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

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