Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"And Then There Were None"

(Photo:  "Memories"  -- Some of the 50 or so geese at Harlem Meer, this time last summer.  Fast forward to now, there are currently NO geese at the Meer.  One has to sadly presume that most or all of the social and gregarious geese in this photo are now dead.)
I returned to Harlem Meer last night.
And unlike the photo posted here (taken last year at this time), there were still no geese at all and indeed, not a whole lot of ducks either. 
The park itself appeared to be unscathed by Hurricane Irene. All the trees were standing and everything appeared to be "normal."
"Normal" that is, if one doesn't have photos from the past for this time of year.
This morning, I inserted an old memory card in my computer and looked through a bunch of photos going back as far as the winter of 2009-2010.
There is no question that there were many more geese in Central Park during that time frame than there were this past winter.
But, even more alarming is the comparison of goose numbers in the park during the spring of 2010 and the spring of this year, as well as particularly late summer numbers.
Last year at this time there were at least 50 to 60 geese at Harlem Meer (down about 30 or 40 from the year before).
This year there are zero.
One has to conclude that either the NYC goose population has been severely decimated due to the USDA goose roundups and killings over the past few years or that Central Park has recently employed goose harassment even when goose numbers are at their lowest level in years and certainly would not warrant any kind of harassment.
So far, I have not been able to ascertain from anyone at Central Park Conservancy whether goose harassment has been used in recent weeks, but it would not make sense if it was.
I personally believe the more likely explanation for the absence of geese in CP is that the general population has been severely depleted and there are simply no geese to fly into Central Park as has been the case in the past.
Of course, it could be argued that the geese are simply hanging out in other areas of the city.
But,  this is where it becomes very difficult to know what is happening exactly.
We presently don't seem to have a way to know how many "resident" geese are in other parts of the city.
That is, unless we find a way to motivate other geese or bird lovers from around the city to observe and report numbers to us.
Currently, people are monitoring and reporting goose numbers from Prospect Park and Inwood Park, both of which still have small populations of geese.
But, the current population of geese at Prospect Park is down at least 50% from what it was the same time last year.
Moreover, one needs to consider that the entire population of resident geese at Prospect Park was wiped out in the summer of 2010.  Six weeks later, 107 new geese flew into the park.
But, this year, apparently few or no new geese have flown in to Prospect Park. The roughly 40 geese at PP now is similar to the same number that molted there over the summer.
Geese are flock birds.  The key to their survival is to be able to "gather" in large numbers prior to winter and spring migrations.
We have to keep in mind that geese are a heavily hunted species.  Especially now, as expanded and "early hunting seasons" are occurring all over on the geese -- especially in the north eastern states.
Unless migrating in huge numbers, the likelihood is that small gaggles of flying geese in the fall will be entirely taken out by hunters.
For those New Yorkers still enjoying some geese in their local parks, what I write here is probably sounding very "alarmist."
But, I was one of those New Yorkers last year.
Sure, I had become aware of the USDA roundups around the city and I was obviously very unhappy about them.
But, as long as I knew the roundups and killings had not occurred in Central Park and as long as I was still seeing a decent number of geese arriving and staying at Central Park for various periods of time, I was reasonably confident that they were "safe."
But, I now realize I was wrong in the conjecture.
Today, when looking at the geese who "used to be" in Central Park at this time of year, I am forced to conclude that either all or most of the geese in the photos are now dead.
Were that not the case, they would be at Harlem Meer right now.
So, for those who still have some geese in their local parks now, it is critical to both, observe, count, record and share numbers.  (Nothing can be taken for granted.)
In less than a week's time, I will post a web and email address to report the numbers to.
We will need to be able to accurately document "resident" goose numbers still in our city particularly during early fall (before migratory birds fly in) and early spring (when migratory geese have left) or whatever resident geese still remain will be subject to roundup and slaughter next summer.
Unless we are able to record, document and challenge numbers, then those still seeing geese now in their local parks will be experiencing next year, what I am seeing and recording now:
"And then there were none."  
We will only have old photos to look back upon and wonder why we did not become more proactive for the geese a lot sooner? 
"And then there were none" can be, like extinction, forever.  -- PCA

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pussy Woose Dogs, Pedicure Traumas and MIA Geese

With Central Park digging out from Irene, the geese still MIA and the outdoor pools closed yesterday, I decided to take my two dogs to the vet for their annual "pedicure." 
Tina and Chance don't actually need pedicures because their nails get worn down from their long daily walks.
However, the "dew claws" don't reach the ground and thus have tendency to grow very long and in worst case scenario, curl around the feet.
I have a professional nail clipper, but both dogs turn into total "pussy woosies" when I attempt to cut their dew claws.
So, it was off to the vet yesterday as I feared that Tina, my Corgi-Spitz mix,  might especially need to be put under anesthesia for the procedure. -- She is that much of a "chicken" when it comes to anything medical or even cosmetic.
It turns out that the two vet techs who did the nail trims didn't put my poor Tina under the sweet oblivion of anesthesia.
I and the three other people in the waiting room were thus treated to  ear-splitting shrieks emanating from one of the treatment rooms at the vet clinic:
Stunned and concerned looks on the other people's faces (as it sounded like a dog was being slaughtered), I offered meekly, "Oh, that must be my Tina.  She doesn't like getting her nails trimmed."
Tina was finally brought out, no worse for the horrible trauma she had just been put through.
"She doesn't seem to like pedicures," the vet tech offered with a slightly embarrassed look on her face.
"That's why I have to bring her here," I replied.  "She's very,,,er,,,huh.... sensitive about stuff like that."
The young woman then reluctantly brought Chance, my Pomeranian back for the dreaded procedure.
"Don't worry about him," I said reassuringly.  "I was actually able to cut one of his dew claws, but the other one is curled around his foot."
Chance was apparently a lot more cooperative, though the offending dew claw was far worse than Tina's.  No loud shrieks from him, though he was returned with a bandage on one of his feet, a very unhappy look on his face and a course of antibiotics.
Feeling guilty about the unimaginable horrors I had just put my two dogs through, I took them to Carl Shurtz Park for a walk in the grass and also to see if any geese might be lazing out in the park or swimming in the East River.
Not surprisingly however, there were no geese anywhere around Carl Shurtz Park or in the river.   I am not sure why the USDA has actually "surveyed" Carl Shurtz Park in the past for geese.  With the exception of seeing a couple of migratory geese in the river on one occasion, I have never seen geese in this location.
So, my search for the geese will still have to continue.....
Meanwhile, I brought my two dogs home and considered perhaps taking them to Central Park later in the evening.
But, both were totally worn out and spent from their nightmarish, traumatic day.
Without me even noticing, Chance had already successfully removed the bandage from his paw by the time we had made it home.
I should have known (and told the vet techs) that Chance is a dog who won't even tolerate a Santa hat on during Christmas.  The bandage didn't last ten minutes though that was at least nine minutes longer than the Santa hat.
I have always prided myself on having perhaps the two most "rugged" dogs in New York City.  Dogs who have no problem walking for miles in the snow,  rain storms, sub-freezing temperatures and even a blizzard. When younger (and allowed) Tina used to enthusiastically jump into lakes and swim!
But, try to trim a claw, put a hat (or GOD FORBID!) a coat on either one and both, Tina and Chance turn into the biggest pussie woosies on the planet!
In fact, I threatened Tina just a short while ago that I am considering changing her name to "Pussie Woose."
But, she looked at me with those big brown (and now, very tortured) eyes as if to say, "But, Mama, remember it was me who got you into the ducks and geese!"
And yes, it was indeed, the endless fascination for ducks and geese by Tina that introduced and drew me into the beautiful and intriguing world of our city park's waterfowl.  -- A world in which I find myself and my dogs now searching for the geese almost on a daily basis.
Well, as Scarlett O-Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day."
But, for today, Tina's name shall remain "Tina."
We shall just have to put the horrible pedicure trauma behind us -- at least for another year.  -- PCA

Monday, August 29, 2011

Aftermath and Going With the Flow

"The wind ain't blowing at all....."
I spoke a little too soon when writing those words yesterday.
Though barely a breeze blew on Manhattan's Upper East Side either before or during the actual hurricane, the aftermath was a slightly different story.
The trees were briskly swaying in the breezes yesterday as the last remnants of hurricane Irene left with a somewhat lively "goodbye."
So much so, that Central Park was forced to close for what is the first time that I am aware of.
Though disappointed that I could not check on how Brad and the other ducks at Harlem Meer faired during the storm, it seemed the move to close the park was both prudent and probably wise under the circumstances.
With the grounds entirely saturated and winds blowing up to 60 MPH yesterday in Manhattan, its more than likely that some or maybe even many trees in Central Park went down.
Remembering back on a conversation with a park ranger last year, the knowledge of this makes me sad, not only for the trees, but the hundreds of little creatures, including small birds that might live in one tree.
I am nevertheless hopeful that the damage and destruction is not as bad as one might suspect.
In my immediate area, for example, one wouldn't even know that a significant storm passed this way  -- well, with the exception of some leaves strewn upon the streets.
Most of the stores however, were closed both yesterday and most of Saturday with perhaps the exception of the 24 hour CVS which remained open throughout the hurricane without incident.
Yesterday, I was critical of Bloomberg and other city leaders for what I felt to be "extreme" over-reaction to a potential crisis.
I still feel that way, though realize I am in the minority in that deduction.
Most people interviewed or offering opinions praise Bloomberg and say, "It was better to be safe than sorry."
But, I cannot help wondering at what costs for all that "safety" and were all the actions necessary?
With the city, state and country in so much debt, how much did it cost to evacuate, transport and shelter thousands of people, close hospitals and nursing facilities, shut down all mass transit (and presumably thousands of small businesses whose employees had no way of getting to work) and overwhelm and frighten the public with numerous press conferences and non-stop media coverage?
Did we really need the mayor to tell us to come in out of the rain or that "nature can be dangerous?"
Even though I live in an area that is not noted for flooding and whose buildings don't normally fall apart during a storm, many people were nevertheless in a seeming panic.
Supermarkets were packed prior to the storm with people loading up on everything from batteries to canned goods to entire cartons of bottled water.  It was as though people expected to be marooned without electricity or running water for weeks!
But, was that a realistic fear under the circumstances?
I didn't think it was.
Nevertheless, when hearing that mass transit would be shut down, I figured many stores would in fact close. And so yes, I made sure to have those necessities that would be needed were the power to go out temporarily or stores might close for a few days.
But, I didn't feel it necessary to hog and hoard,  nor did I feel a sense of panic.
There was, in my view, no reason to send many thousands of people living in the higher ground level areas of the city into a panic.
But, I think that is exactly what Bloomie and the media did.
"Nature can be dangerous."
Did our public officials and the media just wake up to that (mostly remote) possibility?
Or, is that just the way they normally think?
Sure, nature can sometimes be dangerous.   But, it is also very resilient.
None of the tiny trees in my neighborhood, though planted just last year, went down.
And just as most of the trees learn to "go" and bend with the crushing winds and rain, so too, do we need to learn to be a little more resilient and less panicky -- especially when it comes to nature.
Respect the power and possibility of nature. But, never fear and think of it as "dangerous."
I love to swim and am a good swimmer. But, I have enough respect for the sheer power of water to realize I am no match for it -- particularly oceans prior to or during a storm.  The secret to endurance swimming is to relax and go with the water, rather than trying to fight, outsmart or overpower it. 
Nature usually isn't "dangerous" at all, when one learns to respect and flow with it.
I believe in many ways, we have become very disconnected from nature and have learned to fear (or even hate) rather than respect and just go with the flow of it.
(Maybe that is due to too many Lysol commercials?)
Certainly, our bizarre "relationship" with Canada geese is an excellent example of that.
Unfortunately, most of our culture (especially, public officials) seems to look at these birds as either "pests," "health threats" or shooting targets.
That is truly pathetic as there is so much we can learn and connect to about nature simply by observing these (and other) wondrous and magnificent birds.
But, we would rather shoot geese or make irrational claims that shoe contact with the droppings of nature is somehow going to inflict us with some flesh eating, deadly disease.
Pure lunacy.
We have taken "concerns for human safety" and fears of the "dangers" of nature to irrational levels that in many ways, defy common sense.
One can, after all,  wash their hands two hundreds times a day for "safety."
But, is that normally necessary, (assuming one is not a surgeon)?
But, nor was it necessary to practically shut down an entire city for the fear of a temporary act of nature.
Take those actions that are necessary and appropriate for those living in the most vulnerable areas.
And for the rest of the people, advise them to go with the flow and always, always respect the power and resiliency of nature. -- PCA

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Crying Wolf or Geese (Or, Bloomie's Bust)

Call it, "Bloomberg's Bust," "Cry Wolf" or the "Sky is Falling," but as of 4 AM on the Sunday morning of Hurricane Irene, neighbors across the hall had thrown a party and the curtains on my open windows hung lifelessly like a still photograph.
Indeed, it was barely raining outside.
Shortly after midnight, I took my dogs for their evening walk.
Streets were deserted, almost all stores were closed, NYC transit was shut down and there was barely a car on the streets.
One might think we were on the verge of the Apocalypse.
But, it was hard to understand exactly why.
Sure, it was raining, but nothing unlike anything we hadn't experienced before over the past few weeks.
(We have had the wettest August in NYC history, apparently.)
In fact, recent rainstorms were a hell of lot worse with lightening flashes like the Fourth of July and loud thunder bolts like bombs.   Floods, especially in New Jersey have seemingly become a daily event over this summer.
By contrast, Hurricane Irene for the most part, failed to bring even an anemic breeze, let alone lightening and thunder.
I am thinking of Irene as Bloomie's Bust or just one more example of our nursemaid Mayor's mad obsessions with "control" and over concern with his "legacy."
One can argue of course, that "it is better to be safe than sorry," but when does "safe" take on the dimensions of paranoia, hysteria, over reaction and in the case of resident park geese, mass massacres?
Apparently when we have a Mayor who thinks he was elected to become everyone's "mama" or nursemaid.
It is of course sad to hear that ten people lost their lives along the eastern seaboard due to the hurricane.
Several of them (including one child) perished due to falling tree branches and one 54-year-old surfer apparently died doing what he loved to do.  (In the latter case, "cause of death" should however, be recorded as stupidity.)
I am wondering if our Mayor will declare a "war on trees" tomorrow -- especially if any New Yorker should happen to succumb to a falling tree branch during the rain storm?
After all, a "war" on geese has been declared following the 2009 "Miracle of the Hudson" landing after the plane collided with two migratory geese from Canada on that fateful January day:
Two years later, the geese are still paying for that misfortunate accident, as are the people like myself for whom it is important to maintain some semblance of nature and wildlife in our public parks.
In truly looking at our Mama Mayor's "legacy" over the past decade, one has to wonder about his understanding of what being mayor actually means?
Bloomberg wasn't elected to tell us whether to breast or bottle feed babies, what to feed our children, what restaurants to go to, why we should go to public parks (to "exercise") or what we should do during a rainstorm.
He was elected mainly to see that the buses and trains run on time.
And right now, mass transit is not running at all.
All because of a little rain.
It should have been clear to most people with common sense that this hurricane barreling up the east coast wasn't going to represent the apocalyptic threat that it might have appeared on the "Doppler" weather maps or what our mayor was ordering hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to vacate their homes from.
It was, after all, loosely spread out over an area of 500 miles.
While that suggests a lot of rain, it was not so concentrated (like Hurricane Katrina) to forewarn of sudden, catastrophic and violent event.
I for one, did not even buy a bottle of water or extra batteries.
But, maybe that is because I have already learned not to take our mayor's pronouncements and hysteria seriously. 
Bloomberg is, after all, the same guy who signed off on the relentless slaughter of thousands of peaceful Canada geese who were residing in public parks, representing no harm or threat to anyone.
Heaven help us all in New York City, were a real and viable threat actually to occur.
Many of us would not take it seriously as too often our Mayor has been guilty of "crying wolf" -- and geese. 
Indeed, we don't need Mama Mike to tell us which way the wind blows or that we have "too many" geese.
As of this moment, the wind ain't blowing at all and I cannot find even one goose in Central Park.  -- PCA

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Calm and Chaos Before the Storm

(Photo:  Sunnier Days. The goose family peacefully escorting boaters at the boat lake this past June.) 
Notwithstanding the thousands of runners and cyclists in Central Park this morning, one could have taken a five minute video of the landscapes and it would have appeared like a still photograph.
Not a leaf stirred, nor a bird flew.
The air was so warm, heavy and leaden that the last thing one would think is that a hurricane was on the way.
This gives new meaning to the old adage,  "Calm and quiet before a storm."
Even the ducks huddled along rocks and embankments as if to rest up for an anticipated rough day and night ahead.
As usual, I walked along the Reservoir, Turtle Pond and the boat lake.
Not a goose to be seen anywhere.
I sat for a while with my dogs looking over the almost eerie quiet of the boat lake.
I remembered back to sunnier days when the family of ten geese would be seen peacefully gliding across the water, their proud heads held high in dignity and perfect blending to their environment.  I remembered the beauty of them sunning themselves on their favorite rock. I recalled how, when recognizing my dogs and me, the family swam our way to greet and gratefully accept some treats from my hand.
The "good old days."  
And yet, they were only a month or two ago.
I wondered where Papa, Mama, their five grown goslings and the three hangers-on were now?  I wondered how "Twinkle Toes" (the goose with missing webbing on one of her feet) was doing and if she still remained with the family?  I wondered about the loner goose who was sometimes with the family and sometimes not.
How empty and sullen the same lake appeared this morning without the geese.
I felt sense of profound loss.
I tossed some seeds to a passing female mallard.  She climbed on the rock, ate some of the cracked corn and then entered the water again and swam across the lake to join the group of mallards sitting on the same rock where the geese used to stay.
Somehow, that gave me a feeling of temporary comfort.
I didn't want to worry about a "loner" duck during a hurricane.
Walking back from the lake, the early morning joggers getting in their last licks before the storm were everywhere.  The Park Drives, pedestrian paths, the bridal path, the Reservoir.
I thought to myself that Central Park during the day time is just like Times Square.  Only the people move faster and the park is greener.
Somehow, that thought was depressing.
Exiting the park and walking through city streets to return home, crowds of people bustled in and out of stores, presumably stocking up on whatever supplies would be needed before the anticipated storm.  Others lined up outside of coffee houses and restaurants, perhaps to celebrate NYC's first hurricane in almost 60 years with friends.
Arriving to my building, I had to wait a few seconds while people passed to finally make a left turn -- like a car has to wait in heavy traffic for the light to change before moving.
I thought, I don't go to the park to see more people.  I see a thousand people every time I step out my building or try to enter it.
I didn't enjoy the trip to Central Park this morning.
I don't enjoy it anytime I don't see geese.
Less than ten minutes after arriving home, the rain started to come down; the first hints of hurricane Irene presumably heading our way.
But, for me the real storm started two weeks ago.
Or, the last time I saw a goose in Central Park.
Now, it is just rain atop loss and chaos already occurred. -- PCA

Friday, August 26, 2011

Shelter From the Storm

As everyone knows, all the news today is about hurricane Irene which is about to hit the East Coast, including New York City over the weekend.
Living on Manhattan's Upper East Side, I am not quite sure what to expect over the next few days.  This is not an "evacuation zone," so I am surmising my pets and I will be OK.
But, I am certainly worried about the wildlife and birds around our fair city. -- Especially, Brad, the lone flightless, domestic duck at Harlem Meer. 
Now that the geese are gone from the Meer, I am hoping the mallards at least stay, but I am not sure about that.   During the blizzard of last winter, the mallards all took off, leaving Brad and Angelina alone to tough out the blizzard for themselves.
That was a particularly brutal night that is hard to forget. As an adult human, I had great difficulty just walking and keeping balance in the fierce winds and whipping snow.  It was amazing that birds weighing maybe 1/11th of what I do managed to get through it.
But, even though she survived the brutal winter and the blizzard, Angelina mysteriously and sadly vanished a few months ago, during the beautiful, "gentle" spring.  
Brad might be entirely on his own, come Sunday.  And yes, I am very worried over that.
New York City hasn't experienced a hurricane since 1954.
I was just a small kid then, so have no memory of it.
Obviously, the people and wildlife in NYC are not accustomed to hurricanes, though we sometimes get bad storms.
The press conferences and constant news reports over the past day or two, do lead one to wonder if we are on the precipice of something truly dangerous and possibly deadly or if this is simply overreaction and media hysteria? 
One suspects Bloomberg is being especially cautious and proactive, since he took a great deal of heat and criticism over his mishandling of the blizzard response last December.
Still, to learn that we will be shutting down all subways and buses tomorrow is a bit unsettling.
I'm glad I know how to swim.
Speaking of swimming, now that the competition of the season is over (or perhaps due to the cooler temperatures of this past week), Lasker Pool was virtually empty last night.
I felt richer than Trump, having a bigger than Olympic size pool practically to myself.
Sometimes the best times at public pools are the last week of the season -- especially when temperatures fail to climb out of the 70's.
Perfect swimming opportunity.
One that I plan to take full advantage of tonight.
But, I also will be sure to take extra cracked corn, seeds, lettuce and perhaps even a few morsels of bread tonight for Brad and his duckie friends.
One gets the feeling that they won't be able to get in much grazing over the weekend.
That only I could scoop Brad up and bring him home with me for a couple of days.
But, with his new wariness, that won't be possible.
Rather, I will say a simple prayer that Brad and his feathered friends survive what nature has in store.
"Shelter from the storm," so to speak.
Very early yesterday morning, I walked with my dogs around the Reservoir, Turtle Pond and even once again, to the boat lake.
Not one goose anywhere to be seen.
It seems as though the geese have entirely and mysteriously vanished from Central Park.
One cannot help but wonder if these birds somehow get early warnings of earthquakes and hurricanes about to hit an area?
I certainly saw no geese prior to the blizzard of last winter.  Indeed, most of the sparrows seemed to vanish from the city prior to last winter.  (Something, that at the time caused me some alarm as sparrows usually stay in NYC through our winters.)
But, the sparrows returned in the spring, as did the geese.
But, right now?   The sparrows are here, but I have no idea where the geese went.
It seems the geese have already sought shelter from the storm.
Sometimes, I think they know more than we do.  -- PCA

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Power of Positive Thinking

I remember as a kid, my mother having a book called, "The Power of Positive Thinking" written by Norman Vincent Peale.
But, my mother was not a positive thinker and quite frankly (and regrettably) neither am I.
In fact, I could probably write the book, "The Defeatism of Negative Thinking."
I have learned a valuable lesson over the past few days.  One that at first glance, might seem small and unimportant.
I didn't attend the annual pool and swimming awards party last night held by the NYC Dept of Parks and Recreation at Hamilton Fish Recreation Center on the Lower East Side.
That's because I didn't bother to count how many laps (and miles) swam this year and thus was not up for either a medal or tee-shirt and did not receive an invite.
This may sound (and is) a very trivial matter, considering the usual serious subject matter of this journal.
But, there is relevance and significance which I will get to later.
For the past four years, I had attended the pool parties and indeed they were events I very much looked forward to.  Each year, I won trophies and tee shirts.  And usually, I was able to invite a friend or two along.
But, last year was different.
Last year, two friends were on vacation the night of the party.  One friend was giving a dinner party and another had to work late that evening.
I ended up going to the pool party alone.
As matters turned out, I did not recognize anyone at the annual event which celebrates the swimming accomplishments of hundreds of swimmers from dozens of NYC pools.
But, everyone else seemed to be with friends or swimming buddies. 
People were seated at tables, enjoying conversation, food, drink and the beautiful warm, outdoor air.   Music played and there were several entertaining swimming exhibitions held before the actual awards ceremonies.
But, as brash and bold as I may be when confronting those either harming or harassing wildlife, I am painfully shy, awkward and timid in social situations where I don't know the people.
I was not comfortable walking up to a bunch of strangers seated at a table and introducing myself (or, more to my mind, "barging in.").
Fortunately, I was able to swim for a good chunk of the time. But, when coming out from the pool, I looked for an empty table to sit at and waited for my name to be called for a tee shirt and medal.
The wait seemed interminable as I felt embarrassed and nearly mortified to be sitting all by myself while everyone else was in celebratory groups  (I in fact, felt very much like a "loner goose" -- probably one reason I identify with them so much.)
Finally my name was called and I walked to the podium to receive the "gold" medal for most miles swum by a woman from Lasker Pool's night swim.
But, the medal was hollow in its meaning to me as there was no one to celebrate it with.
I could not wait to leave the Hamilton Fish pool party that night with my head held down somewhere between my arms, despite the medal and tee shirt in my hands.
Fast forward to this year.
I did not want to repeat the experience of last year, so quickly decided early this summer not to count laps and keep track of miles.  (Good example of avoidance behavior or "negative thinking.")
Everything was "fine" until the other night.
Before preceding, let me quickly say some things about swimming.
Swimming is primarily a "solitary sport" though quite often one sees people attending evening lap swims with buddies.
Since none of my friends are however, into swimming, I always go to the pool alone.
Except for those people with friends, most swimmers go to the locker room, change, shower and head out to the pool and swim.   The same thing when coming out of the pool.  Shower, change and leave. 
Usually, there is little or no communication among swimmers in the locker room.  Everyone quietly and respectfully does their own thing.
That is, unless there is some kind of problem.
The other night, one of the women had a problem.
She apparently couldn't remember which locker she had left her shoes in.  She thought someone might have stolen them.
"I am sure I left my shoes in this locker, but they are gone!"
"Its highly unlikely anyone here would run off with someone else's shoes." I said in effort to try and comfort the youngish, Asian woman.  "Did you check all the lockers nearby?  Perhaps you put them in a different one?"
"Yes, I have looked in all of the lockers.  But, my loafers have disappeared!  What am I to do?  I can't walk home barefoot."
"Check with the attendants," I suggested.  "Perhaps they checked empty lockers, found the shoes and put them in lost and found. Maybe there is a pair of cheap flip flops they can lend you to get home."
The young woman left and in a few minutes returned with a pool attendant. (We were all dressed by then.)
He was able to find the shoes in one of the top lockers.
"I can't believe I put them all the way up there!" the relieved young woman exclaimed.
"You're taller than you think you are!" I laughed.
A few minutes later, we were leaving the pool and the woman asked me, "Are you going to the pool party tomorrow?"
"Oh, no...I didn't count laps this year," I mumbled, surprised at the question.
"You won, last year, didn't you?" she asked, pressing on.
"Well, yes, but...." my voice trailed off.
"Do you have the time?" the young woman asked, bailing me out of my awkwardness.
"Ten minutes before nine." I answered, looking at my watch.
"Oh my God!  I am so late!  Supposed to meet a friend.  You should go to the party tomorrow night!  Maybe, I'll see you there?"
"Well, I have other plans, but hope you have a great time.  See you later," I smiled.  "Good night."
We then parted ways as I wanted to go and check on the ducks at the south side of Harlem Meer.
Walking away from the young woman, I realized she was the second place winner last year from Lasker Pool.
Perhaps I should have been more observant last year -- and this year.
But, most of all, I shouldn't have allowed a disappointing experience last year to determine decision for this year.
I realized the other night, that had I simply followed the usual routine, I would have known at least one person at the pool party this year -- even if none of my friends were able to attend.
Things can sometimes change in a moment.
Last night, I returned to Lasker Pool and enjoyed the usual swim, though in the back of my mind, I regretted not being at the pool party downtown as I had been for the past four years.
"The Defeatism of Negative Thinking."
Yes, indeed, I could write the book for this, unlike the best seller by Norman Vincent Peale so many years ago about the (very real) benefits of positive thinking.
So yes, a lesson over the past few days.
One, that despite all the setbacks, disappointments and very real, "lonely" despair associated with trying to fight for the maligned and slaughtered geese, I need to learn to apply and take forward:
No matter how bad or hopeless things look at a particular moment in time, it CAN change.  You have to believe that and you have to work towards that.  You cannot give in to negative and pessimistic thinking because that is only to ultimately become self-fulfilling prophecy.
I did not see any geese at Harlem Meer last night.
Once again, I missed their presence, beauty and vitality on the lake.
But, it doesn't always have to be this way.
The work starts today to change things for next year.  -- PCA

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fire and Rain

The words from an old James Taylor song floated across my mind last night while swimming laps in a semi dream-like state at Lasker Pool.
As wonderful as the water felt and the sweet sensation of flying, I couldn't seem to forget the earlier scene when first arriving at Harlem Meer.  
The scene of the mostly empty lake devoid of any geese.
A scene I cannot seem to get used to.
On Labor Day, the outdoor pool will officially close.
I am not sure how much I will return to Harlem Meer after that.  The experience lately is too dispiriting.
I still feel obligation to look after Brad, the flightless domestic duck, who earlier in the summer, lost his long-time mate, Angelina to unknown forces.
But, even seeing Brad in recent days has become a kind of sad and forlorn experience.
Fact is, I don't always see Brad now.
Since losing both Angelina and recently the protective geese, Brad has become a much less confident, more wary and nervous duck.   He spends most of his time in the middle of the lake, rarely venturing on the embankments as he did when having the comfort and protection of the other birds.
Though Brad generally hangs loosely with the mallards these days, he has failed to find a new mate.  Perhaps that is not possible, since Brad is a domestic and flightless duck and the mallards are wild and flighty.   (Angelina, had after all, also been a domestic, flightless duck.)
I did see Brad Monday evening.  But, that was only briefly and it was only after I searched the entire lake for him.
Brad finally and nervously came up on the south embankment of the Meer, where I tossed some seeds to the mallards who typically rest there in the evening.   Brad grabbed a few seeds, but then became spooked by something and immediately jumped back in the water and swam away.
At first, I couldn't figure what was freaking Brad out.
But, then a few minutes later, three fishermen came by. One old guy and two younger ones.
The old guy cast out a huge fishing line -- at least 20 feet long -- upon the water, right in the area where the mallards suddenly scattered.
"Why are you fishing in the area of the ducks?" I questioned.  "You have a huge, empty lake here!   Are you deliberately fishing for ducks?"
The offending fisherman didn't say anything.
I asked the two younger guys, "Does he speak English?  You're not supposed to harass the wildlife here."
The two teenagers tried to say something to the old guy, but he paid them no more mind than he did me.
I then had to dodge out of the way of the fisherman fanatically casting his huge line back and forth repeatedly.  I sat on a nearby park bench to try and insure that none of the ducks got caught up in the fishing line.
After about fifteen minutes of this crap, the old guy finally caught a tiny fish, not much bigger than a goldfish.  The fish laid motionless on the ground.
"You need to throw the fish back," I said softly, but adamantly.
He did.  But, I'm not sure the tiny fish was still alive.
Satisfied with his "conquest" the old fisherman and his younger pals finally left.
A few of the mallards slowly and cautiously made their way back to the embankment.
But, Brad was not among them.
I think I understand now why Brad spends most of his time in the middle of the lake.
Am I going to want to return to Harlem Meer once the pool closes on Labor Day to watch scenes like this? 
Probably not.
Its hard seeing Brad like this -- a frightened shadow of his former self.
And its hard watching the couple of dozen mallards still remaining at the Meer constantly harassed.
(Many mallards apparently left with the six geese last week.  At least 30 to 40 of them.)
I realized when swimming last night how naive and "in denial" I have apparently been over the past year or so.
Always telling myself that despite all the goose roundups and slaughters occurring around New York City that somehow, "my" geese at Central Park would escape the madness and be "safe."
USDA has, after all, never rounded up geese in Central Park.
But, the fact is, they have rounded up geese almost everyplace else.
So, what geese are left to fly into Central Park now?
Apparently very few or even none.
I remember last winter, when noting the unusually low number of geese at the Reservoir from December through February, I tried to tell myself that it was due to more than 90% of the Reservoir being frozen over.
But, that didn't seem to deter the mallards who wintered at the Reservoir.
I now don't believe the low number of geese in Central Park over this past winter had anything at all to do with how much of the Reservoir was frozen.
That was just a lie I told myself in order not to acknowledge the reality that most of our NYC resident geese have in fact, been wiped out.
But, I realize that now.
Especially with the unusually high number of "loner" geese observed over the past couple of months.   Geese who have, like Brad, lost their mates or families.
This morning, when coming online and googling geese articles, this one popped up:
It is about the "joy" of teaching youngsters to hunt geese.
The outdoors column describes shooting at three flying geese and killing two of the three.
That was most likely a family of geese, leaving one "loner" to survive.
I left a scathing comment to this vile piece, the last line of which was:
"For sure, I will think of you and this "column" every time I see a loner goose swimming forlornly on the water and calling out for his/her lost mate, offspring or parents."
The question is, will I ever see another goose again in Central Park?
I don't actually know the answer to that question.
Thus the lines of the song that came to me last night while swimming in a dream-like state at Lasker Pool:
"I've seen fire and I've seen rain.
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.
But, I always thought that I would see you,
one more time again."  -- PCA

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kiss the Geese Goodbye

The other day I angered a fellow advocate on Facebook when, referring to the low numbers of geese around the city and noting the plans for NYC geese next year, I wrote, "Take your photos now and kiss the geese goodbye."
Does such sound melodramatic or over the top?
Undoubtedly to those who still have some geese in their parks, it does.
But, personally, I haven't seen one goose in Central Park since last Thursday and I have been to all the main watercourses.
Moreover, while we are not getting goose number reports from all over the city, the ones we are getting appear, like Central Park, ominous.
Currently, the number of geese at Prospect Park in Brooklyn is between 40 and 50.  That may sound like a robust number -- until we compare it to the number of geese at Prospect Park during this same time period last year.
Prospect Park was of course, the site last summer, where 368 geese and goslings were rounded up on a July 8th morning and sent for gassing at JFK airport.
The entire goose population was wiped out.
But, less than two months later, 107 new geese had flown into the Prospect Park:
Contrast that to this year:
Throughout the molting period at Prospect Park at least 35 geese were observed.
That number now is about the same -- less than half of what it was the same time last year, even after the entire goose population had been eradicated six weeks earlier.
It essentially means that either very few or even no new geese have flown into Prospect Park since the molting period ended, several weeks ago.  (Last year, 107 had flown in.)
That is the same phenomenon observed in Central Park.  No new geese flying in during a period when, in the past, many dozens would arrive to Harlem Meer following molting and raising of young.
At Inwood Park in Manhattan, a goose roundup occurred this summer, but the USDA apparently did not get all the geese.
There are still a couple of dozen geese around the Inwood Park area, but few, if any new geese flying in.
While these numbers might not seem "alarming" to some, the fact we are not seeing new goose arrivals at a time we normally do, is, to my mind, very concerning.
Especially when one considers the plans currently in the works for NYC geese next year. (Send to local slaughterhouses and distribute to "soup kitchens.")
Additionally, with an early and expanded hunting season on the geese in New York State, we can anticipate about 70,000 of them to be shot either with guns or bows and arrows starting as early as the first weeks in September.
Add all of these facts up and yes, it looks very bad for any "resident" geese in New York City right now and indeed, throughout the entire state.
I believe there is tendency among some people (especially those in areas where there are still some geese) to "look on the positive side" and presume those geese will still be around next year.
I believe no such assumptions can be made in any area, especially when looking at prevailing tendencies, harassments, plans and downturns.
If we become complacent and do nothing over the next ten months then next summer we will once again be in the position of "reaction" and "shock" to goose roundups that have already occurred.
Personally, I am tired of always being in that position. 
I am not interested in attending rallies and protests every year for geese already slaughtered.   Bloomberg is laughing at us behind the posh draperies of his Manhattan townhouse.
The time to observe, question, petition, lobby and protest is now, not June of next year.
It will be too little, too late then -- as it has been for the last 8 years.
The wheels are already in motion to turn the remaining NYC geese next year into "gooseburgers."
We cannot wait around to cry crocodile tears then.
I am glad that over the past few years, I took hundreds of photos and some videos of Central Park geese.
Right now, that is all that I have.
And yes, to the others around New York City who still have some geese in their local parks and think those animals are "safe,"  I say, "Take your photos now and kiss the geese goodbye."   -- PCA

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It Ain't the "Dogs" Taking Them Down

Last night, I walked for two hours with my dogs and could not find even one Canada goose on the entire north end of Central Park (Reservoir, The Pond and Harlem Meer).
So yes, I am on the edge of panic now regarding the goose population in NYC.
Granted, the six geese at Harlem Meer a couple of nights ago, may have gone somewhere else to party on a Saturday night.
But, the fact that no new geese have apparently flown into Central Park over these past few weeks from other parts of the city is what's alarming.
That is definitely not "normal!"
Last year at Harlem Meer at this time, there were dozens of Canada geese.
I am truly starting to think that those few dozen geese who flew into Harlem Meer following the winter migrations, but took off (or were chased) in late spring to breed or molt someplace out of CP were rounded up from other parks in early summer by the USDA and sent to that mysterious "waterfowl" slaughterhouse in Pennsylvania.
I am quite literally watching in Central Park -- the "crown jewel" of NYC parks -- an almost total decimation of a species I have come to love over the past few years.
USDA might as well come to my home and "round up" my two dogs.
Fortunately however, my two dogs were not on the Fish and Wildlife "Depredation Permit" issued to the USDA for the roundup and slaughter of Canada geese and other birds in NY.
We finally received that on Friday.
I forwarded the permit attachment to colleagues who hopefully can convert it to a web link that can be shared with others.
While it does not contain the name of the mysterious Pennsylvania "waterfowl processing plant" that our NYC geese were supposedly sent to, it does have other interesting information.  For example:

D. You are authorized to take the following migratory birds to relieve or prevent injurious situations impacting human health or safety, natural resources, agriculture, and public or private property. All take must be done as part of an integrated Wildlife Damage Management Program that emphasizes the use of appropriate non-lethal management techniques. Up to:

(a) 5000 Canada Geese - Shoot or capture and either, transport these to a processing center, slaughter, and donate the meat to a local food bank or euthanize and completely destroy by burial or incineration.

(b) 100 Brant,

(c) 50 Mallards,

(d) 2 Osprey,

(e) 40 of each: Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, Green-backed Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, yellow-crowned Night Heron, Glossy lbis,

(f) 40 of each: Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, Black Duck, Northern Pintail, Blue-winged Teal, Northern shoveler, Gadwall, American wigeon, canvasback, Redhead Ring-necked Duck, Lesser scaup, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy duck,

(g) 40 of each: Turkey Vulture Black Vulture, Clapper rail, Virginia Rail, Sora, Common Moorhead


Your report must specify any raptors taken by pole trapping."


Apparently, this is a list of statewide "targets."
However, to see birds like Egrets, Herons, Ibis, as well as host of various species of duck is quite shocking.
Are these birds also taking down planes and "pooping on grass?"
As for the "5,000 Canada geese."
Well, I guess that helps explain why I am not seeing geese in CP these days.
I remember taking a tour with a Central Park ranger last year to look for raccoons in Central Park.
During the hour or so walk with the friendly ranger, she said to me, "You know, Central Park used to have rabbits at one time.  But, we think the dogs took them all out."
Perhaps the real reason I am writing this journal is to simply set the facts straight.
I don't believe that people's pet dogs "took out rabbits" in Central Park any more than dogs are taking out the geese now.
Five or ten years from now, if a Park Ranger is showing people around Central Park, she cannot accurately say, "You know, Central Park used to have hundreds of Canada geese.  But, we think the dogs took them out."
In this case, we know damn well its not dogs taking down the birds in our park.
Its our own human hands and actions -- as I am quite sure the decimated rabbits were.   -- PCA

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Do It Anyway

Over the past year of struggle to save the geese, nothing has quite said to me the cause is "hopeless" as much as the lack of comment and public response to the excellent and ground breaking article posted here the other day by Mary Lou Simms.
As of this point, there are only 8 comments to the piece, two of which are from me and one of which defames the geese.
One can easily imagine the editors of the papers that published the article saying to themselves, "Wow, that was a waste of valuable newspaper space, judging by the lack of reader response.  We have to be sure never to touch this issue again!  Its editorial suicide!"
I have seen two-paragraph articles with the depth of a pane of glass generate ten times the number of comments that this well researched and documented article did.
If investigative journalism is dead it is apparently because there is little or no public "taste" for it.
Perhaps I am especially sensitive to this issue because of writing an online journal on the same subject.
I write this blog as a kind of "record" to myself, more than anything else.
If, for example, I am somewhat alarmed about the low number of geese in Central Park right now, its because I am able to look back on this journal and compare to numbers recorded from the park the same time last year.
And so yes, it is primarily a way to keep record of counts, observations and occurrences.
But, if I am totally honest, I have to also admit to looking at the number of "page views" everyday.
While not exactly a rousing success in terms of readership, there are apparently a few people who tune into this site fairly regularly.
For a blog that is focused not only on animals, but a specific animal that apparently many people hate, perhaps I should consider myself lucky that this blog generally gets about 30 hits a day.
But, it rarely, if ever inspires comment.
(Perhaps it is just being "hit" by spammers?)
There are times I question why I am writing this journal.
Never more than this evening after noting the poor comment response to the published and masterful article by Mary Lou Simms.
Earlier this evening, I considered starting a new blog.
Perhaps some pop culture or candy news of the day sort of thing.
One that would "keep up with the Kardashions," be up on all the dramas of "The Jersey Shore" or "Housewives" series or the latest winners on "The Bachelor" or "Dancing with the Stars."
I could write about all sorts of exciting things like the latest diets, designer shoes and plastic surgeries.
On those days I was feeling particularly pissy about something (which is quite often), I could write a special "Gripes and Grumbles" entry railing against the particular pet peeve of the day.
"Man, these goons texting on cell phones while walking down the street are tripping over my dogs!"   "My neighbors don't know enough to allow someone to walk down the stairs before they start walking up!"  "I held the door open for the pregnant lady and she didn't even say, 'Thank you!"
Or, more exciting stuff:
"It rained today, so I finally cleaned my stove and the top of my refrigerator after six months!"
And then of course there could be the more serious entries:
"According to the latest study, I should be dead by next week.  I watch too much TV, eat too much butter and sugar and am single."
(Actually, according to the "latest studies," I should have been dead 30 years ago, but whose counting?)
Yes, all kinds of exciting things to write about.
So, why am I writing about geese everyday?
Especially, when someone who writes a thousand times better than I do on this subject, fails to generate even a dozen comments on major newspaper sites?
I don't know.  Those are probably important questions to ponder and figure out.
But, for the moment, I can't claim to feeling a whole lot of drive or passion to write about diets, food, fashion, cosmetic procedures, health, gripes or "The Millionaire Matchmaker."
Perhaps, like Scarlett O'Hara, "I will think about that (stuff) tomorrow."
But, for today, to be more like the song from Martina McBride:
"Do It Anyway."
That is probably the definition of either insanity or greatness of some sort.
At least in the case of Mary Lou Simms, it is the latter.
Its a great piece she wrote.
And I am glad she did it anyway.   -- PCA

Friday, August 19, 2011

Small Glimmers of Hope (Investigative Journalism and "Loner" Geese)

(Photo -- "Loner Goose" at Harlem Meer.)
I am forced to eat some of my words this morning.
Yesterday, I complained that virtually "100%" of current articles on geese screamed for their harassment, eradication or destruction via hunting.
But, no sooner had I posted the blog entry yesterday, when an absolutely outstanding article was published in numerous papers around the country!:
If I thought investigative journalism was totally dead, thankfully I am proved wrong.  It is indeed rare to say that any article could be 100% accurate, but this one truly is.  (All the more amazing considering its length and depth.)  The author, Mary Lou Simms did an incredible and masterful job of digging and reporting.  This is a piece that needs to be shared far and wide.
As has been shared so many times in this journal and once again seems to be confirmed in the piece is the sheer cruelty by which the geese are crammed into USDA crates and transported to wherever they go for gassing or slaughter.
From the article:  
"There she saw PollyAnna crammed into a crate with half a dozen other geese.

"The geese were frantic," Dangerfield recalls. "They had been shoved into crates, stacked like pancakes, defecating on each other. I was begging and pleading for them to at least let me have the few crippled geese we had rescued."  (Emphasis supplied.)

This eyewitness testimony from a woman who witnessed less than a couple of dozen geese (and their goslings) in the USDA truck shortly after they had been rounded up.

Imagine this same scene 3, 4 or 5 hours later after many dozens of geese had endured multiple roundup locations and an arduous journey in the heat to another state?

It seems that the "meat" from such tortured and stressed (and in many cases, already dead) wild creatures would not be fit to feed to a dog, let alone humans.

And yet, our mayor and the USDA would have us believe the geese were "fine" to then be slaughtered and "donated to a food bank!"

The "book" is not in yet on what really happened to the hundreds of geese rounded up in this hideous fashion from NYC parks this year.

But, it is a story that will eventually be told in all its horror, cruelty and injustice.

The truth wills out in the end -- just as it did in this truly exceptional article.


On another note, I returned to Harlem Meer last night.

While hoping to catch some laps in the pool,  just as I entered the park, lightening cracked in the distance and that put a quick end to any swimming plans.

The good news was that all of the geese and ducks were gathered in the small, fenced in grassy area near the Dana Center.

Since all hopes of swimming were dashed, I had extra moments to spend with and observe the birds.

There is little doubt in my mind now that the family of four geese newly arrived to the Meer is the same family from the Reservoir.

How do I know this?

For one matter, as I approached the grassy area, several nervous ducks flew to the water.  I then saw that a raccoon had wandered near the birds.

But, the family of four geese remained put.  Noticing the raccoon, but not considering him a viable threat, the geese were watchful, but not threatened. 

The goose family from the Reservoir was well used to raccoons over there.

On the other hand, the gander of the group was very nervous when people passed by with even small dogs.

Except for my two dogs, the Reservoir geese rarely saw dogs at all.  And, I recall the first couple of times they saw my dogs (Tina and Chance), the gander was extremely reactive.  So much so, that I had to secure my dogs away from the visibility of the goose family.

Afraid of dogs, but not raccoons.   Yep, that would fit with Reservoir goose family.

(After a couple of minutes, the ducks, seeing that the geese did not react to the raccoon, climbed back on the grassy embankment.)

Another tip off that it is the same family is the fact that the four geese recognize and walk towards me, though they don't come close enough for me to reach out to them.

It was impossible to ever get close enough to the geese at the Reservoir to touch or hand feed them a treat due to the iron fencing and steep inclines surrounding the Reservoir.

I do think it a positive that the Reservoir geese are friendly, but cautious around people. Its not a good idea to encourage geese to become too familiar and cozy with humans, though certainly the goose family from Turtle Pond were very conditioned to accepting treats from people -- even small kids.

The loner goose (pictured) was also with the family last night -- though as always, keeping a short and respectful distance away.

The loner goose obviously has the low status of the group, although the family basically accepts his/her presence and "tagging along."

But, surprisingly last night, there was a sixth goose wandering around the perimeter of the group!

I have no idea where this new goose suddenly came from or again, why s/he was alone.  But, she or he was not warmly or enthusiastically  welcomed, particularly by the other loner goose who took it on himself to chase the new goose towards the outside of the group.

Indeed, this new phenomenon of "loner" goose is something I don't recall seeing in the past.

But, I have now observed it several times this summer.

There was a "loner" goose who stayed with the Turtle Pond family through the molt at the boat lake.

There was another "lone" goose at the Reservoir.

And now two "loners" at Harlem Meer.

It really makes one wonder if at least one or two of these geese are possible survivors of goose roundups over the summer that might have taken out their mates or family members?

I have no idea of course.  But, it is quite unusual to be seeing "loner" geese, though if they are to survive, they can't stay "loner" for long.  

On the contrary, they have to try and get an "in" with another goose gaggle or family.  And that is what these two loner geese seem to be trying to do at Harlem Meer.

A new goose group in the forming.....

Snapping photos of the geese last night, another clap of lightening cracked in the far distance.

All six geese suddenly stood at rapt attention and appeared like they would all take off.

But, then apparently deciding that the lightening was too far away to require action, they all settled down again and returned to grazing (or as USDA would say, "loafing.")

The mallards of course, followed the geese's lead.

And for all the lightening and thunder threats last night, it actually never rained in the city.

I am hopeful that for all the "ominous" signs and threats to the geese, the real storms of eradication will likewise, not happen in the end.

At least we finally got an honest and totally accurate in-depth media piece yesterday. 

Some small glimmers of hope on the horizon.  -- PCA



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rotting Apple

It appears the new family of four geese who flew into Harlem Meer a few days ago aren't "new" at all.
I am guessing them to be the same family of four geese (parents and two surviving goslings) who were at the Reservoir from April to a few days ago.
I expected that the family would soon be leaving the Reservoir around this time as the goslings were ready to fly.
Apparently they did as I could not find any trace of them last night at the Reservoir.
In fact, during a two hour walk around the Reservoir, Turtle Pond and the boat lake, I could not find even one goose anywhere.
This is very ominous news.
It means no geese are apparently flying into Central Park at a time normally when many dozens arrive, particularly to Harlem Meer.
Currently at the Meer, there are just five geese.   The family of four presumably from the Reservoir and the one "loner" goose who was staying around the perimeter of the goose family, both Monday and Tuesday night.
That is a total of five geese for the entire north end of Central Park!
Last night, I sat with my dogs for a short while on the rock at the Boat Lake, where just weeks ago, the family of seven geese (originally from Turtle Pond) and three "hanger's on" (who stayed with the family through the molt) would routinely come up to me and gently take treats from my hand.
But, last night, as beautiful as this area of Central Park is, it just seemed flat and one dimensional.
Instead of beautiful geese whimsically gliding along the water, there were three plastic bottles bobbing up and down, like dead bodies on the lake.
Overhead, a number of airliners flew low over the park.
But, no sign of geese anywhere......either on water, land or air.
I didn't stay long at the boat lake.  It was too depressing.
Like looking at a empty artist's canvas, devoid of all color and form.
Walking from the boat lake, I circled Turtle Pond, (also empty and seemingly lifeless) and then, the Reservoir.
A few clusters of ducks on the Reservoir, but no geese.
My dogs and I had then been in the park almost two hours and not seen even one goose.
Returning home, I thought about all the endless lies and propaganda constantly being hurled about the geese from "airline terrorists to threatening children to poisoning the environment" -- all the things that humans in fact, do.
But, perhaps the greatest lie among so many is that "geese stay because people feed them!"
That only that one was actually true, I would not be looking at empty lakes, ponds and Reservoir.
I remembered the family of geese at Turtle Pond last year who were fed by many people, including small children.  But, as soon as the middle of August came and the goslings were ready to fly, the family took off.   It didn't matter the food availability at Turtle Pond or the fact the goose family was constantly offered treats by humans.  As soon as their biological clock said, "go," they left.
And so too, the Reservoir family of geese took off in the middle of August.  It did not matter that I or possibly even others offered them treats. 
The geese cannot be bribed to stay.
That is a fact.
The good news is I think the Reservoir family is now at Harlem Meer for the past few days.
I have no idea where the ten geese from the boat lake disappeared to.
It occurred to me that this passionate struggle over the past year to study, learn and write about Canada geese as well as to fight for their defense and protection has in fact, been a selfish and personal one.
I simply cannot bear the thought of seeing Central Park without any geese!
And it is almost that way now.
Not because goose roundups and killings have occurred at Central Park.
But, because the goose slaughters are apparently so "successful" everywhere else, there are no longer the dozens of geese to fly into Central Park following the summer molt and raising of young in other areas of the city.
We may have won the battle to save the Prospect Park geese this year.
But, we are losing the war every place else.
Fully 100% of current newspaper articles and news clips on geese now are about the hunting of them, harassment or roundups and killings of them.  (One cannot actually remember the last "positive" piece about geese.) 
I truly believe it is not exaggeration to say that right now, Canada geese are the most maligned animal on the planet.
One therefore should not be surprised to see their numbers rapidly disappearing from our public parks.
I feel I am watching an animal extinction occur before my very eyes.
One I have fought long and hard to try and prevent.
Meanwhile, our mayor talks about "shooting" not just geese, but seagulls and other birds to serve to "soup kitchens."   This, so a new trash facility can be built close to LaGuardia airport:
More trash, more airliners taking over the skies from birds, more shootings, more slaughter and more political and media "spin."
The "fun" is fast disappearing from New York City, along with the geese.
Call it a "rotting apple."  -- PCA

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Goose Cause

Forget the alcohol. Forget the drugs.  Forget the medications, food, shopping or whatever other diversions people use to help get them out of some funk.
Find a swimming pool, jump in, swim at least a mile --  and hope that when you get out, you find some beautiful geesies and duckies to finish taking the edge off.
Guaranteed to put a smile on your face even if the whole world were to suddenly cave in.
I felt like the world was caving in yesterday after a particularly combative, testy and frustrating phone conversation.
Some people might think I enjoy these kinds of confrontations because I seem to engage in so many of them of late.   But, I actually don't.
On the contrary, sometimes they are simply depressing -- like some heavy weight crushing down on one's shoulders.
I didn't look forward to making the call yesterday because I knew the recipient and I were coming from two different places.  I needed to ask tough questions and I was quite sure she would not want to answer them.  Indeed, I didn't know if she even had the answers to give.
The call started off politely enough:
"Ms. Bannerman, I have some questions regarding last month's goose roundups around the city."
"I will be happy to help," Carol Bannerman, of USDA's Public Affairs answered cordially.
"Well, as you know a press release went out in June issued from the DEP announcing that about 800 geese would be rounded up from the NYC Metropolitan area by USDA and sent to Pennsylvania for processing and donation to a food bank.  But, we are having trouble confirming that story. Can you tell me exactly where the geese were sent to? What slaughtering plant?"
"I cannot give you the name of the processing plant for privacy and security reasons.  But,  I can tell you the geese were sent to Pennsylvania as announced."
Feeling slightly disappointed, but not surprised that Bannerman wouldn't divulge the name of the slaughterhouse, I pressed on.
"What kind of processing plant is it?  Do they slaughter domestic animals as well?"
"It is a waterfowl processing plant," Bannerman answered with some edge in her voice.
"Can you send me a copy of the kill permit?"
"You mean the depredation permit?  I can ask Lee Humberg to send you that. You spoke with him, didn't you?  Why did you say he hung up on you?"
"I didn't say he hung up on me! The battery in his phone went dead or he picked up on another call. He told me to hold on, but the line went dead."
I was very surprised and somewhat taken aback, that Bannerman knew I had spoken with Lee Humberg, also of USDA last week.  I had not told her that.
"He was speaking to you while driving his car." Bannerman offered, flatly.
"He didn't say anything about driving a car," I replied. (I guess that explains Humberg's sporadic silences last week.  I had speculated he was playing video games on the side.) 
I then added,  "Mr. Humberg advised me to call you, Ms. Bannerman. He said you might have answers to some questions."
"What else do you want to know?" Bannerman asked, the politeness seemingly gone out of her voice.
"Well, I am confused about who has responsibility for testing the geese for possible toxins. The Communications Director at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank told me it was the USDA.  But, Mr. Humberg told me it is the state."
"We didn't announce what food banks the geese might be going to."
"No, but a newspaper article quoted the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank as saying they would 'welcome' NYC geese.  But, when I spoke with Brad Peterson of the food bank, he told me that even though they had received goose meat, it was not labeled and he didn't know where it was from. He also seemed to be misinformed about whose responsibility it was to toxicity test the geese." 
"Protocols have changed in the last couple of years. The state tests the geese," Bannerman answered curtly.
"That's a very broad statement, Ms. Bannerman," I answered,  feeling annoyed. "WHO in the state?  What agency or entity?  And what are they testing FOR?"
"The New York State Department of Health tests and deems the geese fit for human consumption," Bannerman replied.
"But, I thought we were taking about Pennsylvania!" I shot back. "Who in Pennsylvania tests them?"
"Pennsylvania already has the processes in place for testing and distribution. They are doing that now."
"But, the gentleman at the food bank told me they had already received their allotment of goose meat for this period.  Were these geese individually tested for things like mercury, lead, PCB's and pesticide residues?"
"Why don't you ask these questions of hunters?" Bannerman asked somewhat abrasively. "They killed 70,000 resident geese in New York State last year.  They eat them!"
The question totally stunned me.
A number of sarcastic barbs popped up in my mind:
Do I sound like the kind of person who would have hunters as friends?  How do you know the geese are 'resident?'  Do the geese wear signs dangling from their necks when flying announcing, "I am a resident goose!"
But, since the conversation was already getting heated, I decided to skip the sarcasm.
"Ms. Bannerman, hunters shoot geese in the fall when the birds are not molting and sickly. They also shoot them in rural areas.  Areas that are not routinely spayed with pesticides -- like city parks."
"Sickly?  What do you mean by sickly?" Bannerman inquired, skeptically.
"According to bird experts, geese can be feverish and sickly when going through the molt. I believe that based on personal observation. Geese are much more sluggish and lethargic when going through the molt. They barely move and appear disheveled.  And yet, you are going to feed these sickly birds to people!"
"That is your opinion!"  Bannerman countered, angrily.
"It is NOT my opinion that the geese are feeding on park grass that is treated with pesticides. That is a FACT -- especially with the fear of West Nile Virus."
At this point, the conversation was going downhill quickly and continued to degenerate.
We continued to argue about the testing.
"As said, the NY State Department of Health deems the geese healthy enough for human consumption," Bannerman reiterated.
"When did they decide that?" I asked.  "The Dept of Health didn't previously approve of the geese for human consumption.  When did they test the geese and come up with the change in policy?"
"They ran tests last year."
???   I was totally stunned by Bannerman's statement once again.
"I am confused now," I replied earnestly.  "I thought the geese rounded up last year were gassed and simply dumped in a landfill."
"Gassing with CO2 does not render the meat unfit for human consumption," Bannerman replied with confidence. 
"So, they gassed the geese and then tested all of them and then dumped them in a landfill?  That doesn't make sense!"
"Obviously they didn't test a thousand geese!   They tested some of them."
"Well then, that is just a sample!    How does a sample apply to hundreds of wild birds rounded up in different locations and in this case, different years?"
At this point, both Bannerman and I were totally irritated and agitated with each other.
We weren't getting anywhere constructive.
"Look, do you want to continue to discuss this?" Bannerman asked with obvious distaste and disdane. "Or, do you want me to send you the report?"
"Send the depredation permit to my email address" I replied, knowing I would not get anything further out of Bannerman.
"I will ask Lee to send it to you." Bannerman replied cooly.
"Thank you."
Following this most extremely unpleasant conversation, I felt depressed.
Was I too argumentative and combative with a woman who was simply "doing her job?"  What kind of answers did I expect from a Public Affairs professional?
From what I gathered from the difficult conversation, Bannerman didn't really have answers to most of the questions I threw her way.  She doesn't make decisions for roundups.  She doesn't even go out on them. Its simply her job to defend them.
And that she does well.
It was pretty obvious from maybe the first five minutes that Bannerman and I were not going to agree on anything.  We were coming from totally opposite ends of an issue, like two politicians running for office and hotly debating.
Although I am normally a person who doesn't worry or care much about whether or not I am "liked" by others, it does bother me sometimes to think I am some kind of "warrior" in a battle, deliberately edging people on and looking for weak spots.
The contentious conversation ran through my mind and I jotted some of it down in a notebook.
But, I couldn't make any decisions about it.
At least not until having a good swim.
After tuning in the TV to watch, "Jeopardy" I headed quickly out after the bonus question to Lasker Pool at Harlem Meer.
Part of me dreaded going to the Meer again as the last two times there, I had only found one goose on the entire lake.   That in itself was "depressing."
But, this time when returning to the Meer, there was a total of five geese once again.
Apparently the family of four geese had returned!
The one lone goose (from last week) appeared to be trying to find an "in" with the family, but politely kept a safe distance, so as not to presumably irritate the gander.
Feeling relieved that there were at least a few geese at the Meer, once again, I headed to Lasker pool.
The temperature was only 68 degrees.  A delightfully cool evening after all of the rain of the weekend, the pool was very sparsely attended.
The cool water felt great!
Invigorating, emancipating.
It was good to be "flying" once again -- like the geese.
After the 40 minute swim,  I showered, quickly dressed and then headed out again to walk around the Meer.
I found a goose feather along the south embankment and picked it up.
Hopefully, it would be good luck.
And sure enough, a little further along the path, there were the five geese in the water peacefully swimming together, the "loner" goose, however, a good twenty feet or so from the family.
I tossed some crack corn to a mother mallard and her one surviving duckling.  Other mallards joined in and few minutes later, the family of four geese cautiously climbed the embankment.
I grabbed my camera from my swim bag and started to take some photos.
I marveled at how big the gander of this family was. Almost twice the size of his much smaller mate.  Their grown goslings too, looked healthy, beautiful and spiffy.
And then, Brad, the flightless domestic duck who lost his mate, Angelina early in the summer, happened on the embankment to grab some treats, along with a couple of female mallards.
It was a whimsical, beautiful scene.
The mallards were chatty and feisty (as always).  The geese wary and a little skittish, but peaceful and self-contained.
"Loner" goose however, remained in the water, seemingly just watching everything.
He probably would have been foolish to challenge the very large gander of the family.
Finally, tossing out the rest of the seeds and lettuce, I said goodnight to all my feathered friends and began to head out of the park.
Suddenly, I no longer felt questioning or "depressed" about the earlier,  combative conversation with Carol Bannerman of the USDA.
If I am a arrogant bitch or purposeful warrior, it is at least for a noble and worthy cause.
My beloved geese are worth fighting for, every minute of every day.
A goose cause.   -- PCA