Friday, April 29, 2011

Last Bastion of Paradise?

(Photo:  Mama and Papa goose at Turtle Pond. Their eggs now vanished and presumably, destroyed.)
One of the main reasons I moved to the Upper East Side of Manhattan many years ago, is because of its close proximity to Central Park.
But, Central Park was very different then.
The Great Lawn wasn't really a "lawn" in the 1970's.
Rather, it was a big patch of ground where people brought their dogs every morning to run and play.
In fact, much of Central Park was in a semi-wild state then - or much like the Rambles or North Woods is now.
Central Park did not attract the millions of human visitors and tourists it does now.  It could in fact, be a dangerous place at night, more noted for its muggings than softball fields and running paths.
But, it was a wonderful and quiet spot to retreat from the hustle and bustle of the big city.  It was a little piece of real nature in the middle of Manhattan.
And there were lots and lots of birds and other wildlife.
In fact, I am told that rabbits used to live in Central Park, though I never personally saw any.
Sadly, the rabbits are long gone, as are almost all the raccoons and even most of the pigeons (though pigeons are starting to make a comeback.)
I never saw a Canada goose in Central Park in the 1970's.  
The geese were apparently tottering on the brink of extinction in those days due to over-hunting and habitat destruction.
But, things change of course.  Sometimes, for the good.
Hunters were able to bring back Canada goose populations (as a "game" bird) through captive breeding and later release of the descendents throughout the North East.
Since however,  these birds were hatched in the United States, the geese had neither instinct nor training to "migrate" to northern countries.  They instead, became "resident" (or, what I call, "native") Canada geese.
Moreover, it seems the geese didn't really appreciate their status as a "game bird."  Apparently, many of them opted instead to take up residence in the "off limits" to hunting areas of urban parks and golf courses.
But, over time, that has not set well either with the parks or golf courses.
And that bring us to where we are now:
The widespread efforts and various tactics to "get rid of the geese" in urban and suburban settings.  The tactics can include (but are not limited to) cullings, gassings, harassment with dogs or pyrotechnics and destructions of eggs ("egg addling").
Mama goose at Turtle Pond has lost her eggs!
I went to Turtle Pond the other day to check on the mated pair of geese I call "Mama" and "Papa" due to the two geese successfully raising six goslings last year at the pond.
Mama had been once again sitting on a new nest of eggs in the rocks by Belvedere Castle for almost two weeks.
But, when going to the pond the other day, Mama was nowhere to be seen and the nest appeared empty!
Papa goose swam around on the pond looking a bit lost.
Feeling panicked that something might have happened to Mama, I sought out a Park Ranger and asked her about the empty nest and missing mama goose.
"Oh, sadly, the eggs vanished," the Park Ranger told me.  "We think a raccoon might have gotten them.   But, the mother is fine.  Saw her flying around earlier with the gander."
Now, one might believe the raccoon theory -- provided there were actually raccoons around Turtle Pond.  But, I haven't seen a raccoon in that location in more than a year.  (According to park officials,  most of the raccoons had "rabies" last year and had to be destroyed -- though some were supposedly released back to the park after determined to be healthy.)
But, even had a raccoon managed to get to the goose nest, its hard to imagine any animal getting all the eggs without being attacked by the gander.
I did notice what appeared to be a black garbage bag a few feet from the empty nest.
Perhaps it blew in from another location, but it seemed strange and almost too coincidental  to be there in the middle of the rocks and so close to the goose nest.
I did stay around Turtle Pond for a while hoping to see Mama.  I was close to tears worrying that something happened to her.  At that point, I wasn't even seeing Papa goose.
Then, from somewhere near the castle, both geese suddenly appeared and flew straight across the pond together!
The two mates swam eventually towards the little pier, presumably to greet some people tossing treats out on the water.
Relieved that Mama goose was OK, but distressed about her vanished eggs, I then noticed something else troubling at Turtle Pond:
A fisherman casting a very long line over the water!
I had noticed earlier that the "No Fishing" signs had been removed from Turtle Pond and that had concerned me.
But, now there was actually someone casting a huge line out and no one was admonishing him.
I once again consulted with the Park Ranger.
This time I was told that the DEC determined that fishing could occur at Turtle Pond.
"But, that's CRAZY!" I retorted.  "What about all the turtles here?  What about the birds?  Who is going to rescue these animals when they are ensnared in fishing lines?"
"You're looking at her," the Ranger answered solemnly.  "Look, we don't like this any better than you do," she continued. "Of course, its going to mean more animals injured. But, its apparently what some people demand.   You might want to contact the DEC or parks commissioner. Unfortunately, we have no say in the matter."
Yesterday, I made two telephone calls.
I called Central Park Conservancy and Park Commissioner Benepe's office.
The Conservancy was unaware that the fishing policy at Turtle Pond had been changed.  "But, we say 'No Fishing' on our web site for Turtle Pond!" the gentleman told me.
"Well, sir, the 'No Fishing' signs were removed from Turtle Pond and I was told the DEC now condones fishing there."
Frustrated, the gentleman told me that there is always "conflict between what some park goers want and others don't."   He didn't seem to have a remedy for the fishing question, though conceded it could be bad for the waterfowl or even some wandering children getting potentially hit with a fishing line in the small grassy area of Turtle Pond.
Other things were troubling in that particular conversation.
I asked the gentleman (who I will not name here) what might have happened to the mama goose's eggs.
"Are you addling goose eggs or using other harassment techniques on the geese in Central Park right now?" I asked.
"We work with Goosebusters, but have not used them as yet," the man told me.   "You have to remember that many geese eggs don't survive.  Things happen in nature."
(Well, if that is true, then why are we addling goose eggs in so many locations?   I wanted to ask this question, but didn't.) 
Instead, I asked, "Why do we need to harass the geese when their numbers are so low in the park these days?  I am counting a total of less than 20 geese on the whole north side of the park."
"There are not a lot of waterfowl in the park right now, because they fly north in the early spring.  Food supplies are low in the park this time of year."
"Food supplies low?"
With all the new grass and plants, its hard to believe the waterfowl food supplies low in our public parks. Moreover, the ducks and geese I DO see don't appear hungry. (Certainly, not like they were over the winter.)   This statement made little sense to me. But, I could not contest it not being an expert on goose and duck diets.
However, if true that waterfowl food supplies are low in the spring, one has to wonder why the "No Feeding of Waterfowl" signs are up?   Is this to hope that ALL the ducks and geese leave Central and other parks because there are "low food supplies" and people are forbidden to feed?
As noted, it was a frustrating and confusing conversation.  One which raised more questions than it answered.
My next call was to Parks Commissioner, Benepe's office.
I didn't get Benepe directly, but did get someone high in his office.
That gentleman seemingly agreed that fishing at Turtle Pond could be "very problematic" and he assured me, he would take the matter up with the DEC and get back to me.
But, who really knows?
One hears so many different things, one doesn't know what to believe and what not to.
I think much ultimately depends on whether other people actually complain about matters like these.
Is it really just a matter of what the gentleman from Central Park told me -- "conflict between what some park goers want and others don't."?
Obviously, those who want fishing at Turtle Pond got to somebody important.
And obviously, those who hate geese for whatever crazy reason "got to" someone.
I will probably never know what really happened to Mama goose's eggs.
But, earlier news out today describes and actually shows video of goose eggs being destroyed at Prospect Park.
The geese have nowhere safe to go these days. 
Meanwhile, part of me would like to go back to the Central Park of the 1970's, muggings, warts and all.
I bet had the geese been at the park then, they would have been left in peace.  They would have been safe.
But, these days, despite the ball fields, running paths and other human amenities of our public parks, the fact is, if we want the wildlife protected, then we have to be willing to speak up and fight for that.
Otherwise, try to get your photos and videos now of whatever geese and other wildlife remains in our public parks, for they will surely not be there tomorrow. 
The last bastion of paradise and safety is gone.  -- PCA

Ripping the Feathers Out, One by One....

 We had one day of good news for one goose and now, we are back to the unending bad events for these animals.
Today, there is this video from The Brooklyn Paper:
Below is my response to the video:
"The goose egg addling video is troubling on many fronts.
First of all, there was only one nest found.
This, after the entire native population of geese were killed last summer and there are less than two dozen geese at PP now.
"Management to extinction" is not something to be supported by anyone who cares even remotely about wildlife, of which Canada geese are a part.
Also, eggs are supposed to be dropped in water to determine if they are viable. If viable, they are not to be oiled.
That was neither shown in the video, nor even mentioned.
I am normally a big supporter of the Brooklyn Paper and still thank you for covering this issue so skillfully and in depth.
However, the flip nature of this video is deeply disturbing, as well as its implications to the geese who are already so persecuted and decimated.
For shame on this.
"We have met the enemy and it is us."
Please extend my apologies for the human race to these two geese whose would-be babies have been destroyed."
There is other bad news too, coming out of Central Park.
But, more about that tomorrow.
For the moment to just feel bad about the two defeated parent geese at Prospect Park.
We are literally ripping the feathers out of these birds out one by one and no one seems to notice.  -- PCA

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal Birth!

Forget the wedding!
Yesterday, there was a "royal birth" at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York!
Enjoy the story and beautiful photos on their FB page:
In these days when 95% of the news on Canada geese is extraordinarily negative, how refreshing was it to follow a story (and web cam) of a deer protecting a nesting mama goose in a cemetery?
Better than watching a royal wedding!
For almost a month, a male deer wandered in and out, often settling down near an urn where the ganderless mama goose sat on eggs.
Often, the deer put himself between mama goose and any people that might come by.
Officials of the cemetery were very touched by the scene and set up a 24/7 web cam and apparently notified the press.
AP covered the story and included the video on site.
I and others have constantly been checking on the progress of mama goose and her unusual protector for the past few weeks.
In the past few days, the deer was almost constantly around and that made us think that the hatchings  were imminent. 
Sure enough they were.  All seven of the babies hatched yesterday!
Mama has since moved her little ones to a nearby pond, where hopefully, they can live in peace without harassment and "cullings."
But, credit needs to go to officials of Forest Lawn cemetery for their compassion and sensitivity and sharing this wonderful story of special animal interactions with the rest of us! 
When I die I want to be buried in this cemetery.
With a special request that any geese or deer are free to nest or graze around my grave!
Congratulations to Mama goose for her Royal Birth!   -- PCA

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Heaven and Hell (Or, when does humor step over the line?)

Each day, when coming online, I first google Canada geese "news."
Each day, numerous articles or columns come up from all over the country and sometimes, the world.  Most, but not all of these, I post to our Facebook page on Canada geese:
With very few exceptions, the articles (about 95% of them) decry the "nuisance" and "pests" the geese have become and how we have now declared "war" on the species.
Usually, the articles are about various harassment techniques from using Border Collies to chase geese away or the increasingly popular addling (destroying) geese's' eggs. 
In order to justify these "necessary" measures, the articles often succumb to numerous misstatements, exaggerations and near-hysteria. 
The geese are accused of everything from poisoning waters and attacking children to taking down airliners.
One almost envisions the geese donning masks and waving hatchets as they hijack planes and kidnap toddlers.
But, sometimes our "war" on geese takes on actual criminal elements, such as this piece out of Cincinnati yesterday describes: 
In this case, a motorist deliberately ran over a Canada goose twice, leaving nothing but feathers in its wake.
Fortunately, the police are pursuing and investigating this incident, though it is quite possible that the perpetrator misguidedly thought he was actually doing the world some kind of favor.  -- i.e.  "Getting rid of" what is sometimes perceived and even called, our country's "Public Enemy No 1."
"Public Enemy No 1?" you ask?
Surely I jest or exaggerate!
Well, not really.
A few days ago, this column ran in the Moorestown Patch: 
The author actually refers to Canada geese as,  "Public Enemy No 1."
Supposedly, the intention of this piece was to be "humorous."
But, other things in the column such as implying that the geese "have no purpose" and asking how other towns "got rid of those pesky waddlers" leave little doubt (to me) regarding the author's strange and negative feelings about geese.
I responded both sarcastically and angrily to this slop, suggesting initially that the author "get (psychological) help."
Other posters attacked me for lacking a sense of humor.
But, here is the question:
When does so-called "humor" step over the line?
Perhaps were the geese not already under attack all over the country and perhaps were they not already victims of ever expanding incidents of human cruelty, one could laugh at them being described as "pesky waddlers" who shun their beaks at fake crocodiles or marauding Border Collies.
But, in today's climate, all such piece truly does, (in my view),  is paint the geese into an ever increasing corner of human derision, disdain, debasement and ultimate persecution.
Another animal advocate chided me for my negative response to the column.  In her view, the writer did not have malicious intent.
But, I don't know.
Even when reading the column a second and third time, my reaction was still disgust.
We all like to think we have a sense of humor and can appreciate good comedy.
I like to think, I can "read between the lines" of others' intentions.
But, all I could think when reading the column in question was that the writer harbored an irrational hostility against geese way out of proportion to even the complaints others might have against the animals.  I felt that perhaps she was projecting frustrations with other issues in life upon the geese.   (That is why, in fact, I initially suggested she "get help.")
To refer to the geese as "Public Enemy No 1" seems to dismiss and ignore all the truly serious threats to human safety and welfare, from crimes to terrorism to slow destruction of the planet itself.
Why would any normal person choose to focus or project all the wrongs of the world on Canada geese?
Anyway, I am obviously trying to work out a personal dilemma for myself. Was I wrong to attack a piece written in so-called "humor?"   According to another goose advocate, I was.
But, I truly don't know.  I would appreciate some feedback from others on this question.
Here is the column again:
All I know is that daily, the geese are being scapegoated and painted into a smaller and smaller corner of human acceptance and tolerance.
Columns or articles like the one in question, do not help.
Sometimes I think that when our time as humans is finished, we can realize, that if we did not ultimately succeed in creating a heaven for humans on this planet, we did succeed in creating a hell for animals.   -- PCA

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

In the Face of the Gander

Just when you think matters cannot get any worse for the geese in our parks, they do.
This very dispairing news today:
I posted the response below to the article, though for some reason, the comment does not, (to this point) show:
"Presently, there are very few geese at Prospect Park, considering the entire native population was massacred last summer by the USDA.
But, what exactly is an acceptable number of geese at Prospect Park for the animals NOT to be harassed or rounded up and gassed?
Considering that it was only TWO MIGRATORY geese that flight 1549 collided with in January of 2009, does that mean that TWO geese at Prospect Park will be deemed "too many" and destroyed?
Very disturbing piece.
Obviously, the community members and park goers have no say in the matter.
Kill, kill, kill and ask questions later.  Is that the deal?
This is 'management' to extinction."
Yesterday, I spent almost two hours at Harlem Meer just observing the birds and people there.
I counted a total of 16 (mostly younger) geese either swimming in a group or settled along the banks in pairs.
It seems however, that a few of the older pairs of geese might have flown off, perhaps seeking safer nesting sites or just to get away from the youngsters for a while.  The count number was down from the 24 geese seen a few days ago.
I did see Ralph and Alice settled on the grass by the Dana Center in their usual spot. Ralph was a little unsettled by my dogs and approached towards the fence hissing, while his mate, Alice stayed further back, casually grazing on the grass.
Obviously, seeking to protect his mate, Ralph appeared to be in conflict.  He was social and trusting towards me, but wary of my dogs.
But, it wasn't just wary.  Ralph was actually very fearful of my dogs!
As he got closer to us, I noticed the conflicted gander actually trembling, his mouth quivering as he let out a couple of cautious hisses.
I found this very interesting.
Because, most "prey" animals, when frightened, will take off in "flight" when approached by possible predators.
But, apparently, the male ganders will, (in the interest of defending themselves and their mates) actually move towards potential predators in an effort to threaten and scare away.
This, despite the normal fears that a prey animal would have.
That's actually quite courageous when one stops to think about it.
I have of course, noted this behavior before in other ganders looking out for their mates or offspring (particularly, "Bozo" and Bonnie).  But, I didn't realize the birds were actually so fearful of dogs. 
And yet this too, makes sense when one stops to think about it.   Dogs are, after all, used widely to harass geese and canines are an obvious and potential predator.
Still, the bravery and willingness to confront danger of the geese, (totally defying their natural fears) is something to note -- and greatly admire. 
Not wanting to stress Ralph any further, I moved away with my dogs and continued to walk along the Meer.
Unlike the wary geese, Brad and Angelina (the two flightless domestic ducks), immediately recognize my dogs and me and always approach excitedly seeking their familiar treats.  There have in fact been many times in the past (especially over winter) that BrAdgelina walked right up to my dogs.   But, that doesn't mean these ducks are stupid or careless with dogs.  On the contrary, they are extremely wary.  They just happen to know Tina and Chance and now associate them with good things.
One of the fascinating things about Harlem Meer are its people.
As noted in the past, love of the geese transcends all ethnic, age, racial or sexual barriers.
In fact, the really funny thing is, one often sees "macho"-type men softening up around and even feeding geese.  Sometimes, I think I actually see more men doing this than women.
Shot a few photos yesterday of a youngish man tossing some bread tidbits to the geese.
But, its actually a very common sight at the Meer.
In fact, I believe the residents around Harlem Meer are far more in tuned with and connected to the wildlife in the park than people in other areas of Central Park.
Perhaps that's because most of the people in other areas of the park are primarily tourists or exercise junkies.
But, there are many around Harlem Meer who just love going to the park for its own sake and not for any particular purpose.   These are the people who most enjoy the geese and other wildlife.
I sat for a short while on a park bench to observe the activities of the few mallards around the Meer and two egrets who apparently just flew in during the past week or so.
Egrets are very beautiful, but elusive, fish-eating birds.  If one hopes to get photos of these graceful, white creatures, one needs to have a powerful camera zoom as they rarely come close to people.
Still, they are poetic to watch from a distance.
Meanwhile, the flighty mallards were once again, well, being "flighty."
In fact, for the fifteen minutes that I sat on a park bench, my head became strained by looking up in the sky to see the many mallards constantly flying about.  Sometimes they flew in groups of 3 to 7.  Other times they flew in pairs.  And sometimes, a lone mallard even flew solo.
Mallards indeed, seem to fly and get around a great deal more than do the Canada geese!
A couple of days ago, I saw a mallard at the very top of the rocks at Belvedere Castle! 
Other mallards were casually enjoying a grass picnic at the Shakespeare Gardens!
Those who have read this blog from this past winter will recall my complaining often about the "flighty mallards" always deserting Brad and Angelina at the Meer anytime the weather got really bad.
Yep, the mallards move around a lot -- unlike the geese who can be quite content to stay at one place until it gets time to migrate or move to nesting or moulting locations.
So, why are the geese considered such a "threat" to airliners when its actually gulls and mallards (or even egrets)  who do a heck of a lot more actual flying?
Ah, another one of those questions that will probably never be answered.
It seems once any animal is deemed and labeled "pest" then any argument and accusation can be hurled at them whether or not it has any real basis in fact.
And in reading the article just out today (one of many similar, unfortunately) the geese have indeed been labeled, vilified, demonized and targeted for destruction.
Actual facts don't seem to matter.
Perhaps now I understand the great wariness, nervousness and even "trembling" of the geese.
But, they are not birds to back down in the face of adversity, threat and predation.
Rather, like Ralph yesterday, they courageously approach and meet danger head on, being careful to hide their fears. 
Despite the despicable and irrational human campaigns against them, I have faith that the geese will ultimately emerge from this "war" upon their species victoriously.
I saw that yesterday in the face of the gander.  
I saw courage.   -- PCA

Monday, April 25, 2011

"Management" to Zero

It might seem to some that my posting from yesterday ("All Roads Leading Here -- Extinction") might seem overly dramatic or exaggerated.
I would like to think that, too.
But, I can't.
It would certainly be reasonable to figure that if Canada goose numbers were to drop precipitously in the country  to near-extinction levels (as they did in the middle of the last century) "wildlife biologists" and hunters would again take immediate action to capture, clip wings and captively breed the geese as they did to eventually bring us to the point we are at now.
Obviously, the federal "optimum population" of Canada geese is that number which is suitable and sustainable for hunters to shoot at.
However, the problem is, that many geese apparently figured this out and instead of putting themselves out in the rural skies for hunters to shoot at, many instead fled to "safe" and protected areas like public parks, golf courses, shopping malls or cemeteries.
Apparently wildlife biologists didn't figure on the geese being clever and adaptable. And apparently, wildlife biologists didn't figure either on the geese being extremely exemplary parents, mating for life and protecting their young like the crown jewels.
So now we have the situation of wildlife biologists essentially wanting to undo their prior "mistake" of releasing American-born Canada geese throughout the United States, where the native geese essentially outsmarted our attempts to "manipulate, manage, control" and now destroy a "game bird."
This would all be quite funny, if it weren't in fact so pathetic.
But, to quote, Dr. Phil:  "The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior."
It seems there were many factors of bird behavior and natural forces that wildlife biologists didn't consider when hatching their plans to "restore" the dwindling populations of Canada geese that hunters and destruction of natural habitat had almost entirely wiped out.
Why should we believe they are considering all factors now that effect animal behavior, breeding patterns and abilities to actually procreate?
Factors (as pointed out yesterday) such as climate change and natural (and not so natural) disasters?
Hundreds of oil spills, destruction of natural wetlands, droughts, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns, melting polar caps, and tornados.    ALL of these are bound to adversely effect wildlife populations.  Especially when they occur during natural bird nesting periods.
Would we even recognize if an animal species population has become so low that even our human attempts to "restore" numbers are insufficient to achieve actual redemption?
Presently, many species of penguins are in danger of extinction due primarily to humans over-fishing the birds' food supply (particularly, sardines.)
Can we save the penguins?
Probably not. 
Because it would require serious restrictions on the human activity of fishing.
Thousands of animal and plant species are currently going extinct throughout the world.  
Most of them due to human destruction of rainforests, wetlands and the rest of the natural environment.  (We call this "development" but it could well represent a case of humans overpopulating.)
But, Canada geese are quite literally, in our own back yard of city parks and urban areas.
Will we participate in and tolerate attempts at animal extinction in our own neighborhoods?
Currently, at Prospect Park in Brooklyn (the site where 368 Canada geese and their goslings were secretly rounded up and gassed last summer), there are posted signs warning people to not feed waterfowl.  The signs warn of birds potentially being "crowded" when in fact, there are hardly any geese at all on the lake.
Community residents report less than 50 geese in the entire area of Prospect Park. Yet, there are plans next month to send Border Collies to harass and chase whatever geese are there, as well as plans to oil any eggs that any hapless geese might dare to lay.
Kind of like Central Park sending out "Geese Relief" last November to harass the birds out of Harlem Meer when there were in fact, less than 25 geese on the entire lake. Most geese had already migrated south.  However, the goose harassment action DID "succeed" in chasing out all the shovelers, mallards and even one swan from Harlem Meer.
I don't know what others might call irrational actions like these, but I call them "Management to Extinction."
Apparently, the "optimum" population of resident Canada geese accepted in many of our public parks, (especially, Prospect Park) is zero.
Management to zero, is in fact, management to extinction.  -- PCA

Sunday, April 24, 2011

All Roads Leading Here -- Eventual Extinction

Below is an extremely important article. 
Not because is it written by an animal rights advocate, poet or romanticist.
But, on the contrary, because it is written by a hunter.
The article sheds light on drastically declining numbers of Canada geese observed in several areas over two years time and the destructive impacts of wide scale egg oiling.
It is a sad reality that the people who are most on top of actual bird numbers are those who have a vested interest in maintaining "sustainable" populations and preserving livable habitat for the animals. 
In many, if not most cases, that is hunters.
It was, after all, hunters who though being largely responsible for driving Canada geese to the brink of extinction in the last century, also worked to bring back the population.
It is a grim and sobering reality that most members of the general public wouldn't notice if all but a few of the animal species around us went extinct.
But, here is an interesting fact.
Most wild animals could live without humans: 
But, humans (especially as we live now) could not survive without animals.
It is to ALL our interests to preserve and fight for the survival of species.
As noted in this blog so many times, no species lives in and unto itself only.
When, for example we "harass" Canada geese, we not only terrorize and chase off geese, but all OTHER species of waterfowl (particularly, mallards) who rely on the wary geese for things like security and warnings of danger.
To give just one example of this, last year I wrote of two mama mallards, who each night, brought their tiny ducklings to rest within mere feet of the Canada goose family at Turtle Pond.  
But, when the Canada goose family developed their flight feathers and eventually took off from Turtle Pond, the mallard mothers no longer brought their ducklings to the familiar rock area where all the birds rested at night.   (Fortunately, by that time, most of the ducklings were more than half grown and not so vulnerable to possible predators.)
The point of this is the interrelationship among species for ultimate survival.
We cannot declare "war" on one species without adversely impacting other species who, in one way or another depend on that species of animal we are labeling a "pest" and targeting for destruction.
We can instead, set up a kind of chain reaction in destruction that could be very hard to reverse by the time we "wake up and smell the coffee" so to speak.
In addition to the very real and legitimate questions regarding the long term impacts of egg oiling of Canada geese, there is also the necessary realization of how our environment and planet is rapidly changing.
In the past week alone, there have been many dozens of violent tornados that have ranged across the country and caused billions of dollars in damage and destruction.
In New Jersey, wide spread flooding has caused irreparable damage to homes and property and literally drowned the eggs of many nesting birds, including Canada geese.
These storms and tornados occur at a sensitive time when so many thousands of birds are nesting.
How many eggs will ultimately survive?
Well, between the deliberate goose "cullings" and egg destructions perpetrated by humans and those wrought by nature itself, one might think that even the wily and adaptable Canada goose cannot ultimately survive this all out predation and assault on the species.
Never thought I would find myself in agreement with anything a hunter might say, but today marks the exception to the rule.
The prospects for possible and eventual extinction of resident Canada geese are very real and very scary.
Especially so, because most people don't even see it.  -- PCA

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Organized and Efficient Patterns of the Geese, Unless.......

(Photo: (Mama goose at Turtle Pond sitting on new eggs.)

How much pressure, harassment and egg destruction are Canada geese under right now?
Apparently, so much so,  that one pair of geese have set up their nesting site right outside a police station. 
Talk about seeking safety and protection!
The other day I was asked if any geese are nesting at Harlem Meer?
I have not noted any geese attempting to nest at the Meer for the several years I have been going there.
I am guessing the reason is that the Meer does not afford the geese a high sense of safety and protection for raising young as Turtle Pond does.
As recently reported, the Mama and Papa geese at Turtle Pond have set their nest up (again) in a highly protected and inaccessible rock area around Belvedere Castle.  It is a location that neither the public nor dogs can get to.
Once hatched, the baby goslings have very short distance to go with their Mother to the pond.  Moreover, there are many protected grass areas around Turtle Pond that are off limits to the public and dogs and contain fencing around them, (specifically, the "Wildlife Corridor").
I remember an official from Central Park Conservancy telling me that some people complain about the fencing ("off limits" areas) around Turtle Pond. 
But, it is absolutely vital to have such areas for the protection of fragile wildlife and waterfowl.
Turtle Pond is thus, almost ideal habitat for geese or mallards to raise young.  Without the protected fenced areas, the flightless goslings (or molting geese) would be very vulnerable to free-running dogs during the park's morning and night off-leash hours.
Unfortunately, as lovely and hospitable as Harlem Meer may be for the geese and mallards who can fly, it is less safe and predictable for those who can't fly as there are far fewer "protected" and fenced off areas.
This past winter, Joey, the white Pekin (flightless) duck was attacked on the ice by a dog and subsequently required rescue and placement.
Joey's two flightless siblings vanished from the Meer last spring and were presumed to have been victims of human cruelty.
Although Brad and Angelina (domestic, flightless ducks) have apparently survived at the Meer for a number of years, it is not without great awareness and caution on their parts.
Unlike the mallards who can fly, one never observes Brad or Angelina far from a fast escape route via quick access to the water.
They are extremely alert and aware birds.
One of the reasons why Brad and Anglina primarily stay under the willow tree near the Dana Center is because it is one of the few areas "off limits" to the public and protected by a small fence around it.
But, as noted, there is not a lot of protective fencing around Harlem Meer.
Nor are there high rock areas where geese might nest as there are at Turtle Pond.
So, as matters stand, the Canada geese neither attempt to breed at Harlem Meer nor molt in that location.
Usually all the geese take off from the Meer in May presumably to breed and molt in safer locations.
Following molting and raising young, large numbers of the geese again return to the Meer (usually in late July or early August).
The family from Turtle Pond in fact, flew to Harlem Meer once the goslings developed flight wings last summer and stayed there for a number of weeks, mingling with other geese.
I wonder if in fact, Harlem Meer (in addition to being a popular "singles" location for geese) might also be a family unification area and launching point for gaggles of geese to migrate together with the arrival of winter?
The patterns that appear to be in place now seem to suggest that.
If, for example, staying to their pattern of last year, then Mama and Papa geese will raise their young at Turtle Pond, but then return to the Meer when the young ones are able to fly and the parents grow their new flight feathers. 
Presumably, they would meet up again with their goslings from last year.
Then, the entire family would "migrate" to wherever it is they spend the winter.
I am of course guessing at all this stuff simply from what has been observed over the past few years.
But, there definitely seems very organized and efficient pattern to all the comings and goings of the geese.
That is, if humans don't intervene, harass and destroy.
When humans do interfere, then all bets are off.
Including the strange unlikelihoods (and breaking of usual patterns) of geese setting up nests in shopping malls and near police stations.  -- PCA

Friday, April 22, 2011

(Avian) "Singles Bars," Freedom Celebrations and "Telling It Like It Is"

Harlem Meer appears to be the trendy, singles bar site for the young, unattached Canada geese of Central Park these days.
A couple of weeks ago, I counted only 9 geese at the Meer almost all of which, appeared to be the older, established couple pairings.
But, that number has climbed to 24 as of yesterday.
One cannot be sure of course, but I suspect that the new, (freedom clelebrating) geese are the yearlings and their unattached pals from Turtle Pond.
Mama and Papa goose now have Turtle Pond all to themselves once again.  The site is again ripe for the new anticipated family, as Mama sits on her eggs and takes afternoon breaks to frolic and romanticize with her forever devoted mate.
Meanwhile, all was peaceful, shiny and whimsical yesterday at the Meer.
The established pairs of geese kept to themselves in their usual spots.  Bozo and Bonnie near the entrance to the Meer, Ralph and Alice in the area close to the Dana Center, the diving pair of geese doing their usual "bottoms up!" antics in the center of the lake.
The newer "singles" geese however, traveled mostly as a group either swimming around in the lake or nibbling on some grass near the sandy part of Harlem Meer.   Though they too, appeared to be in pairs, it was more like the "pairs" one might see in a human singles bar or club.  Convenient, experimental, comfortable for the moment, but not necessarily permanent.
All that was missing was some, "Get Down Tonight" or "You Spin Me Round, Round" for one to imagine being back in some dance club of 70's or 80's! 
Meanwhile, Brad and Angelina (the two, flightless, domestic ducks and long time residents of Harlem Meer) have once again claimed their home turf around the Dana Discovery Center as their own.  They swim around together and often sit peacefully under the big willow tree and watch the forever changing bird scenes around them.   At this point, Brad and Angelina have seen it all and nothing seems to faze them too much -- other than the lake freezing over in winter.
But, for the moment, the living is easy, food is plentiful and the springtime is a a good period for Brad and Angelina to finally catch up on the sleep and relaxation they were so deprived of over the long, grueling winter.
As for the rest of the flighty ducks at Harlem Meer, well, "flighty" is indeed the word these days as the mallards are constantly flying around and checking out all the little romantic hideaways in Central Park.  
Not a whole lot of mallards at Harlem Meer (or Turtle Pond) these days.   Most seem to be either off on new adventures or some of the females may be nesting and have dumped out their male partners. (Mallards are not at all like geese in the "commitment" department!)  One does seem to see a disproportionate number of drakes swimming together at the Meer or Turtle Pond.  (Again, not too unlike the scenes one might have seen in the popular human single spots of years past where the guys usually outnumbered the women.)
Spring is certainly a fascinating time for avian life, though not without its challenges and sweeping changes.
Meanwhile, advocacy for the wildlife in our city parks, particularly the much maligned and scapegoated Canada geese took on a whole new dimension today with this absolutely  brilliant, truth smacking, Editorial from The Brooklyn Paper:
Wow, talk about, "telling it like it really is!"
That may be another familiar catch phrase from decades past.
Then again, the past couple of days have been like a little trip back in time.
Singles bars (though avian this time around), freedom celebrations and "Telling it like it is!"
Thank God we have at least one media source willing to do the latter.  -- PCA

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Afternoon Delights!"

It was indeed quite a show yesterday -- replete with all kinds of afternoon delights!
However, initially it did not start out that way.
The late morning was chilly, gray and overcast as I made my way, with my dogs to Turtle Pond to check on the goose situation there.
To my disappointment, I did not immediately see any geese at the pond.
Apparently, the last of the two goslings had flown away, presumably to join the rest of their siblings and other "singles" at Harlem Meer.
The pond appeared very empty, despite the few mallards and even a couple of cormorants on it.
It is quite striking the difference that either having geese or not having them on the water represents.
Without geese, water is just water.  Pretty, calm and glistening, but somehow without much sense of life and whimsy.
I felt a kind of sinking spirit in not seeing the young geese at Turtle Pond has as been the case since the return of the goose family in early March and assorted other geese either passing through or visiting for a while.
A part of me wondered if the remaining geese had been chased away by the goose Border Collie program that exists in Central Park?  Unfortunately, I have learned to think this way, knowing of the current nationwide campaign to either harass geese, destroy their eggs or kill them.
While Central Park has not allowed any "culling" of geese, the Conservancy does acknowledge using a goose harassment program, though I am not sure if it has actually been utilized yet this year.  
With the current low numbers of geese at Central Park, it doesn't seem that there would be need for the goose harassment program right now.
Nevertheless, despite my misgivings or worries, Mama and Papa goose were still very much present at Turtle Pond!
Papa was sleeping on his familiar rock, not far from the little pier.
And Mama was sitting alertly on her nest carefully hidden away in the rocks of Belvedere Castle.
When going to check on Mama, I encountered an older bird loving couple who were photographing two cardinals and commenting on a mallard pair.
I said cheerfully, pointing to the rocks,  "You know,  there is a pair of nesting geese here!  Mama is over there."
The woman suddenly looked alarmed.  "Ssssh! , Don't say anything about the Mama goose!" she whispered.  "You know what they do to the geese!"
Apparently, I am not the only one paranoid about the geese.
I nodded my head in agreement, but did not reply to the woman because I fully understood her concern and worry for the geese.  It's obviously what I feel, too.
It is sad that many of us have to think this way now.
As I returned back to the little pier, Papa goose had awaken and taken a little dip in the pond.
The sun had finally come out and the temperature had significantly warmed up.
But, still Papa goose looked so alone and just a bit forlorn on the water.
But, all of that was about to radically change.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, Mama goose came flying across the pond and landed within a few feet of her beloved mate!
"Here I am!  Break time!  Love time!"
Papa goose immediately lit up like fireworks on the 4th of July!
Within seconds, the two love birds were frolicking in the water, bathing together, bobbing up and down and following each other around.
I whipped out my camera and started to shoot some videos.  The YouTube videos can be seen on our special Facebook page: 
I don't think I have ever witnessed such a wild celebration of two animals seeing each other after some time apart. --- Like long lost lovers!
Both geese preened like teenagers getting ready for an important date.
Both geese played in the water like toddlers in a sandbox.
And at one point, Papa jumped on Mama pushing her under the water in what surely was a mating.  But unfortunately, my camera wasn't rolling during those brief seconds.
It was a total love fest -- a celebration of "Afternoon Delights!"
The rituals repeated in the water over a span of about ten minutes, after which, the two lovers climbed the small rocks near the pier and continued to sun themselves and preen.
Then, with a couple of announcing honks, Mama goose suddenly took off from the rock to fly towards the nesting area.
Papa took off after her!
I whipped out my camera once again to shoot the quick video until the two geese were out of camera range.
Wanting to see if Papa actually joined Mama at the nesting site, I walked again to the area around Belvedere Castle.
Mama was once again back on her nest in the rocks, while Papa took up sentry position on one of the rocks in the pond about 40 yards away from the actual nest.  
Both geese seem wary to keep the nesting site secret.
While watching all this, a woman stopped near me to gaze over the castle along with a park ranger.  The two women briefly discussed the turtles at Turtle Pond.
After a few moments, the park goer left and the ranger remained looking out over the pond.
I cautiously asked the ranger if she knew what happened to the gaggle of geese who had been at the pond in the previous weeks?
"They didn't chase them away, did they?"
"Heavens no!" she answered, with some surprise.  "This time of year, the geese and mallards fly all around.  They don't stay in one place too long."
"There is a mated pair of geese still here and they return here every year," I answered.
"Yes, I believe they are nesting again!" the ranger cheerfully replied without pointing to actual location.  "There is also a mallard nesting on the little island over there!"  She did point in that direction.
I did not point either to the actual site where Mama goose was sitting on her eggs, but I continued to discuss with the ranger the goose family and the other birds of the pond.
The ranger informed me that the two dark birds fishing on the pond were cormorants.
It was a pleasant conversation that resulted in me having the feeling that Mama goose and her eggs were, at least for the moment, safe.
I am cautiously optimistic that although goose harassment and egg oiling programs are in place at Central Park, they are hopefully not implemented where there is little or no need.
And right now there is no need at Central Park.
Right now, it is just long, glorious and sunny days of "Afternoon Delights!" 
That only they may remain that way.  -- PCA

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Difference

Yesterday, I wrote about the 2,600 geese rounded up and gassed last year from city parks -- most of it "without public knowledge."
The "without public knowledge" is important.
The fact is, we would also not be aware of the 368 geese and goslings rounded up and gassed from Prospect Park last summer except for the vigilance, persistence and avian knowledge of two regular Prospect Park observers.
Anne-Katrin Titze is a wildlife rehabilitater and she and her partner, Ed Bahlman are regular visitors to Prospect Park.
When Anne-Katrin and Ed noticed the sudden disappearance of Prospect Park's entire goose population last July 8th, along with clumps of feathers in the ground and discarded plastic ties, they knew something drastic had occurred.
Knowing that the molting geese and recently hatched goslings were incapable of flight at that time,  Anne-Katrin and Ed did not believe the "story" they were told from park officials -- That being that the geese had suddenly "flown off" to Jamaica Wildlife Refuge.
(Full story here in Anne-Katrin's own words: .)
Persistence and gathered evidence finally paid off when Anne-Katrin and Ed contacted the New York Times who immediately put a reporter on the story. 
And the rest, as they say, is history.
The story broke nationally and for the first time New Yorkers were learning that even the wildlife in their public parks was not safe from reckless, heartless and irresponsible bureaucratic decisions resulting in mass, clandestine animal massacres.
What is perhaps most troubling about this series of events is the way questioning park goers were initially lied to about what had occurred.
How can a concerned public be involved in community decisions when it is being lied to and deliberately mislead?
Cover-ups and denials of truths are generally considered serious crimes which, in one case, brought down a Presidency in this country.
To this day, it is still not clear who specifically lied about the Prospect Park goose gassings and if these individuals were ever held accountable for the unconscionable lies and attempted cover-up.
However, what inevitably occurs in instances like these is an erosion of public trust.
In other areas of the city where goose roundups and gassings occurred, were questioning park goers similarly lied to?
We have to suspect so. And we also have to suspect that perhaps not being as avian savvy  as Titze and Bahlman, the people believed what they were told.
That would explain why, though these hideous and cruel roundups and gassings occurred in other areas of the city, the media only focused on Prospect Park.
The difference is that two informed and aware park goers did not buy the lies and instead, took decisive action to expose the truth.
Another question that has to be raised in these matters, is why did goose gassings occur at Prospect Park which is more than nine miles from the airports and not Central Park which is, in fact, closer to area airports?
The answer is simple.
It would have been much harder to get away with at Central Park.
Too many park goers to notice and question an early morning roundup of wildlife.  Too much media, too close by.  And too many wealthy Central Park contributors to raise hell if word of a park massacre of wildlife to get out.
So, what one learns in instances like these is that the whole truth is rarely what we are being told by those in decision-making positions.
Indeed, if the goose gassings were truly done strictly for "airline safety" concerns then the geese would have been rounded up and gassed at Central Park.
But, they weren't.
In addition to the obvious reason that a potential goose massacre at Central Park would have been much harder to hide and lie about, there is also the reality that there were not as many geese at Central Park as there obviously were at Prospect Park.
This goes to the other reason for the goose "cullings." --  That of alleged "overpopulation" of the geese at Prospect Park (though that is not what was officially stated.)
The reason overpopulation was not stated as the official reason for the PP goose massacre, is that under federal law, the use of non-lethal population control measures would have had to be implemented first before a lethal culling could be done.  Federal law also requires an "Environmental Impact Statement" and community notification before any lethal takings of protected wildlife.  (None of these measures were taken at Prospect Park and presumably other locations where goose gassings occcurred.)
The way to get around most of those federal requirements (with the exception of community notification) is to claim that the cullings are done for "airline safety."
But, once again, Prospect Park is outside the designated 7 mile radius from airports to justify killing the geese for "airline safety" reasons.
In essence, the real reasons the geese were rounded up at Prospect Park, trucked to Kennedy Airport and gassed were:
1-- Bureaucrats and various city officials decided there were "too many geese" at Prospect Park and rather than spend money implementing non-lethal alternatives for population control, it was easier and cheaper to hire the USDA to kill off the entire population of Prospect Park geese in the wee hours of the morning.
2-- Decision makers gambled that no one would notice the sudden disappearance of all the Prospect Park geese. If any park goers did notice and question, they would simply be told that the geese suddenly "flew away."  This, at a time when anyone knowledgeable about the flying limitations of molting geese would know such could not be possible.  Decision makers thus gambled that park goers are not knowledgeable about goose flying patterns and presumably want to keep them that way:  Uninformed.
But, ultimately, the difference between Prospect Park and the other locations where goose roundups and gassings were successfully carried out without media or public scrutiny, is that the gamble with Prospect Park did not pay off.
Two aware and informed park goers noticed, questioned and ultimately did not buy the lies.
Instead, they took it to the media and to the public.
That is the difference we need to see everywhere. -- PCA

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A (Sometimes Deadly) Numbers Game

 One of the reasons I have been borderline obsessive about trying to keep a daily and accurate count of the number of the geese at Central Park, is because these days, we have to be constantly on top of the situation if we care about protecting the wildlife in our parks.
I regret that, although observing waterfowl at the park last year, I did not keep an actual count or log of the geese seen and exactly where and when.  Nor, did I differentiate between "migratory" and "resident" geese observed.
That all changed of course, with the roundups and gassings of the entire resident goose population at Prospect Park on July 8th last year.
Gassings that in fact, occurred in other city parks and locations (not Central Park) and added up to more than 2,600 Canada geese from New York City being massacred. Most of it without public knowledge.
However, since I did not keep an actual count of geese last year, I cannot say for sure now if the numbers seen presently are higher or lower than in recent years.
It "seems" to me that they are in fact, lower. But, I have no actual evidence to point to that.
The reason why this "numbers game" becomes so critical is because it obviously determines what happens (or doesn't) to the geese in our public parks.
Since the Prospect Park goose gassings last summer, other geese flew into the park at various times appearing to the fill the spaces of those killed.
But, the key word in that sentence is, "appearing."
The reality however, is that migrating geese do not fill the vacuums created by massacres of resident geese.   Rather, the traveling geese take up temporary residence for a while and then move on to either wintering locations (in late fall) or nesting and molting sites in the spring and summer.
That is what seems to be happening in Prospect Park now from all pedestrian reports and goose counts we currently have.
Whatever geese moved in temporarily to winter in the park or stopped over briefly during spring migrations appear to be moving on now to established nesting or molting sites.
And the key word in that sentence is, "established."
The fact is, that there is NO established goose population to perceive Prospect Park the "home base" now as the established geese were all wiped out last summer.
But, what about the "egg addling" program that has been promised for the new geese at PP this spring?
First guess is that it probably isn't necessary since PP is not a home (nesting) base for any geese who are currently there.
But, even if a few new geese might attempt to breed, it would be to establish a home base.
If the eggs are oiled, then such would prevent that from happening and essentially keep empty the location, from any actual "resident" or long term geese.
While a case can be made for egg addling in locations where established goose families might be breeding beyond the human tolerance level, how can that same case be made for areas where the entire resident goose population has been decimated?
Even Central Park allowed two resident goose families to procreate last year and none of the geese were rounded up and gassed.
And yet, even now, Central Park is not being over-run with populations of reproducing geese.
The only Central Park geese I personally observe nesting are the same two parent geese from Turtle Pond who have returned to the same breeding site this year.  (Presumably, the case might be the same in the south end of Central Park where two mated geese apparently produced offspring last year.  That is, presuming the parent geese survived the winter.)
Meanwhile, the general resident goose numbers in Central Park remain quite low.
Only four at Turtle Pond right now.  Sixteen at Harlem Meer as of yesterday.  None seen at the Pond.  And only two at the lake.
Because Canada geese have been under such assault nation-wide due mostly to exaggerated claims of "overpopulation," (or citing of inflated numbers during migrations and temporary stopovers),  it is absolutely critical that all those who care about wildlife, (especially those animals in our parks) be able to log and document actual resident numbers, as well as be able to project likely reproduction patterns in the future.
Of course, "non-lethal" measures of population control have a place in some of our interactions with wildlife these days and are certainly preferable to extermination campaigns.
But, the question becomes, are they necessary or even desirable -- especially in areas where wildlife populations have already been decimated either naturally or via human hands?
The goal after all, should not be extinction of all resident populations of geese -- especially since the numbers of migrating geese are already lower and under threat.  -- PCA

Monday, April 18, 2011

Joy for the Geese Has No Human Boundaires

(Photos:  Papa goose all alone for the moment;  Dads with toddlers enjoying the geese at Turtle Pond; Brad and Angelina finally relaxing; Mama goose sitting steadfastly on eggs.)
The other day, I speculated that the five yearling goslings at Turtle Pond might chase off the three remaining, visiting geese.
That appears to be true.  Only, it looks like three of the goslings went along with them!
Wouldn't it be funny, if after all the bickering and posturing, they all paired up with each other and took off for other adventures around the park?
Only two goslings were at Turtle Pond yesterday, bringing up the grand total of geese presently there now to four.   Mommy, Daddy and the two remaining yearlings.
The two youngsters entertained toddlers and their dads at one end of the pond.  While Papa goose continued to monitor the western end of Turtle Pond, occasionally stopping by the pier to greet people or request a handout.
Other times, Papa returned to sun himself and rest on one of the small rocks near the pier.
Daddy seems to be resting a lot these days.  Presumably that is in preparation for the stresses that raising a new family will bring to him and his mate in less than a month.
Mama goose, meanwhile continues to steadfastly sit on her eggs, barely moving, except to occasionally change position.
It is clear now why Papa goose forwent so many offers for food earlier to enable his mate to eat almost everything.
It doesn't appear that when sitting on eggs, the female goose take much time to eat.  They presumably live mostly on fat reserves.
But, Papa is eating well these days.  That is presumably because once the new family arrives, Papa will spend most of his time on "sentry" duty.  So vigilant are ganders in protecting their mates and goslings, they rarely take time to lower their heads to nibble on grass. 
Rather, they are almost always in "heads up," guard position -- especially at night.
After checking the goose situation at Turtle Pond, I walked with my dogs later in the day to Harlem Meer to see what the update was there.
Sure enough, in addition to the five "regular" pairs of mated geese already there, there appeared to be about six new ones!
Were those the three goslings and their three new friends from Turtle Pond?
One could of course not be sure, but its as good a guess as any.
I know that the goose family from Turtle Pond did spend some time at the Meer, once the goslings learned to fly last year, so the turf would not be foreign to them.  Moreover, this time of the year (when most of the migratory geese have moved on) the remaining "resident" geese would not move far from the park itself.
These days, the remaining mallards and geese at Central Park seem to spend a good deal of time flying around and checking out other locations.  Perhaps it is an exploratory and adventurous time for the younger birds who are not nesting, but rather getting to know each other, as well as their general terrain.
There were even two geese swimming in the Reservoir yesterday!
Certainly, it is difficult to get any kind of real "handle" on the number of geese (or mallards) at any given location in the park these days, as it varies from day to day.
The only birds remaining "constant" are the older, mated pairs or the flightless, domestic ducks at Harlem Meer.
Speaking of which, Angelina seems to be once again, going through the motions of nesting, though I don't believe she actually lays any eggs.
Last year around this time, Angelina spent about a week or two, sitting in an area under the big Willow tree near the Dana Discovery Center.
I was worried then, that she might be sick as she didn't seem interested in either eating or swimming around. 
But, then she perked up again and returned to swimming around with her mate, Brad.
Well, yesterday, it was the same thing.
Angelina perched and relaxing under the tree and barely moving around.
Meanwhile, her mate, Brad stayed with her part of the time, but then swam around in the lake not far from her other times.
I wonder if "false pregnancies" occur in ducks?
Anyway, I am not going to "panic" this time, but rather presume that Angelina might go through these motions every spring. 
Or, perhaps it simply is a case that in view of the hardships and lack of rest these birds experienced over the harsh and grueling winter, they are finally able to take it easy and relax a little during the much easier spring.
Still, so many questions and so few real answers, as much as speculations.
Meanwhile, some adolescent kids seemed to enjoy tossing some crackers and treats out for the geese and few ducks yesterday.  
I even noted that some person left what appeared to be fresh broccoli stalks for the geese.
Indeed, the main thought I came away with yesterday from a Sunday in the park, was how the love of geese (particularly) seems to pass across all ages, races and even the two genders.
It was two Caucasian dads with their young toddlers who fed and took great joy in the two geese at Turtle Pond yesterday.
It was teenage African American kids and an older Latino woman enjoying and offering treats to the geese at Harlem Meer.
Love and joy for the geese in our city parks has no boundaries among their human admirers. --- PCA

Saturday, April 16, 2011

New Life?

Ah, the changes of spring and how rapidly they occur!
Although most of the trees are still in transition from winter to spring with millions of small buds popping out, the cherry blossoms are almost in full bloom now throughout much of Central Park, as are many new flower plants.
New burgeoning life all over.
New life may also be happening for the geese at Turtle Pond.
But, first the established family seems very busy now in pushing the visiting geese out.
As previously mentioned, Mama and Papa goose returned to Turtle Pond more than a month ago with their five grown goslings who were hatched at the pond last May.
A short time after they arrived, however, a couple of other goose families appeared to join them.
For a brief while, things looked peaceful but a bit "goose crowded" on the pond with as many as 20 to 25 geese sharing the water.
But, around that time, the parent geese separated themselves from their goslings and papa goose especially started to lay down the rules that the west side of Turtle Pond was completely off limits to ALL the other geese, including his own grown kids.  
Any goose (whether family or not)  who dared cross the invisible line separating one half of the pond from the other, was quickly and aggressively admonished by papa goose flying straight across at the offending goose, cuffing and occasionally even pushing under the water.
It was quite a scene and one which still continues today.
Only by now, the younger geese have learned the invisible line and rarely if ever transgress it.
But, in recent days, the yearling goslings have also taken on the role of territorial protectors of the pond.
They have become far less welcoming of the visiting geese and in fact, have been intimidating and chasing them off via loud honking and intimidating body postures.
I shot this short video two days ago of two of the goslings first "discussing" and then threatening the other geese:
It should have probably come as no surprise then, that when visiting Turtle Pond yesterday, only three of the original visiting geese still stubbornly remained.
But, even they were continuing to be pressured and intimidated by the goslings born at the pond last year.
Papa goose has trained his kids well.
Meanwhile, things have changed for Mama and Papa goose, too.
I was a little alarmed two days ago when, for the first time, seeing Papa goose all alone on one of the small rocks of the west side of the pond.
The first thought was, did something happen to mama?  
She was no where to be seen! -- Not even in the little island area in back of the rock that Papa was standing on.
Of course, the first realization that should have occurred was the probability that mama might be nesting again.
Unfortunately, the sad events from last spring at Harlem Meer still linger in my head: 
During that period, Joey's two (pekin duck) siblings vanished from the meer never to be seen again.  I wanted to believe at first that the two sisters were nesting someplace, but later learned from a park ranger that they were likely victims of human cruelty.
At the same time, the female swan of the pair, "Romeo and Juliet" was found dead one May morning.  (An autopsy later indicated she had died from Botulism.)   Two weeks later, her bereaved mate, (after searching all over for her) vanished from the Meer, never to be seen again.
So yes, last spring was rough in terms of some of the waterfowl life at Central Park.
I feared when not seeing Mama goose on Thursday evening, that the same might be happening again.
But, papa goose did not appear to be in any kind of "berevement" and on the contrary, was still very attentive to his sentry duties, flying across and cuffing one errant goose tripping over the invisible separation line at one point.
I decided to return to Turtle Pond yesterday morning to look for Mama goose as it had already started to get dark the other evening.
I recalled how another bird observer told me that Mama goose had laid her eggs somewhere in the rocks under Belvedere Castle last year.
So, I traversed the area around the castle carefully looking down over the rocks.
And yes!   There was mama, carefully hidden away, in high weeds and on rock crevices sitting on what obviously is a nest!
She was actually very hard to see with her colors blending into the grey and browns surrounding her.   I took out my camera and zoomed in as best I could to photograph mama goose who was in fact, very far away and totally blended in with her rocky background.
Have park officials discovered the nest and oiled the eggs?
I have no way of knowing that and don't want to ask for obvious reasons.
It is pretty clear however, that both Mama and Papa goose are taking great pains to keep the nesting place as secret and inaccessible as they can.  (Certainly, it would not be an easy feat to get to the nest and eggs hidden in jagged portions of rock.)    Even papa goose seems to be taking extra precautions not to be too close to the nesting area for supposed fear of giving it away.
As has been conjectured in this journal recently, Canada geese are extremely wary, protective and adaptable animals.  Will wide spread egg addling (destruction) cause the geese to adapt behavior and take extra measures to lay eggs in strange and inaccessible areas?   Will they adapt creative and wily measures to hide nests and eggs? 
I can't obviously say for sure, but that does seem to be the case with the parent geese from Turtle Pond.
Meanwhile, the whole family is engaged these days in either chasing or keeping other geese out of the "home nesting turf."
Why do we need Border Collies or for that matter, egg addling if the geese themselves do the job of "harassment" and maintaining a population suitable to the environment?
I have an idea that when returning to Turtle Pond the next time, that even the three visiting and remaining geese will be long gone.
Mama and Papa (and now their grown kids) "rule" at Turtle Pond. 
Presuming the new eggs actually hatch next month, no other geese will be welcomed at Turtle Pond for the remainder of the spring and much of the summer.  -- PCA