Thursday, October 27, 2011

Almost Normal

All at Harlem Meer last night was calm, serene and almost normal.
I easily found Brad, vigorously swimming with a small group of what was presumed some of the "regular" resident mallards who had returned from apparently escaping the Halloween-like atmosphere at the Meer the night before.
But, it was a very small group of ducks (perhaps about 20 in all) compared to the large flocks of mostly migratory mallards and other birds that had been gathering at the Meer in the previous weeks.
The ducks' behavior too, had returned to almost normal.
Though not directly taking treats from my hand, Brad and chums swirled around in the water and nibbled the few tossed treats from the edge of the embankment.
Sitting for a brief while on a nearby bench surveying the pretty and peaceful scene before me, I too, felt "almost normal."
Various events over the past few weeks have admittedly rendered personal thought patterns into the realms of negativity, cynicism and suspicion.
Much of that is due to the total disappearance of geese from Central Park -- an occurrence that is definitely not "normal" for this time of year.
Seeing and knowing what has happened to the geese in NYC has propelled me into a state of concern, worry, distrust and "ominous predictions" for the other waterfowl still remaining in the park.
Will the same propaganda and extermination campaigns waged against the geese in NYC also be launched against mallards?
Its actually a legitimate question under the current and prevailing circumstances.
But, that doesn't necessarily mean that every animal or aquatic-related activity occurring in a park has nefarious objective. 
I don't believe now that formal "harassment" was actually used against the ducks at Harlem Meer on Tuesday evening, though it is certainly possible.
Realizing that mallards are generally far more skittish and easily spooked than geese, its more probable that the DEC boat on the lake with its bright beams of light peering out on the water was enough to send all but three mallards rapidly fleeing the scene.
Thinking back on how the family of geese who molted at the Boat Lake over the summer were not at all perturbed by large numbers of people in rowboats, it did not seem logical at the time that one boat on a lake at night would be enough to send all the ducks flying.
But, then again, geese aren't mallards, the rowboats didn't have strobe lights and the birds at Harlem Meer are not accustomed to any boats on the lake.
All of this doesn't explain why the DEC was "testing water" and the "health of the fish" at night, as opposed to daytime (which would have been far less stressful to the birds, by not requiring bright strobe lights) nor why the testing was done this time of year when many migratory birds are gathering on the lake.
Perhaps consideration simply wasn't given to the large numbers of mallards and other birds on the lake this time of year, since the spoken objective was to "test the water and health of the fish."
I regret now not asking more questions of the DEC employee.  But, at the time I was so agitated noting the disappearance of all the mallards, suspecting harassment and still angry about the "war" on geese, my best recourse at the time, was to walk away.
When the DEC woman told me they were there to check the "health of the fish," I had to bite my tongue from saying, "If you cared so much about the welfare of the fish, why weren't you here in the summer when the fish were constantly tormented and harassed by fisherman?"
(In fact, the only times I have personally seen dead or dying fish at Harlem Meer were those pitiful, small fish thrown back in the water during spring and summer after fisherman posed for photos, showed their friends and practically danced cartwheels.  It was hard to imagine how the tiny fish were still alive after all that precious time wasting.)
So yes, under the circumstances, it was better to walk away the other night rather than hurl out provocative  questions and get into a testy "discussion" like that. There were, as noted a number of police cars out and the "mood" at that point, was combative.
Adding to the personal distrust of authority over these many long months is the difficulty encountered when trying to get answers to important questions posed to either the USDA or Central Park Conservancy.
I was not at all consoled or comforted when told by Caroline Greenleaf of Central Park Conservancy in September, that the reason for harassing a small group of resident geese out of CP was, "to make the resident geese leave before the migratory geese fly in over the next couple of weeks."
The 20 or so resident geese at Central Park were harassed out in August.
The migratory geese have yet to arrive and we are already one week away from November.
Who knows whether any migratory geese will actually make it to NYC considering the "expanded hunting" campaign waged against them all over the state and nearby states?
The few geese harassed out of Central Park in the past few months would actually be easy targets for hunters considering they were flying in such small gaggles.
The USDA too, has not been forthcoming with answers to important questions.
More than a month ago, a colleague sent an email inquiry to Public Affairs Specialist of USDA, Carol Bannerman and to my knowledge has yet to receive a reply.
Last week, I sent an email to the District Supervisor of Wildlife Services for the USDA (Lee Humberg) asking a number of vital questions concerning the 2011 Goose Removal Report.
Yesterday, I received a reply back that the inquiries were forwarded to Public Affairs specialist, Carol Bannerman.
Since Ms. Bannerman apparently hasn't found the time to answer an email sent to her more than a month ago and is presently "on leave" until the first week in November, one has to wonder if USDA will ever answer the questions posed to them?  Questions that the public has right to ask and deserves answers to.
Infuriated yesterday by what seemed an obvious "passing of the buck" I wrote back to Mr. Humberg, saying I was not interested in PR "spin" but real answers to real questions.
I also told him that, though not an official part of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, it was "perfectly understandable" why so much of the public is frustrated and angry with the actions and lack of forthright communication from public and government officials.
Among other things, the public has "the right to enjoy gentle and beautiful birds peacefully gliding on a park lake," I added in closing the letter to the USDA high official.
I haven't received a reply back to that letter and at this point, don't expect one.
But, yes, it is totally frustrating to work within legal means and attempt to start and engage in meaningful dialogues with the powers that be, only to be continually shut down, evaded and ignored.
It is truly difficult to develop or maintain trust, a spirit of cooperation, (as opposed to combativeness and cynicism) and any kind of balance or "optimism" under these circumstances.
Last night, I sat for an unknown number of minutes gazing at Brad and the other 20 or so ducks who had returned to the Meer and cheerfully swirled around in the water. 
And yes, for those few serene minutes, things appeared and felt "almost normal."
But, the key word in that sentence is, "almost."
The geese are still vanished from Central Park, as are approximately 80 or so mallards that had been gathered at Harlem Meer until this past Tuesday. And the many questions concerning the latest USDA Goose Removal Report still go unanswered.
Nothing about any of that is really "normal."
But, it is not really option to personally to run to Zaccotti Park, camp out, bang on drums and shout out to a wall of seeming nothingness and deafness.
Somehow in all the chaos, uncertainty and glumness, one still needs to strive for some kind of balance, communication and "almost normalcy."
The alternatives are really bleak and don't actually exist in the real world.
As the geese continue to strive and at least in some cases, survive against all the odds and "wars", so to do we need to find that small bit of almost normalcy in each day, not give up and somehow move on through the storms and the coming of winter.......PCA

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