Monday, February 28, 2011

The King and Queen's Speeches

It wasn't just my Disney-like imagination proclaiming that love and spring were in the air the other night.
Yesterday, Brad and Angelina announced it to the world!
Really funny, going to the Meer yesterday in the late afternoon. 
Brad and Angelina were out of the water and proudly prancing around in the small park embankment near the Dana Center like human shoppers in a mall.
Angelina was busily inspecting brushes and bushes near the lake to see what survived the winter. Brad was right behind her like a frustrated husband waiting for his wife to make up her mind on what to inspect, claim and buy.
When walking around the little park circle with heads held high, the two rulers of the Meer proclaimed their dominance to all the other ducks and geese in the area.   Angelina was particularly loud and vocal in her speech:
"See here, you wretched mallards and geese!  It was Brad and me who kept this place going while you were on your jaunts!   WE kept this lake from freezing entirely over!  WE maintained this little pool oasis while you mallards fled the blizzard and storms.  WE braved the freezing temperatures, ice and winds while you lazy geese were sunning down in Virginia!"
Brad, who was right alongside Angelina, joined in the proclamation:
"That's right!  My lady and I worked our BUTTS off literally to keep this lake open and hospitable for you guys when everything else froze over!   You'd better understand and respect now, that we run this place and determine what goes on here.   We are the king and queen!"
For their part, the mallards and geese hanging out with BrAdgelina yesterday gave no lip or posturing.  They know the deal at Harlem Meer.   The geese may be bigger and stronger than Brad and Angelina. They may bicker and peck amongst each other or even at some of the mallards on occasion.  But,  I have never seen a goose take either Brad or Angelina on.  They know better.  
The other birds know that if they are welcomed at Harlem Meer, it is only due to the charity and generosity of BrAdgelina.  These two flightless ducks rule.
Of course, in all their speeches of superiority at the Meer yesterday, BrAdgelina never mentioned Joey, the white Pekin duck who was also instrumental in preventing the lake from entirely freezing over.  Joey lived with and worked with these two ducks over the winter in a kind of uneasy, but necessary truce and alliance.
But, since Joey had to be rescued more than a month ago (after sustaining a dog bite) and has since gone to a wonderful adoptive home, he is simply out of the picture as far as Brad and Angelina are concerned. 
It was these two domestic ducks from the beginning and it is BrAdgelina now.   Its almost as if poor Joey never existed.
Joey is a lucky duck to get out when he did. I am not so sure Brad would welcome or accept Joey hanging out with him and his lady now.
Walking around the Meer yesterday and noticing some of the ice starting to fall away from the edges of the lake, I was struck by just how thick and hard the ice actually is.  Its at least 5 or 6 inches thick most places.  It will probably require at least another month or possibly even longer for the lake to entirely "defrost" and become liquid once again -- even with warmer temperatures.
It was in fact, nothing short of a miracle that Brad, Angelina and Joey were able to maintain that tiny pool of open water near the Dana Center to survive.  But, it required almost 24/7 attention and work.  These birds deserve a lot of credit for their sheer will and determination to survive.  
Since the sun hadn't set yet, there were still groups of geese scattered around the Meer.  A few were on the grass, but most had divided up into what I presumed to be families of 5 to 7 geese on the ice.   Soon, some families will likely break up as the parent geese seek to breed again and/or some of the young ones seek their own mates.   
It is all truly a fascinating study. 
Not so fascinating were the Oscars last night.  In fact, I fell asleep before the Best Picture award was given out.  (They should show reruns of Oscar shows for insomniacs. It seems like guaranteed and drugless cure.)
I learned "The King's Speech" won most of the awards.  The only film I saw of the five nominations was "The Social Network" and I was rooting for that one, unfairly or not.  It was a riveting film and fascinating character portrayal.  Jaime Eisenberg did a fantastic job in capturing the brilliant, but manic energy of the eccentric and somewhat shady Facebook founder. 
Nevertheless, the Oscar show and most of the "speeches" (ironically enough) were incredibly boring
In fact, I don't recall a memorable speech since Sally Fields, "You like me!  You really, really LIKE me!" some 30 years ago.
They should make a rule to do away with all the redundant and falsely humbling "thank you's."    Only one thank you allowed and then descriptions of how all the winners clawed their way to the top -- sort of like BrAdgelina.  --  It would be more honest.
In fact, those "speeches" yesterday from the King and Queen of Harlem Meer were far more fascinating than any given at a Hollywood gala.
They at least keep one awake and interested. ;)  -- PCA

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Of Wayward Winds and First Hints of Love

Found this incredible video on YouTube of geese flying through and landing during a 60 MPH wind storm.  It bears further proof of the strength, determination and organization of these extraordinary birds:
Speaking of wayward winds, what a difference the wind makes!
For the past two evenings, the temperature when I left home to head to the park was 38 degrees.
The difference is that last night, there was barely any wind. 
Friday night, the winds were blowing at something like 30 - 40 miles per hour.
Though the temperature was comparatively mild Friday night, my hands were freezing through the gloves and the hood on my jacket kept blowing off.  At times, I was barely able to walk through the angry, blustery tides of Ol' Man Winter seeming to cough and violently sneeze.
Although there were hundreds of joggers and cyclists Thursday night on the park drive, I barely encountered any on Friday.  High winds must not be too comfortable for running or bike riding.  
And yet, birds who weigh far less than we do, can and will fly through 60 MPH wind storms!  Quite incredible when one really thinks about it.
Unlike Thursday night when the ducks and geese at Harlem Meer took the respite in harsh weather to rest and even sleep on the ice, Friday night found them battling once again, the elements and vigorously swimming in the water.  I suspect, however, that the swimming was in effort to stay warm and "grounded" so to speak as opposed to prevent freezing of the water.  The warmer temperatures this late in February pretty much guarantee that the existing pool of water will not turn to ice.   Still, the wind is another matter.
Brad and Angelina were the first birds to come scurrying to me Friday night.  Unlike the night before, they were quite hungry and eager to "fuel up."  Likewise, the dozen or so mallards with them, along with six Canada geese.
One of the geese in this group of six who seem to remain at the Meer in the evenings (after the others have flown off), I have given the name, "Bandy."
That is because Bandy is easily recognizable by the small, white metal band on his/her leg.
It would be fascinating to know where Bandy originated from (Central Park does not band geese).   But, the band is so small, one would have to grab the goose to read it and in my case, don reading glasses.  Don't think I will learn this information any time soon.
But, Bandy recognizes me now and comes up to me.
She is not a goose who is used to eating from human hands. (I say, "she" even though I am not sure of sex.  I am guessing by posture and behavior, Bandy is a girl, but please don't hold me to that.)
The first time Bandy took food from my hand, she almost took my glove with the seeds.  She is getting better now, but still seems a bit awkward, shy and unsure of herself.
Brad, (the flightless drake) on the other hand,  is as smooth as a mini vacuum cleaner.  He learned to eat from my hands from Joey and so is quite accustomed to it.   His lady friend, Angelina, by contrast, has only eaten from my hands once.   That was painful.  She almost took my hand off.   Angelina is one tough little broad.  I am content to throw the seeds to her on the ground, rather than encourage her eating from my hands. 
I may not be a musician, but I still need my hands.
If Friday night was a little like battling through a hurricane, last night, (Saturday) was like, well, quite literally, a "walk in the park!"
Sure, the temperature was only 38 degrees, but with no wind, it felt warm, cozy and crispy.
Was surprised not to find a lot of joggers and cyclists out last night. It seemed like the perfect workout weather.
But, if exercise enthusiasts didn't quite get the message that spring was on its way to the park again, the birds sure did.
Walking around the Meer, I saw several pairs of ducks seemingly out for a moonlight, romantic stroll on the ice.
And not only the mallards, but the geese as well!
Two pairs of (seemingly) smitten geese were casually strolling the grasses as if to proclaim, "Something in the air tonight.  Our thoughts turn to love!"
And so, the group of mallards and geese still at the open pool of water, were a bit smaller, but included Brad, Angelina and Bandy.
Though not quite as famished as the windy, bitter night before, all the birds came to the embankment and took their treats quite peacefully without any bickering or pushing around.
Though 38 degrees may not sound like "spring" small hints of it were in the air last night.
Instead of blustery 30 MPH winds and struggles to survive, scents, sights and movements were all towards the promise of upcoming weeks and months.
They were of romance and pairing off.  -- PCA

Friday, February 25, 2011

Calm and Rest Before the Storms

Some late day phone calls delayed my trip to the Meer last night.
By the time I headed out with my dogs, the sun had already set and the rounds of evening joggers had already descended on the park.
The evening was remarkably mild.  Low 40's temperatures and virtually no wind at all. It was one of the few times this winter, one didn't need to don scarf, hat and gloves. 
Passing by the North Meadow, in Central Park, it was astonishing to note what seemed like a family of five geese in the middle of the field. 
I say, "astonishing" because I have only noted geese on the North Meadow one other time.  -- A little more than a week ago.  But, the numerous gaggles of geese at that time were presumed to be migratory and likely on their way north, only using the meadow as a brief rest-over stop.
The next day, the 100 or so geese were gone.
This time, the five geese nibbling on the grass were presumed to be resident geese familiar with the different locations at Central Park.  Perhaps they were simply on their way from Harlem Meer to the Reservoir and simply stopped at the meadow for a snack or to enjoy the spring-like, still air.
Whatever the reason, it was nice and rather unique to see the geese there.   Lately, the North Meadow has been almost totally devoid of bird life.  There used to be hundreds of robins and sparrows at the North Meadow, but they all vanished several months ago.  I never did learn the reason why.
Arriving to Harlem Meer, all seemed to be unusually serene and quiet.
As expected, the numerous geese who regularly hang out at the Meer during the day had already left for the Reservoir, Pond or wherever they safely rest at night.
There was however, a family of 5 geese resting on the ice and a pair of geese who apparently elected to stay with Brad, Angelina and the other ducks near the open pool of water near the Dana Center.
But, all the birds seemed to be in the mood for rest last night -- even though it wasn't that late by clock standards.
In fact, Brad and Angelina appeared to be actually sleeping on the ice along with several pairs of mallards!
It was one of the very few times that the ducks didn't come prancing up to me begging for food.
At first, I was a bit confused by this seeming change in avian behavior.
But, when thinking about it further, it actually made some sense.
The warmer temperatures yesterday resulted in a much larger pool of moving water for the waterfowl. It wasn't necessary last night for them to be constantly swimming or bobbing up and down on it to prevent freezing.
It also made sense that with the snow gone on the ground and other people feeding Brad and Angelina, (along with some of the other birds) they weren't all that hungry.  Even the pair of geese did not move from their comfortable resting position on the ice to come and eat.
Were the birds resting up and bracing themselves for the heavy rain storms of today?
I didn't know the answer to that question, but have suspected for a long time that ducks, geese and other birds have their own special "radar" or "Doplar" weather predictors. 
Whatever the case, I thought to myself that it was nice to see Brad and Angelina finally getting a chance to rest and actually sleep!  (I have rarely seen the latter!)
Perhaps in the warmer months, there is simply too much human and animal activity in the park -- even into the late hours of the night for the birds to find much peaceful time to rest. The exception to that would be when the park officially "closes" at 1 AM.
The summer particularly finds people and kids fishing the lake throughout the night and dogs running off leash after 9 PM or up until 9 AM in the mornings.  All of these things represent some danger or threat to birds on the ground or in the lake. The ducks and geese really can't afford to be resting on their laurels or "sleeping at the wheel" so to speak. 
As seen with the recent case of Joey who was attacked by a dog, even resting on ice in winter is no guarantee of safety.
But, last night it was different.
The temperatures were unusually mild for a night in February, but it was still winter.  And since it was not yet 9PM, there were no dogs running free, nor were there a whole lot of people roaming the park.
So, yes, it was probably the perfect time for the birds to finally catch a brief respite and actual sleep.
In fact, they seemed to need the rest and sleep even more than food.
I tossed some bird seed into the ground near the lake in case the birds awoke later and desired a midnight snack.  And then I quietly left.
On the way home, the family of five geese were still at the North Meadow. 
But, even they appeared to be sleeping -- except for the gander, who stood with his neck and head high in constant vigilance.   I was quite sure he could sense me walking with my dogs although I was no where near his family.
I am quite convinced that ganders with families never sleep.  -- PCA

Thursday, February 24, 2011

In the Company of Friends -- or, "Silly Goose" Talk

Slightly warmer temperatures yesterday resulted in most of the snow from a few days ago, melting in the park.   However, the frozen lakes remained as large, solid sheets of ice as if to stubbornly announce that they had no intention of melting until the last days in May.
When arriving to Harlem Meer around dusk, I could see, from a distance several flocks of geese lazily walking on the ice.
Suddenly, something in the area of the Dana Center caught their attention and after exchanging some excited honks, a number of the geese flew to the small area of open water near the Dana Discovery Center. 
I wondered if someone was daring to feed the birds?
I proceeded to walk with my dogs around Lasker Skating rink and over to the Dana Center area to check what was going on with Brad and Angelina, as well as the geese who had hurriedly congregated to the area.  
All seemed quite peaceful when I arrived.  Brad and Angelina were swimming in the small pool of moving water, along with a few geese and the two mallards that seem to be regularly hanging out with Brad and Angelina these days.
The only human in the vicinity was a youngish looking woman appearing to do yoga or dance moves nearby.
I chuckled to myself and wondered what it was about the geese that seemed to attract both rap singers and yoga enthusiasts?
Since the young woman was obviously not a park worker, I proceeded to remove the wild bird seed from my bag and motioned to Brad and Angelina that dinner was arriving.
Not that Brad and Angelina -- or for that matter, the geese needed any prompting.  They were already starting to gather around me with open mouths.  "Me, me, don't forget me!"
Brad quickly ate from my hand, while Angelina grabbed morsels from the ground. Both ducks quickly returned to the water after having their fill.  The geese meanwhile, grappled for position, honking and a few of the bigger ones pushed the younger ones away.
"Hey, hey now, be a nice goose!  He's just a baby!" I admonished to one of the bolder ganders.  Looking embarrassed, the gander then took food gently from one of my hands while I tossed seed to some of the shyer geese with the other.
"Don't they bite?" a voice from behind me timidly asked.
I turned around.  It was the young woman who had been doing the yoga exercises.
"No, not at all!" I laughed.  "They don't have teeth to bite. Some can be a little more grabby than others, but for the most part, they are quite gentle and patient."
"Oh, I didn't know that." the woman replied moving closer to me.  "I come here to feed the  ducks everyday. But, then the geese came over and I wasn't sure about feeding them from my hands.  I am a musician and have to think about stuff like that."
"Well, you need not worry about the geese!  They are actually quite sweet if not a little pushy and silly sometimes.  So, you feed Brad and Angelina?  That is really nice. Were you aware that they are actually domestic ducks who cannot fly?"
The woman didn't seem to be aware of Brad and Angelina's breeds or flying limitations, though she obviously knew they were in the same area everyday.
She told me that sometimes late at night, when the weather was particularly bitter, cold and windy, Brad and Angelina would seek shelter under the bench right outside the Dana Center.
"Really?  I didn't know that!" I said.  "I have always found them frantically swimming in the little pool of water on cold nights.  They need to keep it from freezing over."
The woman introduced herself as "Kali" and she and I continued to talk about the birds in the park and the various things that had happened to them over the years.
We talked about Joey, the white Pekin duck recently rescued and homed after sustaining a serious dog bite.  We talked about the swans and we of course discussed the harassment and gassing of geese.
It was quite obvious that Kali cared as much about the birds in the park as I did and in some ways, knew more than I did as she had been following them longer.  
As we talked, the sun set and a group of geese gathered in a line along the edge of the lake and started honking.
"Oh, hear that?" I said.  "I think they might be getting ready to take off!   Some of them fly to the Reservoir at night.  But, before flying they discuss it first.  You see them all looking in the same direction and squawking?"
Just as I finished the sentence, suddenly about fifteen of the geese, suddenly took off, flying out in a perfect "V" formation and heading in the direction of the Reservoir about a mile away.  A chorus of loud honks accompanied the flying geese as they headed lowly just barely clearing the trees beyond the lake. 
"Wow, look at that!" Kali proclaimed.  "Isn't it beautiful to watch?"
Indeed, the geese were beautiful to watch, gracefully gliding over the trees, while singing their motivational song. 
"It's so different," I told Kali, "how the geese fly when they decide to go and how they fly when they are harassed.   When harassed, all the birds fly straight up into the skies in a panic.  One would think they'd be more of a threat to planes then.  But, when leaving on their own, they are highly organized and fly very low."
"You're so right," Kali agreed. "I've complained about the harassment.  They usually use dogs and yes, all the birds fly up in terror.  Really awful."
"Did you know that the geese harassment people chased off the swan last November?" I asked.  "I was here when it happened.  Hector flew off in a panic with all the mallards and geese."
"Really?" Kali asked. "I was told the swan was sent to a sanctuary for the winter!"
"Some sanctuary!" I laughed. "They probably don't know what happened with him, but they shouldn't feed stories to people."
Not all the geese had flown the coup.  Another group of about ten to fifteen geese remained on the bank of the lake as if enjoying the conversation between Kali and I. 
"They must have said to their friends, 'Catch you later, guys! We kind of like hanging out with the humans for a while!'" I laughed. 
And no sooner had some of the geese left, when several groups of mallards began to fly into the area with the small pool of water.
"I wonder where they go during the day?" Kali asked.   "I see them at night here, but not usually during the day."
"I don't know. " I answered.  "Maybe the geese and mallards have some kind of arrangement.  The open water area here is very small right now.  Perhaps they are sharing it between night and day over the winter.  But, wait until the summer comes.  The mallards will be here all the time.  Only it will be hard to tell the males from the females, as the males lose their bright colors in the summer.  They turn brown just like the girls."
"I don't look forward to the warm weather," Kali confided. "I hate the fishing here and have complained about it. Some of the birds get caught up in the long fishing lines and it seems cruel to the fish. They fish all hours of the day and night here.  They are even out at midnight!" 
"I agree," I told her. "Its one thing to fish for food. Its quite another to just harass and torment the animals.  I've seen people throwing dead fish back in the water. Meanwhile, if the birds get ensnared in the fishing lines, there is no means to rescue them, when they can fly. One goose was totally crippled from fishing line last summer, but the park ranger was unable to catch him.  Its good that you complain about this stuff.  If more people did, we might see a different ethic towards the wildlife in parks."
The moon had risen in the sky and all of the mallards and geese were either contently  resting on the ice, swimming in the tiny pool of water or standing near Kali and I on the embankment.
Even Brad and Angelina were taking time to rest comfortably on the ice.
Both Kali and I were getting chilly in the near freezing night temperature and winded down the conversation. 
In finally bidding good night, I said to Kali, "Just be glad Joey is finally out of this place.  With any luck, Brad and Angelina will one day find a peaceful, safe home."
Kali smiled.  "That would be wonderful, wouldn't it?  Nice talking with you, Patty. Have a good night!"
It had been indeed been a very good night.
It was really nice to meet a kind of kindred spirit who not only cared as I did about the wildlife in the park, but was also proactive for the animals.
But, truly, the most rewarding part of the experience was the way the geese and mallards seemed to know that they were safely in the company of friends. 
All were so peaceful just hanging out with Kali and I.
In fact, I still wonder if that other gaggle of geese finally made it over to the Reservoir last night?  -- PCA

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Ever Resourceful Canada Geese!

While truly legitimate to have concerns about the survivability of flightless, domestic ducks in a public park (such as Brad and Angelina),  the wild mallards and Canada geese are another matter entirely.
These animals have been conditioned over thousands of years to survive, pretty much, whatever nature and life throws at them be it blizzards, frozen lakes and ponds, animal predators, human harassment and bitterly cold winters.
True, the birds greatly appreciate those "free" handouts that people sometimes toss to them, (particularly during frigid weather that results in snow covered grounds and icy lakes).
But, they don't need humans to survive.
Yesterday, when going to Harlem Meer around dusk, I was at first surprised to discover Brad and Angelina in the (now) tiny pool of open water all alone, except for two mallards hanging out with them.
Hm, did the geese take off again? I wondered. 
I didn't see any geese on the frozen lake so suspected they might have flown off to the Reservoir (where there is still a sizable pool of moving water) or some other spot.
In a way, that was good for Brad and Angelina and their two pals as it meant I was able to leave more than enough food to see them through still another frigid night in New York City.
Unlike the wild mallards who can fly and graze on lawns, the domestic ducks,  Brad and Angelina are unfortunately confined to the safety that the small pool of water by the Dana Center provides for them.  Were they to attempt to graze on park lawns, they would be easy targets for dogs or even cruel humans.  They can neither run very fast or fly. 
After feeding the hungry ducks, I walked with my dogs around the grounds of Harlem Meer.
And low and behold, there were several dozens of geese!
However, they had moved from the icy lake and shrinking pool of water, to the snow covered grounds surrounding the lake.
And boy, they must have been "working" the grounds since the time I had left the previous night.   So much so, I could just imagine the conversation that must have taken place among the geese either shortly after I left or earlier yesterday morning:
"OK, guys, time to get our butts in gear!  We need to get on the grounds and start working the snow.  There's plenty of grass and food under the snow.  We just gotta dig for it."
"Good idea, Joe!  But, it would be better if we divide up into groups and work different areas.   About fifteen in each group.  We can get most of the park grounds free of the snow by tomorrow night!  Let's get to work, guys!"  Decide which group you wanna split to."
And so it was, last night that the geese were in evenly divided groups of about fifteen to a gaggle working the snow.  One flock was at the west side of the lawns.  Another in the middle.  And still another group towards the north side of the lawns.
And they had done a truly remarkable job!
Although most of Central Park grounds were still covered in snow that had fallen a couple of nights ago, most of the grounds around Harlem Meer consisted of huge patches of visible grass created mainly by the geese!
This of course might explain another reason (in addition to swimming) why the geese have such large, powerful feet.
They seem to use their feet to first walk on the snow, crush it down and create large "footprints."  And then they utilize their beaks to peck at the ground created by the footprints and pick out grass or other foods!
Quite a diligent and amazing feat.
Another thing interesting about the observances last night, was the way the geese communicated with each other across the different sections of grass and among the divided groups.
There was quite a bit of honking directed towards the other geese of the fields.
"Hey, Joe, how's it going on the North side? You making progress over there?" 
"Pretty good, Doug.  The snow's soft and yielding here.  Some good grass, too.  A little too close to city streets, but all in all, good!"
"What about you, Gary?  How it going on the West side of the field?" 
"Great over here!"  Most of the snow gone.  Good grass.  Some of our gals taking a moment to relax."
After witnessing this cooperative and highly organized scene, a part of me wondered why I was so worried about the 'hungry" geese the day before?
Obviously, the geese have it all figured out!
As Tina, Chance and I finally made our way towards the Park Drive to exit Harlem Meer, I looked back upon the three groups of then well fed geese to discover some of them casually walking on the park paths, seemingly greeting human pedestrians!
They looked like groups of little people out for a "walk in the park" on a spring day!
But, as the sun set in the park, the wonders of the day weren't quite over.
As my dogs and I headed towards the Reservoir (which is closer to my neighborhood), I could suddenly hear the faint sounds of vigorously honking geese.
And there in the distance was a gaggle of about 15 geese flying in perfect "V" formation to gracefully land in the western open water area of the Reservoir.
"OK, now that they've eaten their bellies full, they can relax in the quiet and safety of the Reservoir and watch the moon rise."
Ah, the ever resourceful Canada geese!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Of Geese and Dogs

Not to sound redundant, but,  "What a difference a day makes."
All those slabs of ice that were starting to show signs of breaking up only a few days ago, once again have frozen over, as well as the Christmas snow that had finally melted was quickly replaced yesterday.
The geese and ducks have once again been forced to the small refuge of open water at Harlem Meer, including Brad and Angelina.   There is the now very familiar sight of the birds swimming continuously, almost frantically on the small pool, bobbing up and down to prevent it from freezing over in temperatures that this morning, plunged to the mid teens.
Its been a bitter winter.  
So hungry were all the geese and mallards yesterday, that even Angelina ate directly from my hand (something she has never done before, unlike Brad).  But, she didn't get a whole lot, because a number of the geese were competing and eating from my hands, as well.
What food I brought yesterday was gone in a matter of minutes. 
And this was in point of the fact, that just before I arrived several flocks of geese had taken off, presumably for the Reservoir or the Pond, as there were simply too many birds competing for too little at Harlem Meer.
Unlike the weekend, there were not a whole lot of people at Harlem Meer yesterday.  A woman with a small child in a stroller seemed to enjoy watching the geese and ducks for a while, but other than her and a few other stragglers, the park was virtually empty.
Meanwhile, new snow covered the winter grasses compelling the birds to dig for whatever they could find.  99% of the lake is once again, frozen over in ice and snow.
But, the picture was not all bleary and desolate.
In the many months that I've been writing about the ducks and geese in the parks, one might think it is only me who is so fascinated by them.
But, that is not the case.
One of my two dogs, Tina seems to particularly love watching the geese and ducks and is in fact, often reluctant to be pulled away from them to go home.  She seems especially enthralled with the geese and could literally spend hours watching them!
So visually "happy" is Tina when seeing the geese, I often have little conversations with her about it:
"So, sorry, Tina that there were no geesies for you to see today.  They must have flown south for the winter."  Or, "Well, it was a good day for you, Tina.  You got to see LOTS of geesies!"
I have had Tina since 1997.  She is at least 15 years old now (though older according to AC&C records where she was rescued from). 
She has always been a dog who loved long walks and exploration for wildlife over spending time at a dog run.   In fact, the few times I took Tina to a dog run when she was younger were always met with looks of intense boredom and trips to the gate as is to say, "OK, I've had enough.  What else can you show me?"
But, take Tina to a lake or pond and it is a whole different story!
In fact, more than once, Tina jumped in the Central Park lake to get closer to the ducks or geese.
Mind you, there is nothing "predatory" about Tina's fascinations with waterfowl.
I think, being a part Corgi mix, she simply want to "herd" them in some way.
For their part, the geese and mallards seem to know that neither of my two dogs represents any kind of danger to them.   Indeed, Brad and Angelina have walked within a couple of feet of Tina and Chance, as well as the geese have.
The birds seem to have acute sense of what is actual threat to them and what is not.
And so it was like that, yesterday.
Both my dogs, Tina and Chance sitting patiently watching me feed the birds and even "posing" afterwards for me to shoot a short video of them and the geesies.
For his part, my Pomeranian, Chance is not quite as obsessed with the geese and ducks as Tina, but he too, seems to enjoy them.  He particularly likes to grab any uneaten morsels of food that the birds didn't get to.   (Chance's favorite activity is eating -- anything!). 
But, there were no "leftovers" yesterday.
But, whether it is a love and fascination for the geese and ducks themselves, or just a desire to hang out with them peacefully, both of my dogs are reluctant to finally leave the waterfowl and come home.
"Come on, kids, there's a good meal waiting at home for you!"
And it is that line more than anything else, that gets Tina and Chance finally on their feet to trot home enthusiastically.
Who says the animals (whether ducks, geese or dogs) don't understand what we are saying?
And what animal (even humans) can resist the temptation of a good meal?  -- PCA

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Like Humans, Like Geese and Like Ol' Man Winter

Last night, when heading over to Central Park with my dogs, the wind was so combative and so cold, I could feel my eyeballs freezing.  Temperature was in the mid 20, with wind chills making it feel like single digits.
Tina, Chance and I walked around the CP Reservoir, as well as the Great Lawn and Turtle Pond.  In an almost two hour walk, I saw only two other people.   A rather dedicated (or crazy) jogger and a man walking his dog.
Parts of the Reservoir had started to defrost over the previous two days.   Small pools of open water had begun to form from large slabs of ice breaking up.
There were new flocks of (presumably) migratory Canada geese and mallards huddled mostly in the water and a few on the ice.  The wind was so hostile however, it seemed to actually toss some of the birds around on the water like swaying leaves.   Meanwhile, I could feel my thighs turning to ice under my jeans.
The geese were extremely chatty.  Lots of honking or what seemed like bickering coming from the ice:
"Hey, Joe, why did you make us migrate so early?  We're freezing our feathers off!  Can we go back to Virginia?" 
"Watch your mouth!  "I'm a lot older than you and have been around a lot longer!  We had to get out before late hunting season.  Better a little chilly than dead, you little fools!  It will get warmer next week!  For now, shut your mouth and conserve your energy!"
In many ways, Canada geese are a lot like humans.
Yes, they are highly organized, wary, social, protective and intelligent. They mate for life and are extremely devoted to their young. There seems to be a mentality of "all for one and one for all" in terms of looking out for the goose society (or gaggle) as a whole.
But, like humans, the geese can also have their "family battles."  Some geese are pushy with others. There can be battles on who leads the flocks and there can be battles on who "gets the girls."    There is usually a lot of discussion (or debate) before geese take off anywhere.  They are not too unlike our political Congress.  
So yes, last night there seemed to be quite a bit of squawking or complaining. 
But, perhaps that was to be expected with such shocking and dramatic change in the weather:
After all, the temperature only the day before had suddenly soared to a whopping 67 degrees in New York City!
Both humans and all of nature got its first glimpse (or perhaps, rather a "tease") of spring.
And boy, did everyone love and take advantage of it! 
The playgrounds were bursting over with kids having a good time, perhaps for the first time all winter.   Thousands of joggers and cyclists were once again hitting the park drives, many wearing shorts and tee shirts.  And frozen blocks of ice were starting to fall away from and melt from the edges of the lakes and Reservoir. 
But, perhaps the biggest sign of spring, were the hundreds of new birds flying into the city from the south.
I even saw two robins the other day in the park.  The first seen since last October!
Meanwhile, the "Joes" of large gaggles of Canada geese who had wintered in the south over the past couple of months decided to migrate early.
There were several large flocks of the geese flying into and settling down to nibble on grass at the North Meadow in Central Park. (Had never seen geese there before!)  While observing the geese at the North Meadow, several other flocks flew overhead heading in a north direction. Perhaps they were on their way to Canada and not stopping to rest? 
Or, perhaps they were simply on their way to the Pond on the west side of the park or Harlem Meer.
Harlem Meer was in fact, brimming with new gaggles of geese, though I suspect many of these geese are the regular spring and sometimes summer residents. 
At least two of the geese I recognized from last summer and part of the fall.  An older mated pair of geese, who, while flying with a flock usually maintain some distance from the other geese.  The female goose looks like she's been through the mill and walks with a pronounced limp.  The male gander is very protective of her, but also dominates her with some authority.
Yes, I remembered these two geese well from last year.   It was very satisfying to realize they had survived the winter -- especially, the somewhat bedraggled and lame female.
Meanwhile, several Canada geese among the new arrivals were wearing small, white ID bands on their legs.   It would have been fascinating to know where they were originally from, but one would have to literally pick up the leg to read whatever is on the tags.
Most of the geese were very socialized to people and seemed to know their way comfortably around the Meer.  A number of them gathered on the grass near the entrance of the park, greeting and begging treats from very willing park goers. Children and adults tossed bread and other tidbits to the geese and a number of bolder birds took treats from human hands.
Yes, I believe most, but not all of the geese at the Meer were the former residents returned to their home ground.  I suspect most will stay -- at least through part of the spring or until they are harassed by park officials. (Don't get me started on the latter.)
Meanwhile, Brad and Angelina (the two flightless ducks) are also preparing for the upcoming spring, by expanding their traveling range.  For the first time in at least two months, they were finally able to get away from the small pool of water and join some of the geese on further reaches of the mostly still frozen lake.
Yes, everything was quite beautiful the other day.  All the people and all the birds so happily enjoying the balmy temperatures, and fast melting snow.
But, last night, it was back to square one again and the bitterly cutting "wind chill factors."  Geese and ducks huddling on the ice and perhaps arguing over whether migrating this early was such a great idea.
After all, Ol' Man Winter ain't quite ready to kick the bucket yet in New York City. And he's letting us know that today with a vengeance.  -- PCA

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Hands Around the Lake"

It is sad when we look at animals only from the utilitarian point of what the animals can do for us (in terms of ego, prestige or the multitude of ways we abuse and kill them) as opposed to what we can do for them as stewards of the planet.
JFK made that point well when talking about country.
Unfortunately, its a point we have seemingly gotten very far away from.
Why can't we just learn to appreciate and respect animals for their own sake and in their own right? Why can't we leave the geese in peace even when their presence does not immediately benefit us either materially or in terms of use or ego?
Its hard to understand the seeming hatred and constant bashing against those creatures who are not directly under our control or who do not live by our dictates and demands. 
That of course is true of the independent, freedom loving, proud, protective and regal geese.
On March 26th, there will be a special "Hands Around the Lake" event to be held at Prospect Park. 
The focus of the event is to stand up and be counted for the wildlife in our parks.  Though a serious and solemn event to address issues like animal mutilations in the park, birds caught in fishing lines, environmental damage from BBQ coals and most importantly, the planned gassings and harassment of the geese, it is nevertheless, not a protest or demonstration, per se.   
On the contrary, its vision is positive in the sense of bringing all of us together who care about protecting the wildlife in our parks.  Its to say that we are not giving up the dream of a day when we can live peacefully with geese and other wildlife and act like the stewards of this planet that we were designed to be.
For more information on this event or to help in organizing, please go to our special FB page in defense of the geese: 
For the geese to have any hope of avoiding this year's planned harassments and gassings, we will need an extremely strong turnout.  -- PCA

Monday, February 14, 2011

Freedom of the Geese

"'Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
to live my life
as its meant to be."  -- Mumford & Sons -- The Cave
Freedom of the Geese
You say they fly into planes
and cause them to crash
But, in a contest between wings and steel
Who has the power to trash
Skies so high and clouds so fleet
designed by God to guide
the majesty of the geese?
You say they are too many
Their numbers beyond what we accept
But, what is to be tolerated
by us who make the rules?
Only those who we can shoot?
Who deemed us
the givers, the takers and the manipulators of life
for little beyond our own purported highs
And who granted to us
Unending lease
to the targeting of the geese?
You say they eat our grass
And taint our waters
But, what were waterfowl designed for
If not the lakes, the earth and the fauna?
How did our planet survive for eons
The arrivals of the geese?
You ask, what do they matter?
In a world where billions
are slaughtered for food, clothes, science, sport or whim?
What does it matter
the embodiments of perfect and cooperative freedom?
Who are we to ravage and destroy for others
What we so fight for and envy for ourselves?
Who are we to deny and cause to cease
the perfect freedom of the geese?   -- PCA

Friday, February 11, 2011

Campaign of Destruction

According to the below article posted on the NY Times city blog a few days ago:
"In June and July 2010, USDA Wildlife Services observed 1,877 geese in 19 sites across the city and Western Nassau and removed 89% of them, the report states."
The article goes on to describe even more aggressive round up and kill actions planned for this year.
If "Wildlife (Extermination) Services" killed 89% of the geese last year, then this year it is likely to be 100%.  (Or at least, that seems to be the goal.)
That means extinction for Canada geese in New York City.
The seeming silence of the large animal protection organizations on a planned governmental extermination of wildlife in our city parks is bewildering to say the least. Do we only "protest" after the fact?  Do we hold vigils or mock funerals  after the animals are already dead? 
Do we only mourn the loss of the passenger pigeon after it has been banished from the face of the earth forever?  
Will the same be true for the peaceful, majestic and regal, Canada goose?
As noted in this blog, this has been a very tough winter for waterfowl, not just in New York City, but in fact, all over the country. Frigid temperatures and record snow storms have been recorded in places as far south as Texas and Oklahoma.
Fact is, that a lot of birds aren't going to make it through this winter after all is said and done.
Yes, Canada geese are extremely hardy, intelligent and adaptable birds.
But, they not only have to adapt to harsh changes in weather, but also a national assault on the species as represented by expanded hunting seasons all over the country, organized "harassment" campaigns, egg destruction and of course, the regular roundups and gassings that are conducted annually by the USDA.
It is hard to see how any species ultimately survives that kind of ubiquitous, all out campaign of destruction against them.
Especially, a species that tottered on the brink of extinction more than fifty years ago due to destruction of habitat and over hunting.
It must be noted that we were not utilizing harassment methods, egg destruction and roundups and gassings when Canada geese almost went extinct during the 1950's and early 1960's.
Nor, did we have winters that were as brutal as this present one has been.
Currently, I only see a total of nine Canada geese in the north side of Central Park (above 79th Street).   That number is way down from recent past winters.
While more Canada geese are being reported in Prospect Park and presumably other areas, many of those geese are migratory and can be presumed to fly north shortly before spring arrives.
What remains at Prospect Park and other city parks after that will be rounded up and gassed according to the article in the NY Times and other media outlets.
That sounds like an extermination campaign.

In fact, extinction of the entire resident goose population in Prospect Park last summer is what occurred — right down to the two "celebrity" geese, Target and Beaky. Even they were not spared government cruelty after surviving pedestrian cruelty.

Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg  and "Wildlife (Extermination) Services" for insuring that our children will not have the luxury of seeing and enjoying the wonders of gentle waterfowl in our city parks.

Better that our kids be "connected" to electronic devices than what is real and alive.  Is that the goal and the objective?

Perhaps the day is not far off when instead of occasionally seeing glorious and proud birds flying over our skies in majestic "V" formation, we will see only instruments of steel.

But, we can always look up on our electronic devices or perhaps see in a museum, what was once called, "The Great Canada goose."  -- PCA




Sunday, February 6, 2011

Halfway Through Winter

"What a difference a day makes," goes an old song.
And indeed, one day can make a huge difference in terms of the landscapes in our parks -- or, perhaps it is the calendar finally inching past the middle of winter with daylight becoming longer by two minutes each day that ultimately made a difference?
Yesterday, it rained in New York City for most of the day and the temperatures soared to an almost balmy 39 degrees.
While one would not normally expect that short shift in weather to make a huge difference to the near mountains of hard, glacier-like snow in the park, it did.
I was astonished last night when walking north to Harlem Meer in Central Park to find large spots of nearly created open water in the otherwise frozen tundra of the lake at Harlem Meer and the Reservoir.   Thick ice had thinned out dramatically and one could readily see those parts of the lake and Reservoir that might soon be the first to "defrost" and become liquid once again.
Were these the first signs of an approaching spring not too far away?
Its hard to make any predictions based on what might be just a momentary flux in landscape based upon a few raindrops and temporary boost in temperature.
Certainly, most of the mallards at Harlem Meer weren't making any changes in their behavior based upon what looked like new potential opportunities for open water. But, it seems the Canada geese did.
Two nights ago, the geese at the Meer (and a few mallards) had shifted their position on the ice to an area that was starting to show signs of softening.  Last night, all but two pairs of the geese left the Meer entirely -- perhaps to return to their normal winter night dwelling or to seek food in patches of grass that might be peeking through melting snow at the Great Lawn or other location?
As usual, the geese don't leave calling cards or notices as to where they fly off to or when they are coming back.
But, Brad, Angelina and the rest of the mallards were in their usual spot near the Dana Discovery Center and on the pool of open water that has become much bigger since the arrival of the geese more than a week ago.  There were two pairs of Canada geese with them, but the geese did not seem that hungry.
As all the mallards scrambled to the land bank for food, the geese remained nonchalantly on the ice casually observing what was going on around them.
Only when I finally left and the mallards had eaten most of the food, did the geese cautiously  approach the bank to dig for whatever seeds were left on the snow. 
This made me think that these four geese might not have been part of the flock that was there for the past week or so?   Am wondering if some geese are already starting on early spring migrations to avoid hunters?   Anything is possible, one imagines.
Yesterday, I came across an interesting article about Canada geese that suggested that the birds are able to survive on fat reserves during the harshest times of the winter:
This is something I had speculated upon previously when noting geese huddled on ice (with little or no access to food) during particularly bitter weather and snow storms. 
If indeed, this is the truth (and I believe it is) it again points to animals' abilities to anticipate future challenges and to prepare themselves amply for them -- in this case, by eating large amounts of food during fair weather.
During these nightly rituals of feeding the waterfowl in the park during the winter, it has always seemed to me that the mallards were far hungrier and desperate than the Canada geese who, for the most part, seem to take the challenges of winter in stride and seem well prepared for them.
This is not however, to take anything away from the ducks -- especially Brad and Angelina who, even during what seems like a brief respite from the brutalities of winter, still take their "job" of preventing the pool of water from freezing over very seriously.
Yes, even last night when it seems assured that the pool will not freeze over anytime soon, Brad and Angelina were back in the water bobbing up and down vigorously as if the rain and warmer temperatures had never occurred. They take a few minutes to eat and fuel up, but then are always the first birds to hit their noses to grindstone of getting through the rest of the winter without facing an entirely frozen lake.
I guess Brad and Angelina somehow know that the temperatures are predicted to plummet later in the week and yes, more snow is supposedly on the way.
Brad and Angelina take nothing for granted.
Not even the "difference" one day might make. 
They know, after all,  it is only halfway through winter.  -- PCA

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Black Ice?" -- Don't Make Me Laugh! (ha, ha.)

So far this winter, we have had to contend with numerous snow storms, bitter temperatures and even a blizzard.  But, nothing quite prepares one for the challenges of "black ice."
More about that later, though.....
I was not sure of what to expect Tuesday night when returning to Harlem Meer to check on and feed the struggling waterfowl.   The previous night, all the mallards and all but one Canada goose had been chased away by a German Shepherd whose owner thought it was "cute and fun" that his dog ran on the ice chasing birds.
I don't know if it was "Lila" the German Shepherd who caused the dog-bite injury to Joey, the Pekin duck now recovering at Animal General.   I do know that besides harassing birds on a mostly frozen lake, a dog running on ice represents a serious life-threatening danger to the dog.   It was however difficult to convey that to the dog's owner.
When I finally left the Meer Monday night, only Brad and Angelina (the two flightless ducks) remained in the small pool of water, along with one Canada goose.
I then walked over to the Central Park Reservoir where it seems the large group of mallards and geese apparently fled.  Unfortunately, with the Reservoir almost completely frozen over now, there is no food source for the birds there. 
I was therefore not surprised to find all the mallards and geese returned to the Meer Tuesday night despite any threats from free-roaming dogs on the ice during off leash hours. The birds have to do what they have to do to survive.
Immediately upon seeing my dogs and me, all the geese and mallards came on the embankment, desperate for food.   Although I brought as much seed and millet as one could carry, it was completely gone in minutes.  The geese were so desperate, they were pulling at my gloves and the mallards practically tried to follow me home! 
"Get back you guys!  I have no more!  I am not going home with 30 ducks!"
Perhaps the mallards had simply heard the latest weather report of an "ice storm" on the way and a nice warm apartment seemed a good idea to them at the time.
Although news reports yesterday showed plenty of footage of people slip sliding away on the ice and taking nasty falls, I thought the streets pretty navigatable  when running errands in the afternoon.  Warmer temperatures had seemingly caused most of the ice to melt.
However, last night when going back to the Meer to feed the birds, it was a totally different story.
Falling temperatures caused wet park paths to freeze, forming thin, slick sheets of what is called, "black ice."  Immediately, when encountering this, I got off the park paths and walked my dogs along the mostly ice-free car road in Central Park.
It was slow going, especially when navigating the icy park path leading to the location of the birds on the mostly frozen lake.
As was the case the night before, all the mallards and geese were congregated around the small pool of open water at Harlem Meer.   Again, there was the desperation for food and again the mad scrambling and slipping around on ice to get as much nourishment as they could in the time that they could.  Even Brad and Angelina put aside their normal cautions to come up on embankment and eat frantically from my hands. 
When all the food was gone, I bade the birds good night and ordered them back into the water.  But, most of them remained on the snow, digging for whatever remaining seeds they could find.
I decided not to try and navigate through the icy park and instead, took my dogs to walk home along Fifth Avenue, where presumably sidewalks had been cleared of ice or treated with salt.
Still, one had to be careful due to the small, slick patches of black ice on the ground that were often difficult to see, especially at night.
I was doing pretty well until about 102nd Street.
Perhaps I became a little complacent when walking on the ground in front of Mouth Sinai Hospital or perhaps I lifted my vision from the ground momentarily to check on the upcoming traffic light. 
Whatever the case, suddenly I felt like an ice skater attempting a triple quad at the Olympics.  Only the attempt failed miserably  and after flying sideways, I landed squarely on my right elbow and ribs.
Wow.  Instant stars and recognition on why ice skating was never my "thing."  My whole right side really, really hurt!
But, like a fallen skater, one has to get up and move on.
And so I did, with the thought of irony that the accident occurred right in front of a hospital rather than the slippery park paths.
Man, one would think a hospital would do a better job of keeping its grounds cleared of ice.
One could have been visiting someone only to end up as a patient! 
Never "assume" anything is the motto there, one supposes.
I finally made it home with my whole side aching.  I hope those miserable birds appreciate the sacrifices for them! I thought to myself amusingly.  
This winter has truly been no "walk in the park!"
Today, I am no worse for wear, though it truly hurts to laugh. 
 I discovered that last night when watching a skit about the "Bachelor" on Jay Leno.
I also understand why those mallards tried to follow me home the other night.
"Come on!  The blizzards, snow and cold we can deal with!  But, not the black ice!"
Yep, I feel the same way, guys. 
But, I still can't bring 30 ducks home with me. 
A bruised rib -- and ego is bad enough. --PCA

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mysteries Solved

The other day I said that it could not be possible that a dog would have gotten out on the ice to attack Joey, the flightless Pekin duck who is now recovering at Animal General from severe bite wounds. 
I may have to eat those words this morning. 
But, before getting to that, let me backtrack to Sunday night:
Although there were at least 25 geese at Harlem Meer on Saturday afternoon being serenaded by a rapper and fed by several kind people, none were there Sunday night.
"Wow, that's strange!" I thought.  "So much for all that crap about geese staying where they are fed."  
Of course one small part of me wondered if Central Park had sent out some sort of "harassment" operation to scare off the geese as they did almost two months ago at Harlem Meer.  But, officials at the Central Park Conservancy has assured me they would not being doing any more goose harassment during the winter.
The problem is that any time deliberate cruelty occurs to animals in the parks such as gassing geese or harassment of them, one's trust in the powers that be becomes somewhat eroded.
So yes, the thought crossed my mind.
Still, I have observed geese and mallards long enough to know that they often take off for their own reasons.  Certainly, every time it snows, it seems the mallards take off and leave Brad and Angelina to deal with the storms on their own.
So no, I had no idea why the geese took off again. I chucked to myself that perhaps they only came in on the weekend for the free rap concert and treats and then left for greener pastures? (Ha, ha, as if there are any green pastures in NYC these days. -- Even the mountains of garbage are covered in snow!)
Anyway, I was glad that the geese had been at the Meer for at least a couple of days.  They had helped to create a much bigger pool of moving water and that was good news for Brad, Angelina and the other ducks.
Nevertheless, Brad -- never a duck to take anything for granted or sit back on his booty -- was immediately back in the water Sunday night after eating, bobbing down in the water furiously.  Brad and his mate, Angelina must have heard the weather reports predicting more sub-freezing temperatures and snow storms. Neither of these ducks are slackers and that is exactly why they have survived so long despite not being able to fly.
I was disappointed about the once again vanishing geese, but got good news when leaving Harlem Meer Sunday night:
I ran into the lovely couple who had taken the box of abandoned hamsters last week.
The woman told me they had the hamsters for two days and that there were in fact, a whole bunch of hamsters in the box.   Several adults, juveniles and babies.  I am not sure of the exact number, but many more than I realized.
After conferring with their vet and making a bunch of phone calls they discovered that Petland Discounts on 125th street was willing to take all the hamsters!  So off the couple went to Petland where the hamsters were promptly separated by sex.  Presumably, the store knows how to prevent unwanted births -- unlike the hamsters' previous owners who simply dumped the fast reproducing animals in a public park on a freezing, snowy night. 
Anyway, getting back to other mysteries possible solved:
Last night, I headed back to the Meer not even trying to figure out what I might find or not find there.
And once again, there was surprise in store.
The geese were all back, as well as a larger than normal number of mallards!
And once again, there was kind of frenzy for the food.   One of the crazy mallards even landed and perched on the top of my head!
"Hey, come on now!  Who's up there?   That is NOT a good habit to develop! Ya gotta come down!"
He was a drake of course.  Some of the drakes are extremely bold -- and crazy.
I snapped a couple of quick photos -- especially of the sentry geese perched atop a small rock keeping careful watch of everything.   Geese are like that, you know.  The whole flock can be busy eating, but there are always two or three geese who don't eat, but rather keep careful and diligent watch for any potential threats.  
Snow flakes were beginning to fall when I bade good night to the birds and started to make my way out of the park with my two dogs.
But, as I neared the exits, I suddenly noticed what seemed in the distance like a coyote or dog bolting across the frozen ice of the lake!   The animal was heading straight in the direction of the waterfowl!
Oh No!  Oh My God!
Suddenly, a chorus of loud, goose honks similar to the night Geese Relief scared almost all the birds off the lake  -- and then the sight of the Canada geese taking quick alarm flight in familiar "V" pattern,  along with the mallards right beside them!
What the HELL?
I then noticed the animal on the ice bounding back in the other direction to return to his OWNER on the bank of the lake!
It was obviously a dog!
Well instead of heading out of the park, my first concern was for Brad and Angelina, the flightless ducks who have no means of escape from a marauding dog other than to hit the water in a hurry.
I headed over to the small pond.  
Thankfully, Brad and Angelina were swimming peacefully in the water unharmed -- along with ONE Canada goose!
The goose did not appear to be hurt, but I could not figure out why s/he didn't leave with all the rest of the geese and mallards.
I left what little I had remaining of bird seed for the three birds and then set out to track down the owner with the dog.
The dog was a youngish looking German Shepherd still running around in the snow when I caught up with her owner.  The man was white, about 40 with a bit of what looked like a beer paunch.
"Was that your dog running across the ice a little while ago?" I asked.
"Oh, yeah," the man smiled proudly. "Lila loves the ice and she knows her way around."
"You know,  a lady's standard poodle fell through ice at Prospect Park last month and drowned.  That's a dangerous thing."
"Ah, no!" the man laughed.  "Lila's very smart.  She knows what ice she can run on!"
"She was running near the birds and the ice is thin in that area of the lake!  Do you know a white duck was bitten by a dog and is now in a vet hospital!"
"My Lila wouldn't do that!  She likes to chase the birds, but would never hurt one!"
"She's going to fall through the ice!  Then what are you going to do?"
"I'll just call 911!" the man answered.  It was apparent he had been drinking and wasn't too capable of rational thought.
"By the time they get here, sir, your dog is going to be dead. It only take a couple of minutes to die from hypothermia.  Birds fly. Dog's don't!"
But, I could tell my words were wasted on this man who was flying higher than the escaping geese and mallards.
I finally told the man to keep his dog away from the birds and thin ice and bade him good night.   I have to hope my words have some impact on him later when he sobers up -- that is if he even remembers them tonight.
I realize of course that I don't actually know if it was this particular exuberant Shepherd who caused the injury to Joey.   It could have, after all, been any dog.
All I do know is that when I said a few days ago, that it couldn't be possible for a dog to get on the ice and injury Joey, I was dead wrong.
The story of the woman's poodle falling through ice and drowning actually happened last month at Prospect Park.    I wonder if he too, "was just having fun chasing birds?"
There is no overestimating human stupidity and irresponsibility.
How dumb does one really have to be not to figure out that birds on ice can fly, but dogs can't?
Mystery unfortunately solved where Joey is concerned.  He's lucky that he did not die due to this kind of human denial.
I hope I don't read about this guy's pretty, young Shepherd drowning in the ice at Harlem Meer.
The geese are once again laughing at the lunacy of us humans.  -- PCA