Sunday, July 10, 2011
"BrAdgelina," No More
(Photos: "BrAdgelina" in more peaceful times. Brad, yesterday alone with the geese at Harlem Meer. A Commerant, next to a goose at the Meer yesterday.)
Angelina, the flightless Khaki Campbell duck and long time mate to Brad (a flightless Rhoen duck) mysteriously vanished from Harlem Meer two weeks ago.
I knew immediately Angelina was gone when seeing Brad alone and aimlessly wandering in the lake during the evening hours. These two ducks were never separated at night in the few years I had known them.
At first, I tried lying to myself, that perhaps Angelina just wanted to rest that particular evening and that I should not panic.
But, I knew I would never see her again.
Since that terrible evening, I have been back to Meer at least a dozen times, both day and night and searched, but Angelina is long gone. -- Just like the two flightless, peking ducks who vanished last year in the spring and the various swans over the past two years.
Harlem Meer is not a kind place for the waterfowl in the spring and summer.
If the fishing lines and hooks don't get the birds, than cruel people or kids do.
It has mostly been hard to watch the impacts of this profound loss on Brad, the surviving mate to Angelina.
For several days, Brad swam all around the lake, searching vainly for his lost love.
At one point, Brad trotted enthusiastically on an embankment and up to a female mallard, who, from a distance looked a bit like Angelina. But, quickly realizing his mistake, Brad forlornly returned to the water.
Since then, Brad has been mostly hanging out with the eight geese who miraculously still remain alive at Harlem Meer. I imagine he is doing that for a sense of safety and protection.
Although Brad knows me for several years, he does not come up to me anymore. I understand (and actually applaud) the new fear and distrust. Brad has to be that way now as mere matter of survival.
Gone is the confidence, toughness and bravado that Brad so displayed when he and his beautiful mate ruled Harlem Meer with flightless, but iron wings.
These days, Brad is just a flightless and vulnerable duck without a mate or a flock.
But, the kindly geese have willingly accepted Brad and seemingly offer him their protection -- at least to the degree the geese are able to offer any protection to other species when their own is so under attack from humans and the USDA.
I worry greatly for Brad when the Central Park "goose harassment" program kicks into high gear in another month or so.
Brad will not be able to escape and fly away with the geese and the mallards.
Rather, Brad will simply be alone and a literal "sitting target" on a watercourse fraught with all kind of dangers (to flightless waterfowl) from fishing hooks and lines, to kids throwing rocks and sticks at the birds to those cretins who try and grab flightless birds to "take home for dinner." (I suspect that is what happened to Angelina who, in my view, used to take too many chances wandering around on the grass in warm weather.)
I of course, brought these concerns up recently to two Central Park Rangers who tried to convince me that Angelina was the victim to a "hawk" or some other creature of nature, but I don't for a minute believe that.
These two birds knew very well how to avoid predations by hawks or other predators and for the most part, they were wary of people, too. But, there was that "confidence" and risk-taking tendency on the part of Angelina. It was something that concerned me on more than one occasion. Sometimes, I tried to chase Angelina back to the safety of the lake and its banks. But, she was a stubborn duck in doing what she wanted and felt comfortable doing.
Obviously, on one evening, Angelina pushed that confidence and luck too far.
I begged the park rangers to allow me to arrange rescue and sanctuary for Brad, the now only surviving flightless duck of the Meer. (It is against the law to remove wild birds from the parks -- though obviously ill meaning people do it.)
But, despite my pleadings to do things "by the rules" they have fallen on deaf ears.
"We don't allow rescues of healthy birds," I have been repeatedly told. -- Even though Brad has absolutely NO change to survive a frozen Harlem Meer in winter without the help, at least of his flightless mate.
The one "concession" I got from rangers is that perhaps when winter comes, they would be willing to look at rescue possibility.
But, I frankly don't think Brad will make it to the winter.
There is the "goose harassment" to think about and that is only weeks away.
Yesterday morning, I went to the Meer again and found Brad, as usual, right next to the eight geese and a few mallards. A lone cammorant also hung with the geese and in fact, stood peacefully right next to a goose.
All the birds were huddled together in a small, fenced in area near the Dana Center.
Relieved and happy to see Brad once again (as he is usually invisible at night when hiding with the geese in the middle of the lake), I tossed him some wild bird seed, which Brad and the smaller birds love. (The geese all remained in their sentry positions and did not move or approach the food.)
An older, white woman then approached me and came up to my face.
Removing my music head phones to hear what the woman was saying, I thought she had some comment about my two dogs resting peacefully by my side.
But, instead the woman waved a finger in my face and then pointed to a sign.
"Can't your read the sign that says not to feed the wildlife?" she said in an accusatory, nasty tone.
Suddenly, a rage swelled up inside me, as I thought about all the geese being slaughtered around the city and the disappearance of Angelina two weeks ago.
"YES, I can read the sign, lady. And here is what I think of it and YOU......"
I then launched into a long tirade of expletitives, punctuated by several, "YOU WANT TO KILL THEM ALLS?"
Suddenly looking shocked and scared, the woman backed off and sought retreat next to three bystanders.
But, it was clear the three young people wanted no part of the frey and moved away from the woman.
Having completed taking some photos and tossing the small amount of treats to the birds, I was ready to leave Harlem Meer, but had to pass the woman who was still standing with a frozen look on her face.
I thought about going in the other direction, but decided not to be intimidated.
I grabbed my two dogs and passed the woman, glaring at her in the process.
"YOU WANNA KILL ALL THE BIRDS, LADY? IS THAT WHAT CREEPS LIKE YOU WANT -- SO THERE CAN BE MORE OF YOU?"
God forgive me, but I hated that woman for that moment of time.
She represented all that has gone wrong in our relationship with nature and the endlessly persecuted and now, extremely wary, scared and protective geese.
The geese, who Brad now has to cling to for whatever chance of survival he has.
"BrAdgelina," no more. -- PCA