Friday, January 28, 2011

Shelter From the Storm

Over the past few years of observing the geese, ducks and swans at Central Park I have mourned the loss or disappearance of many and feared the loss, particularly of Joey, the white Pekin duck at Harlem Meer who I have come to know and care for over the past year and a half.
There was always the sense that one day I would find Joey either vanished (like his two siblings last spring) or dead.
But, I never quite expected to find him as I discovered Joey the night before last:  With a deep and bloody puncture wound to his back.
Snow was coming down in large and furious flakes when I arrived at the Meer Wednesday night.
Since visibility was low, when I first saw Joey, I thought he just looked unusually dirty. But, upon closer inspection, I could see there was a large, open gash across the top of his back. Dried blood was caked all along the side of it.
"Oh God!  What could have happened? I wondered with sense of alarm.
The first thought that came to mind was a predator or dog attack.  But, any dog venturing out on the thin ice would be sure to fall through and likely drown. Also, with a dog or other predator one might expect multiple bite wounds, rather than one deep puncture to the back.
In any case, it wasn't the time to speculate upon cause, but rather to try and figure solution in terms of how to save Joey.  This did not look like the type of injury that Joey would survive -- especially with the stresses of a particularly brutal winter.
Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do Wednesday night.  Perhaps feeling especially vulnerable, Joey did not approach me as he normally does, but rather stayed on the ice with Brad and Angelina.  Once again, the hungry mallards ate most of the food, while BradJoLina kept watchful eye on and seemingly braced for the storm. There was little I could do, other than throw seeds out to them.
Needless to say, I was sickened with worry Wednesday night.  To add to the distress about Joey's condition was the knowledge of the immediate snow storm. A snow storm so bad, it contained periodic crashes of thunder and lightening.
I was not able to sleep Wednesday night, but rather hatched a plan for the next day.
I would have to get back to Meer first thing in the morning. With all the snow, it was extremely unlikely I would be able to rescue Joey myself, but it would be necessary to ascertain if he even survived the night.
Yesterday, I arrived at the Meer a little before 8 AM.
Thankfully, all three birds had survived the snow storm, but as usual, all but two mallards had fled the scene.
BradJoLina came up to me on the tiny pool of water and ate from my hand.  But, the slippery snow on the embankment was at least two feet deep giving me very little traction to attempt any kind of rescue.
It would be necessary to call Park Rangers and Parks Dept as soon as I got home to request immediate help.
Several hours and numerous phone calls later, a plan was in place.
I would meet with two Park Rangers at noon at the Meer. A veterinary hospital that specializes in birds was put on alert that an injured duck would hopefully be coming in.
Although the rangers would have special bird capturing nets with them, no one was foolish enough to think this rescue would be easy.  Though severely injured, Joey did not appear to be shocky or immediately about to die.
As expected, as soon as the rangers attempted to cast the net out, all three birds fled from the small pool of water and on to the ice.
While it might have been tempting to give up at that point (since no human could venture on the thin ice),  I pleaded with the rangers for more time, while bending down and trying to coax BradJoLina back into the water with food. 
But, someone had tossed quite a bit of bread out to the birds before we got there.  Between the bread already there and the sunflower and other seeds I was tossing out, a whole bunch of hungry pigeons, sparrows and even two cardinals flew on the ice to try and grab some easy treats.
It did not look good that we would be able to get Joey.
But, one of the rangers finally came up with a plan.
I would remain on the embankment  and try to calm and coax the birds while the rangers would split to the sides and attempt to corral Joey.
After some time, the three ducks inched closer to the water and the embankment.  One of the rangers ventured perilously close to the ice on one side and the other ranger to the other side.  Fortunately, the ducks did not move further back on the ice, allowing one of the rangers to sort of "trap" Joey with the side of the net against a tree. 
The other ranger was able then to grab Joey and slide him inside the canvas bag of the net.
Amazingly, Joey did not struggle at all and if anything, seemed relieved that help had finally arrived for him after all of these months of toughing it out at Harlem Meer just to survive.
One cannot begin to describe the huge sense of relief I felt having personally witnessed Joey finally getting rescued!  I thanked the rangers profusely as they placed Joey in a Kennel Carrier in back of their small truck to take him to Animal General.
The rangers too, seemed both very happy and relieved that this rescue was actually able to occur -- especially under the circumstances of all the snow.
After the rangers left with Joey to the vet, I returned back to the tiny pond to check on Brad and Angelina.  
They, along with the mallard pair who remained were back in the tiny pool of water, busily working to keep it from freezing over.   For them, it was, once again, back to the challenges of the day. 
Brad and Angelina have been together a long time. They have seen many a bird and many a storm come and go.  They know the ropes and they know the dangers.   I am just eternally grateful that they had finally accepted Joey into their little "nitch" several months ago.  Had they not done so, Joey never would have survived on his own.  
I tossed out some extra treats to BrAdgelina and bid them a good day.
"Don't worry. The rest of the mallards and I will be back later!"
To never forget these special birds and the aid and support they provided for Joey.
Perhaps one day, there will finally be a rescue for BrAdgelina too, God willing.
I don't know yet was caused this grievous injury to Joey -- but will find out.  
My suspicion is a possible bee bee gun or other type of small weapon.
There is no end to the human caused injury and cruelty to birds and other wildlife.
It is what I always feared for Joey.
But, unlike so many unfortunate others, Joey was able to be rescued and hopefully will go on to live a peaceful and happy life.  
We have to be celebrate the ones we can sometime save and ultimately provide shelter from the storm.  -- PCA


Karyn said...

Just reading this left me worried for Joey and sickened that someone could cause him harm. Please keep us posted on his progress if you are given updates. As you've chronicled the story of BradJoLina, the 3 flightless ducks, I've been eagerly reading your updates and pulling for their survival and health. Your blog is much appreciated!

PCA said...

Thank you, Karyn for your positive input.

I sometimes wonder if anyone reads this blog.

But, even if no one did, I feel it is important to chronicle what is really happening with the birds in our public parks.

Again, thanks so much for your interest and support. It is well appreciated. ;)