Monday, January 24, 2011

Whatever Gets You Through the Night

Winter continues to pummel the East Coast.  The past few days have not seen temperatures struggle past the 20's and this morning it was 6 degrees in New York City with below zero wind chills.
This merciless season has made me worry for all the animals who have to endure it. But, of course, I have been most focused on BradJoLina, the three domestic, flightless ducks at Harlem Meer struggling to survive in a tiny pool of open water in an otherwise solidly frozen lake.
As somewhat predicted a few days ago, once another 5 inches of snow fell on New York, the group of about 16 ("fair weather") mallards who were hanging out with BradJoLina suddenly took off again.
When returning to the Meer the night following the abandoned hamster fiasco, it was distressing to once again find BradJoLina utterly alone.
And once again, there was that air of bewilderment and deflation about them.
All three ducks were sitting dejectedly on the frozen ice as if suddenly abandoned by cherished lovers.
The pool of open water had shrunk to less than a few feet in diameter.
Immediately, I scurried around looking for a tree branch or stick -- something to try and break up the newly formed sheets of ice that were quickly forming across the tiny stretch of available water.  But, I couldn't find anything.   I instead picked up a slab of hard ice (there was plenty of that) and used it to try and pummel through the thin, newly forming ice sheets.
I worried that the noise and banging on ice might freak out BradJoLina, as the "Geese Relief" woman had done more than a month belore when flinging and crashing a metal pail on ice to scare away the Canada geese.  But, no.   On the contrary, the three vulnerable ducks seemed to understand what I was doing and actually appeared grateful -- though admittedly, that might be my imagination.
In any event, BradJolina were not frightened at all -- even when I ultimately flung the heavy slab of ice further out to crash through a veil of ice and float atop the pool.
After feeding BradJoLina, all three seemingly rejuvenated  ducks returned to the small pool of water and began, once to swim around.  That wasn't my imagination.
The following afternoon I returned with my dogs, back to the icy Meer and this time, there was a feeling of alarm.
BradJoLina appeared like frozen statues atop the bath tub sized pool of water.  They were barely moving.
Once again, there was effort to try and break through some newly formed veils of ice.  I took photos and videos. I put out plenty of food.   I began to question why these three vulnerable, flightless domestic ducks (who were obviously abandoned at the Meer some years back) were never rescued and sent to a farm or sanctuary.   It was really hard seeing BradJolina (usually, such high spirited birds) like this -- totally dispirited and seemingly defeated.
"Damn, where ARE those miserable mallards?!" I thought, along with all the other frustrations and worries.   Yes, I was even mad at the mallards who so easily seem to abandon BradJoLina every time the going gets tough.
Later that night, I sent the videos to a couple of friends who know more about ducks than I do, but both tried to reassure me that BradJoLina would survive as long as they have plenty of food.  As far as the ducks appearing so enervated, one friend told me that BradJoLina were probably just trying to conserve energy in the frigid temperatures.  Sure, that is a possibility, I thought, but that's not their normal behavior even in winter. I didn't feel a whole lot of consolation or optimism.
I truly didn't know what to expect when going to Meer last night -- and in fact, almost dreaded it. I began to formulate a plan in my mind of what to do if I found either one or all three ducks in immediate peril.  "Get my dogs back to home in cab.  Grab cat carriers.  Return to Meer, box up ducks.  Cab to Animal Medical Center." 
The temperature was about 18 degrees when I left with my dogs to face the unknown at Harlem Meer.  Although wearing gloves, I had to alternate hands in pockets while holding my dogs as my fingers felt like icicles .
But, once again, there was a big surprise in store when finally arriving at the Meer.
Despite the bitter blast of weather, it was a virtual pool party!!
Six of the mallards had returned!  (three male and female pairs.) I couldn't believe it!
BradJoLina were totally energized and all nine ducks were vigorously swimming and bobbing up and down in the water! 
No need to break ice last night because they were all doing the job with an almost celebratory (or frenetic) energy. No need to fear that the small pool would freeze over even with temperature going down to 6 degrees. BradJoLina seemed so happy, it not a bit perplexed with all the grand, but necessary chaos.
There was also one lone Canada goose sitting on the ice last night (about ten feet from the ducks).   Somehow, he must have gotten separated from his flock and seemed quite dejected by it.   He did not appear to be injured or sick.   When I put down food, he walked across the ice and onto the embankment to eat.  I was able to get very close to him, but did not attempt to hand feed him.   He walked with his head drooped down to "S" position as if feeling defensive or extremely embarrassed or mortified for having lost his flock and having to hang out with the "crazy" mallards.
Someone apparently abandoned a cat at the Meer last night.   Poor kitty was terrified of my dogs and went running across the snow, not far from the ducks and goose.   The goose flew back to his spot on the ice, so there doesn't seem anything wrong with his wings.
Hopefully, "Goosy"  finds his flock in the next few days and rejoins them.  If not, then I told him that he'd better pitch in to keep the water liquid if he wants to get more food.  "We can't have any freeloaders here!"
Of course, now I am worried for the cat.   But, he fled in such a flash, I didn't even see where he went.
Can't believe people seem to wait until the most brutal and unforgiving weather to abandon their pets!   Its like a horror movie that keeps repeating itself continuously.
But, for the moment, am just feeling great relief for BradJoLina.  
Yes, those "crazy," flighty, undependable mallards. -- Like lovers that one can't pin down.
Ah, but, thank God for them! 
Call me crazy or "anthropomorphic," but I know damn well that is exactly what Joey, Brad and Angelina are thinking and feeling right now.
Again, to hope that the flighty mallards stay -- at least through this particularly bitter blast just to help BradJoLina get through the night.  -- PCA

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