Monday, October 10, 2011

Launching Pads and Black Mirrors

Much has been written in this journal about this time of the year representing "gathering" season for geese (and mallards) just prior to the fall migrations.
Today, there is a short, but highly informative piece regarding this subject:
Contrast that to this article out of Iowa this week announcing "setting the dogs" on an estimated 100 geese gathered around a lake in Urbandale, Iowa:
Although myself and a colleague comment to pieces like these with the hope of educating those in decision-making positions, unfortunately, such posts are coming after the fact.
Too often in animal advocacy we are "reacting" to decisions already made, as opposed to influencing those to be considered.
What is truly astounding in almost all of these scenarios is exactly how much ignorance abounds pertaining to the natural behaviors and life patterns of geese.
"Setting dogs on geese" in the fall or forbidding feeding by park patrons does absolutely nothing to address actual population of geese in a particular area.  Actions to address population growth have to be taken in the early spring when geese return to places of birth to nest and reproduce -- not in autumn when geese "gather" prior to migration launchings (as said in commentary to latter article).  Such is only to engage in animal cruelty and waste taxpayer or donor money.  Most of the geese would leave anyway in late October or November. All would leave once the watercourses freeze over.
Of course, Central Park in New York City engages in goose "hazing" in the fall of the year, much to one's great disbelief and dismay.
Saturday night, I walked with my dogs around the Reservoir in Central Park, as well as Turtle Pond, the Great Lawn and around part of the Boat Lake.
Not one goose to be seen on any of the watercourses or grass.  (For that matter I did not see any mallards either in these areas.  The mallards are mostly "gathered" at Harlem Meer now -- the former gathering site for the geese.)
Looking out over the still, dark Reservoir, the background city buildings reflected like diamonds on its waters, it reminded me of a black mirror.  Nothing moved.
The same was true of Turtle Pond and the Boat Lake.
While it can be hard to actually see waterfowl at night, one can usually make out the moving "V's" created in the water when they are swimming.
No V's.  No movement. --  Black mirrors.
Indeed, the only non-human life observed Saturday night, was a family of raccoons who quickly scampered up a tree when spooked by my dogs.  However, what I guess to be the "papa" raccoon remained near the bottom of the tree and stared at my dogs as if to warn them not to come closer.
I wondered if raccoons are a little like geese in terms of family and protection?
(I am not sharing the location of the family of raccoons, because they, like the geese are on the city's and park's crap list.  That is certainly one thing geese and raccoons have in common:  Both species are vilified and deemed "pests.")
Though disappointed not to see any geese (or ducks) in the four locations, I was not surprised.   It is still too early for migratory birds from the north to arrive to the Reservoir and none of the locations are typical "gathering" sites for NYC geese or mallards.
Part of me was probably hoping to find the Turtle Pond goose family seen last week at Harlem Meer, but its likely they were either harassed out of Central Park or perhaps left on their own when (still) not finding any other geese there.
Last night, I returned to Harlem Meer.
Since late August, new mallards have steadily been arriving to the Meer to gather as the geese used to do.  There are perhaps as many as 100 mallards at the Meer right now.  The mallards gather, rest and eat heartily this time of year, in order to build up energy and fat reserves for either the stresses of migration or (for those who remain in NYC through the winter) cold weather and lower food supplies.
Of the 100 or so mallards at the Meer now, most will begin to "launch" later this month or November to migrate south.  But, around 30 - 40 of what I call the "regulars" will remain.
When the Meer freezes over, most of the "regular" mallards will leave as well, but probably only to the Reservoir. They tend to bounce back and forth over the winter, leaving when the weather gets particularly hostile and returning to the Meer when hungry.
Of course, Brad, the Rouen, flightless duck, pictured, can't go anywhere.  And he is the one duck I am particularly worried about as he lost both his mate, Angelina this spring, as well as Joey, the Pekin duck last winter.  By himself, Brad will not be able to maintain a small pool of open water to survive over the winter.  It was a struggle last year when Brad had two other hearty birds to help him.  I don't see Brad surviving alone this winter.  But, apparently I am the only one concerned.  Despite all that has been written about Brad no one has offered him a real home. And Central Park officials and rangers seems to regard Brad as a "wild hybrid."
As said at the top of this post, real knowledge about the geese and ducks seems to be missing from those in positions of authority who actually make decisions about them.
Of course all that I am describing about the mallards used to also be true of the geese.
But, between the city's "removal" and eradication program against the geese and Central Park's endless harassment of the few geese who managed to survive, they are now a vanished species in Central Park.
In past years, as many as 50 to 100 migratory geese would fly into Central Park over the winter and mostly stay at the Reservoir (which doesn't entirely freeze over) with a few geese making occasional stops at Harlem Meer.
But, that number dropped precipitously last year when very few geese were observed either at the Reservoir or Harlem Meer.
Unfortunately, Central Park also used harassment against the migratory geese as late as mid November of last year, so once again, it is hard to tell what is "normal," what actually signifies deep population declines and what is irrational "hazing."
I just know I have reached a point of total disgust with our so-called "management" of the geese and endless ignorance and persecution of these birds.
I don't believe it is long before we will be doing the same to mallards.
The launching pads of gathering sites to eventually disappear to be replaced by the black mirrors of lifeless black water or ice under the midnight skies.  -- PCA

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