperatures.)
While gratifying to know that actions taken on Friday succeeded in ending the "harassment" measures against geese in Central Park (for the moment) and the association of Central Park with "Geese Relief," it seems the damage has already been done.

Since witnessing the woman with the "Geese Relief" truck and metal canister terrifying every bird on Harlem Meer last Thursday night and sending virtually all into panic flight above the park, the lake is now completely devoid of geese, shovelers, most of the mallards and even, "Hector," the swan.

Moreover, the lake is now almost entirely frozen in ice with the exception of a tiny pool of open water near the Dana Discovery Center.

Only BradJoLina (the three flightless ducks) and a handful of mallards remain.

The roughly dozen ducks are now working diligently and with great sense of urgency and teamwork to try and keep the small pool of water (about the size of a typical bedroom) from freezing over.

Appearing almost like shovelers now, Joey, Brad, Angelina and the rest of the "team" swim constantly in circles around the pool, rarely taking breaks and seemingly not daring to even leave the pool, less it freeze over in the time they are gone.

Last night, I had to walk over near the pool of open water to dispense some cracked corn and sunflower seed on the ice because the hungry birds would not dare come to the other side of the lake as they normally do.

One has to greatly stand in awe of nature and the birds' ability to sense danger and fight for their lives, so to speak.

That they work so efficiently as a team for survival (though normally ducks can be quite feisty with each other) adds to that sense of awe.

Temperatures over the next week in New York City are predicted to be below normal and will continue to be either slightly above or below freezing.

BradJoLina and their pals have their work cut out for them. Their struggle to keep the small pool of open water will most likely continue from now until late February or early March.

Meanwhile, there are many migratory mallards on the Reservoir in Central Park and there are several flocks of migratory geese who seem to bounce back and forth between the Reservoir and the Great Lawn.

Park lawns are particularly tricky because park officials don't like the geese nibbling on the grass.

"But, people aren't picnicking on the grass this time of year!" I told the gentleman from CP Conservancy last week. "The geese are only there for brief periods of time!"

"You know, there were millions of people who visited the park this past year!" the man replied with great pride in his voice. "We have to keep the lawns pristine."

"Sir, I live on the Upper East Side. I step out my door and see thousands of people on my block. I don't go to the park to see more people! I go to get away from the crowds and try to enjoy what little wildlife is in the park. I don't understand the lack of tolerance for these birds...."

Sometimes, I think that those who run our parks don't "get" why many people actually go to the park. Personally, I prefer Central Park much more in winter BECAUSE there are fewer people and tourists. Its like a little taste of country.

It was weird to hear a park official trying to "sell" the park to me because of all the "millions of people" it attracts when I was calling about bird protection!

It saddens me now tremendously to think of the flock of migratory geese and other birds who were terrorized this past week at Harlem Meer and sent into the air in a panic.

The geese particularly travel thousands of miles over the fall and spring migrations. They have to battle weather, fatigue, possible predators and most of all, bloodthirsty hunters.

But, now they also have to battle human "harassment" when simply stopping over in a park for a few days rest

There are times I feel ashamed to be a New Yorker. And there are times I feel ashamed to be human.

But, right now, I am simply wondering what happened to the geese and shovelers at Harlem Meer last week?

I am worrying if the small group of ducks (BradJoLina and entourage) remaining on the frozen lake will be enough to maintain the tiny pool of open water?

But, perhaps most of all, I am wondering about Hector, the swan who was all alone.

Where did he go? Will he survive?

Hector was so confident and human-trusting.

Look at what we did to him.

Hector was adored by thousands of people at Harlem Meer and the subject of many hundreds of photographs -- as were the geese.

He and they are greatly missed.

Damage done. -- PCA

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