Friday, September 2, 2011

"Lone Ducks, Sharp Shooters and Nature's Wrath"

I finally saw Brad, the flightless domestic duck still surviving at Harlem Meer after losing his longtime mate, Angelina earlier in the summer.
I hadn't seen Brad since before Hurricane Irene and had worried for him.
But, as noted, the hurricane was mostly a heavy rain shower in Manhattan, though reportedly did billions of dollars in damage elsewhere.  (We obviously dodged a very big bullet in New York City.)
Brad is physically OK, but as previously noted, much more elusive and wary now -- especially since the few geese who were at the Meer a couple of weeks ago left.
I try not to panic when not seeing Brad now. The reality is that he is much harder to spot since his new (brown) feather colorings are more similar to the mallards. That, in addition to his changed and more skittish behavior makes Brad a difficult find.
Prior to the hurricane, much of the water was drained from Harlem Meer, bringing its level down at least two feet from the grassy embankments.
Though this is not a problem for the mallards who simply fly up on the embankments, Brad is unable now to get on the embankments and presumably stays in the water all or most of the time. There are still a couple of sloped pavement areas around the Meer that Brad could access, but they are in very public areas.  One imagines if Brad is using them at all it is probably under cover of darkness when the park is closed to human traffic.
Poor Brad certainly doesn't have it easy now -- if indeed, the domestic flightless duck ever had it easy in a public park where dogs run loose in the mornings and evenings and fishing lines are constantly cast into the water long into the hours of the night.
Nevertheless, despite the losses of his mate and the security protection of the geese, (as well as the barrage of human activities), Brad is still managing to hang in there.  Its just that now he is a very different bird.
Long gone is the bravado, confidence and "Alpha Duck" status that Brad so enjoyed with his equally confident mate and the temporary addition of Joey, (the white, Pekin duck who hung with and was finally accepted by "BrAdgenlina" last winter. Joey had to later be rescued in January after being attacked by an off leash dog).
It is personally frustrating that I could not secure support from the Park Rangers to arrange a rescue for Brad after the disappearance of Angelina several months ago.  Park officials only consider whether there is physical injury or illness to waterfowl for attempted rescue.
But, the fact is that in animals (as humans) there are injuries and losses that go way beyond just the physical.
For what normally is a "flock" and high status bird to suddenly be without an accepting flock or mate is injury in itself.   Brad is now a "lone duck" and on low status at the Meer.  Though still physically surviving, I don't believe the outlook for Brad to be positive at all -- especially when winter comes and most of the mallards leave the frozen Meer.
But, it is hard convincing park leadership of these things.
It has also been difficult (as noted) to find out from the Central Park Conservancy whether goose harassment has been employed during the past few weeks in the park. Presumably, the Conservancy is getting many calls now since the weekend storm.  But, it has been nearly impossible to get anyone on the phone who knows anything about the goose situation in the park.  One simply gets referred to other numbers to call which either are busy or non-responsive or, if getting a live person, is referred to another number to call. --  Totally frustrating.
More bad news continues to flood in everyday too, regarding either shallow and vilifying media pieces on geese or hunting articles on them. 
Below is just one example out of Michigan yesterday. -- Employing "sharp shooters" to come in over the weekend and shoot the geese on school grounds (This despite other recent articles from Michigan reporting on a "declining" goose population):
The Humane Society of the United States is supposed to be looking into this particular proposed slaughter, but it is probably too late to stop it.
Myself and a few other people respond in comments to articles like these, but to be frank, it is almost like a full time job now as the pieces are so many and so disturbing to try and respond to.
It is no exaggeration to say that the geese are being systematically wiped out all over the country. -- Especially now that "expanded hunting season" has already started. 
The fact is that far more geese are dying now than even over the summer of the USDA "roundups" which killed many thousands of geese nationwide.
Meanwhile, I still feel this tremendous void and loss in not seeing any geese in Central Park these days.
All photos of geese posted on this site now are "old" (either from this year or last) and I realize I am now deprived so to speak, of what I felt was a right to observe and lean more about the birds and wildlife of our park.
I was just beginning to understand goose behavior, hierarchy  and life patterns. I had come to know many of the geese as individuals even giving names to some.  I was learning much about individual personalities, goose survival and protection skills, as well as the interconnection of geese with other waterfowl -- especially ducks.
Now, all of that is seemingly gone.
Presumably, some migratory geese will fly into Central Park from the north with the first hints of winter (assuming they escape hunters' bullets).  But, quite often the migratory geese merely use Central Park as a temporary rest stop (for a few days) en route to other locations.  And even for those geese who stay longer, they are usually very skittish birds who have little trust in humans and are therefore difficult to get to know.
Its depressing to realize all I may have observed and learned so far via personal connection to the geese may be "all that there is."
Not because that IS "all there is."
But, because humans decided to declare a "war" on these birds and I am now just beginning to see the results of that war.
Odd to hear so many newscasters saying, "Nature's Wrath" when describing the devastating effects of hurricane Irene along the east coast this past weekend. 
Perhaps Mother Nature has a few things to be pissed about when it comes to human treatment of so many of her creations.
Its a bit ironic that a flightless "lone duck" at Harlem Meer survived the hurricane, but thousands of homes created from human hands did not.   -- PCA

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