Monday, July 11, 2011
If Saturday morning's encounter with humanity at Central Park was a tough slog, last night's interactions with those of my own species were infinitely much more pleasant -- though I can't say it was all good news for the birds.
When arriving to Turtle Pond with my dogs shortly before dusk, I was surprised to find a group of people engaged in highly animated conversation on the little pier overlooking the pond.
One of the women recognized and walked up to me.
"You'll never guess what happened here just a little while ago!" Kathy exclaimed, with an exasperated look on her face.
Not venturing to guess, I simply looked surprised and Kathy filled me in.
"Two guys were fishing here a little while ago. They hooked a duckling by the neck! They then pulled the ducking by the neck out of the water, took out the hook and threw her back in the water. It was awful! We had to get the cops to chase the guys away. In fact, the police are still over there," she added pointing in the direction of the Great Lawn.
"Oh my God, that is terrible!" I replied, feeling totally disgusted. "Where is the duck? Is she OK?"
"Well, she swam away and seems to be hiding. We're not sure how she is doing. It all happened so fast."
The other people on the deck verified Kathy's story. Each one was more horrified than the other; each one questioned why the fishing was allowed at Turtle Pond after decades of being banned in the small and heavily human congested location. As its name implies, Turtle Pond is mostly filled with turtles. Ducks, egrets, herons and the occasionally Canada geese also live around the pond.
Wanting to add my voice to official complaint, I excused myself from the small group of nature lovers and hurried to catch up to the police before they left the area of the Great Lawn.
"Hi," I said, walking over to the cops with a half smile on my face. "I want to register a complaint about the fishing here at Turtle Pond, along with the other folks."
The two youngish cops were very cordial and professional, but seemed somewhat perturbed about leaving important duties to attend to something like this.
"Unfortunately, we cannot patrol these guys all the time," one of the cops said. "All we could do is tell them to leave and not return here again on threat of a summons. But, we didn't have evidence of animal cruelty as they had already released the duck. So far, no one's been able to find the duck. Hopefully, its OK."
"You know, fishing has never been allowed here," I said. "Why are these guys coming here when they can fish everywhere else in the city and the park?"
"They're just lazy." the other policeman offered, matter of factly.
"Well, laziness is not an excuse for maiming wildlife!"
"You might try to attend one of the park's meetings and complain," one of the cops suggested. "Think they have 'em about once a month or so. Look it up on Central Park.com. Unfortunately, the only thing we could do with these guys is make them leave."
"Too bad you couldn't get rid of all of them," I smiled, while thanking the cops for the information and bidding good night.
I returned to Kathy and the other people and explained the suggestion about meetings and CentralPark.com. But, when Kathy pulled up the site on her cell phone, there was nothing about public meetings.
"Listen, why don't we exchange phone numbers and try to be in touch when stuff like this happens?" I suggested. "We need to start thinking about getting organized to get the fishing out of this area."
Kathy agreed and we traded phone numbers.
It was starting to get dark and I still wanted to get over to the lake to visit with my special family of geese. I said goodnight to the group of about six people and thanked them for looking out for the birds and other wildlife of Turtle Pond. Without people like these, the park's wildlife would be in far more dire straits than it already is.
Walking towards the Central Park Lake, I was hoping no one would be on the rock formation where I like to spend time with my geese. With a small bag of bird seed in my pocket, I didn't want a repeat of Saturday's incident at Harlem Meer. I was not in the mood for another battle scene.
But, a young, dark haired man was sitting on the rocks, listening to music.
Well, not to fret. I still had to find the geese and hope they would come to me.
Sure enough, Mama, Papa, their five grown goslings from last year and the three hangers-on were all sitting quietly on their favorite rock in the middle of the lake (obviously, a very safe place for them, as no one can get to it.)
From a small area behind a fence in the Rambles, I stood and called out to them.
And within a minute, all the geese started leaving the rock, one by one and swimming towards my direction.
I then had to get over to the other rocks as that is the only place I can actually interact with the geese!
I really didn't give a damn about the young guy there at that point. If he wanted to do battle with me over feeding treats to the geese, I was ready.
"Hi guys! Here I am! You're all looking so beautiful tonight!" I motioned at the edge of the rock as the geese started climbing on, one by one, Papa being the first one to embark.
(OK, if the young fellow behind me thinks me totally nuts, that is fine, too!)
I sat down on the rocks as the goslings all came up to me nibbling the seed from my outstretched hand. Papa stood further back and took on sentry duty for the group. Mama joined the other geese in taking treats from my hand.
This little scene continued for some minutes with me occasionally correcting the more assertive geese. "Come on! You need to leave some for your Mama and siblings!"
I tossed some seed on the rock for the shyer or slower geese. I wanted to be sure Papa got some. But, it seemed most preferred to eat from my hand.
"Hm, for some reason, they like it better from my hand than on the ground," I said out loud, almost to myself.
"They seem to know you," the voice from behind me said with a slight Spanish accent.
"Oh yes!" I laughed. "They know me from last year when the Mama and Papa had their babies. The babies are all grown up now. This is actually a family of geese!"
The young man and I then talked for about ten minutes. He was interested in learning more about the geese and I was only too happy to chat on about some of my favorite animals on the planet.
"They are so beautiful and sweet," the young man finally said. "I had no idea they were that gentle. Thank you for educating me."
"Yes, they are," I smiled. "Very beautiful. And thank you for listening."
And with that, the young man left and I was at last alone with the geese.
But, by that time, most of the seed was gone and the geese too were beginning to depart to return presumably to their safe night spots.
"Good night, guys! God be with you," I murmured softly, waving my hand.
And as I watched the geese leisurely swimming in a straight line under the moonlight, I thought there are few scenes in life as beautiful and as peaceful as this one.
But, then the moment was interrupted by the sounds of women's voices walking behind me through the Rambles.
I thought it a bit strange for women to be wandering through the Rambles at night. It is a very dark and wooded kind of area with many small, winding pathways. Easy to get lost on.
Then, a few minutes later, the women returned and one of them asked if I knew how to get out of there?
I laughed. "Sure. Here, let me guide you. I was just about to leave anyway with my dogs."
The six women were from Holland and visiting New York City.
We chatted and laughed while exiting the narrow and dark little paths.
"Hope you'll be around, if I ever get lost in Holland," I joked, while pointing them to nearest park exit.
I guess its a good thing I was there last night or they might still be wandering around the Rambles.
Returning home by way of the Reservoir, I could make out in the distance, forms of geese gliding gently upon the water, under the moonlight.
Few visions in life more beautiful than that one. And I was lucky on this night to see it twice.
But, it is a vision, we have to fight to protect.
The incident involving the fisherman and the maimed duckling still playing in my head, I returned home and started a new and special Facebook Page for all the animals and birds of Central Park:
Hopefully, Kathy and her friends find their way there.
If the fisherman can organize to take over our city park lakes, streams and ponds, its time we who love birds and nature started to "push back" for the sake of all the animals who try to survive in and on our city park watercourses.
We need to keep that vision of the geese and ducks peacefully gliding under the moonlight a reality. -- PCA