Wednesday, May 4, 2011

City Park Airports?

(Photo:  Brad and Angelina.  -- It's apparently a good thing they can only fly a couple of feet off the ground.)
Its been a good week for fishes, so far.
The fish at Turtle Pond don't have to worry about being "air-boarded" (i.e. hooked, pulled out of water, held up, photographed and then tossed back, half dead) and the fishes in the Arabian ocean enjoyed a hearty and easy dinner this past Sunday.
The picture for birds, however (particularly any living near airports) is less optimistic.
As described yesterday, both in this blog and a recent article from the Wall Street Journal, the shooting and other culling programs of birds anywhere near airports is indeed moving forward.  The falcon who worked Kennedy Airport has been relegated to chasing gulls near garbage dumps in favor of the more "economical" guns and goose gassings near the airports.
Last night, I walked with my dogs from the Upper East Side of Central Park to Harlem Meer to check the waterfowl situation there.  
The two mile walk to the Meer and back encompassed a little less than 90 minutes.
At the very minimum, there were at least 25 - 30 airliners that flew directly over the park, one after the other, heading towards LaGuardia airport.
One might think the airport was located at the north end of the park, the planes were flying so low.
When reaching the Meer, I was struck by how few geese and ducks are actually there.
Granted, I did not walk around the entire lake and it was dark.
But, I counted only 3 pairs of geese either swimming in the water or settled on the south embankment.  And there were only a handful of mallards, mostly drakes.
Brad and Angelina (the mated, domestic ducks) were there, also resting on the south embankment, not far from one pair of geese. 
Brad is particularly ornery these days, intimidating and chasing off every unfortunate mallard who wanders too close to the long, established pair. (Brad can actually fly a couple feet off the ground and often chases other ducks into the water.) 
Though I always offer BrAdgelina some cracked corn, Brad is more interested in harassing the other ducks these days than eating.    I am so relieved Joey (the white, Pekin duck who had to be rescued over the winter) is no longer there.  Though Brad calculatingly welcomed Joey into the fold when the lake was freezing over and help was needed to keep an open pool of water, there's little doubt, the tough and wily duck would be trying to drown Joey now -- as he attempted to do last summer.
Spring is a whole different kettle of corn than winter.
Even the wary geese know enough to keep their distance from the bullying Brad and Angelina, though the shrewd ducks elect to stay close to the geese, presumably for safety and security reasons.
The gander of the goose pair walked up to me and gently ate some cracked corn from my hand, while his mate stayed a few feet back.   Apparently, these two geese knew me, but I did not recognize them.
After a few minutes, some loud honking came from the other end of the lake.  Then, a pair of geese took to the sky, flying very low and directly overhead and apparently announcing that they were either leaving the Meer or simply flying to the other side of the lake.
The gander who I was feeding, stopped, looked up alertly and similarly honked loudly!
."OK, guys, see ya later.  Have a nice night!"   
He and his lady then went back to casually eating.
I thought the scene really cute.
A couple of moments later, I too, bade goodnight to the birds, admonishing Brad however, for his bad behavior. 
"Come on, Brad, you need to learn to be NICE!"
But, Brad just looked at me disdainfully as if to say, "I know this lake and the birds here better than you do!  The other duckies need to know their place!"
OK.  Whatever.   "Have a nice night guys.  NO fighting!  See ya in a couple of days!"
Walking home, I mulled over some of the things learned this past week:
"Low food supplies in the parks for waterfowl in the spring."
I don't know.  That just didn't seem to gel a whole lot with what I was seeing.
I used to bring so much food in the winter every night for BrAdgelina and whatever waterfowl were there.  The mallards were usually so desperate for food, they tried to follow me home several times!
Now, Brad particularly,  is more interested in rule enforcement and intimidating than eating. Moreover, I only bring a small sandwich bag of cracked corn when I go to the Meer these days and I don't go everyday.  The birds simply don't strike me as that hungry.
And yet, Martin Lowney of the USDA also seemed to concur that food supplies were lower in the spring for the waterfowl here.  He told me that ducks "eat mostly insects."
But, what insects are around in the dead of winter?  Would they not be more prevalent now?  (Or, maybe not with all the park pesticide sprayings in the spring and summer?)
I really don't understand the food questions.  Or, particularly why "No Feeding of Waterfowl" signs would be up, if the birds are actually starving for food in the spring.  Could they not use a little help if that be the case?
Noticing the planes flying low overhead on the walk back from the Meer, I regretted not actually having counting them.
"Shooting (or gassing) the birds near airports is the only thing that is effective to protect the flying public."
But, aren't the planes flying into the bird's space in our parks rather than the other way around?
Last night I counted only two geese flying in Central Park.
But, there had to be at least 25 planes that flew over the park in less than 90 minutes -- and I was only in one section.
I guess its a good thing that Brad and Angelina can only fly a couple of feet off the ground.
I didn't realize our city parks had become airports.  -- PCA 

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