Sunday, October 23, 2011

Call Off The Dogs

(Photo -- New.  Romeo and Juliet.  But, soon to be shot down over New York or Pennsylvania?)
"Don't worry.  In another week or two, you will see plenty of geese flying into Central Park!"
The above assurance was made to me almost a month ago from Allan Gosser of the USDA.
But, despite the sunshine and roses prediction, the reality has been starkly different.
In fact, up until this past Friday, I had counted a total of five geese in more than three miles of Central Park for the entire month.   And those were not migratory geese "flying in," but the family of still-surviving resident geese from Turtle Pond. 
And they were only observed twice.
It seems that when arriving to the normal fall "gathering" site for geese and ducks at Harlem Meer and not finding any other geese there, the Turtle Pond goose family quickly left after only a day or two.
Since that time, flocks of migratory mallards have been steadily arriving to Harlem Meer and this past Friday afternoon, I also noted newly arrived Northern Shovelers, gulls and even rarely seen Wood Ducks. 
But, imagine the shock when looking over the very avian-busy Harlem Meer this past Friday and noting.....
What.....Can it really BE?    Oh my God!
A whopping, grand total of TWO CANADA GEESE!!
Shock overtook my senses.  I thought for a moment I was in some sort of dream.
But, no, it was real.
Two beautiful Canada geese -- obviously a mated couple, were lazily gliding amongst the duck weed and wide assortment of mallards, wood ducks and shovelers in the water.
It was obvious the newly arrived visitors were migratory geese.  Although curiously looking in my direction and noticing Brad and his "regular" mallard friends swimming my way, the geese showed no recognition and made no attempt to come close.
Fortunately, I had my camera with me and immediately zoomed in on the two geese. It has been more than two months since getting any photos of Canada geese.   (All goose photos recently posted in this journal have been from many months ago. The one posted today is new, taken this past Friday of the beautiful goose couple.)
After snapping photos and tossing some treats to Brad and his greedy mallard buddies, I sat on a nearby park bench with my dogs, happy at last to finally be seeing geese -- even if it was only two.   I had to relish and take in the moment.
The geese appeared to be resting on the water -- probably after a long journey.  They periodically bobbed their heads in the water, presumably snacking on the plentiful duck weed.
But, after about twenty minutes, the gander slowly glided away from his mate, perhaps to better familiarize himself with the new surroundings or even seek out other geese.   He wandered towards the east side of the lake casually looking in all directions.
When about 50 yards away from his mate, however, the gander then appeared to be somewhat alarmed when noticing his partner wasn't with him.
He turned around and started to suddenly call out.
"H--O--N---K..... H---O---N--K.......H---O.....N....K"
It was a series of about three or four low-pitched and loud honks.
The female goose, in kind, replied with three or four high pitched honks that traveled musically across the water.
"Honk....Honk....Honk!"   ("I am still over here!" I imagined the higher toned honks cheerfully announcing.)
The gander then took to wing to quickly get back to his mate and once again the two geese were peacefully gliding and bobbing up and down in the water together.
It was an incredibly beautiful scene to take in.  I in fact, lost track of time just sitting and watching the magically choreographed interactions between the obviously very bonded pair of geese -- like two ballet dancers on water. 
Eventually, the two geese swam together to the north east side of the lake, occasionally, standing up on the water to flap their wings, as if in preparation for further flying.
I was so thrilled and spiritually rejuvenated after watching this beautiful "ballet on water" I wondered perhaps if other migratory geese had recently flown into other parts of Central Park?
There were of course, no other geese at the Meer despite the otherwise large groups of migratory ducks and other birds that had newly arrived.
I decided to walk over to the Pond on the Upper West Side and around the Reservoir.
But, though there were a handful of mallards at the Pond and what appeared to be scores of Sea Gulls flying around the Reservoir, there were no other geese to be seen anywhere.
And then my spirits dropped once again.
I thought back on the words of Caroline Greenleaf of the Central Park Conservancy when I  called last month to complain about using dog harassment against the few resident geese of Central Park.
"We have to chase the resident geese out before the migratory geese arrive."
They had to chase out two families of resident geese to make room for a grand total of TWO "migratory geese!!??"
The thought was almost funny, were it not in fact, so tragic and irrational.
Then again, perhaps Central Park Conservancy is not fully aware of the all out "war" that has been waged on Canada geese, not only in NY State, but all over the country.  Whatever geese are not rounded up by the USDA and killed in New York City are now being blasted out of the skies in the rest of the state.
Geese don't normally migrate as only two.
It seems the two migratory geese seen at Harlem Meer are most likely the only survivors of a gaggle that attempted to migrate over New York.
Yesterday, I returned to Harlem Meer, this time shortly before sunset.   I was hoping to see the mated goose pair but knew there was good chance that would not occur again.
The geese being migratory might have flown off to continue on a long journey further south or they might have moved on because of not finding any other geese at the Meer to hook up with.
Arriving to the Meer, I was surprised to find it already dark by 6:30 as the days quickly grow shorter now.
Several groups of 8 to 10 mallards were taking off from the water and flew directly over me. I looked up, hoping to see some geese among the gaggles of flying birds, but that was not the case. 
"MIA's" I thought a bit cynically.  The geese are missing in actions, these days.
As was true in the skies was also true in the water.
I could make out scores of mallards, wood ducks and shovelers on the water, but this time, no geese at all.
Brad and his pals immediately came to me and once again, after feeding Brad from my hand and tossing out remaining treats to his cantankerous buddies, I sat down for a while to ruminate on the present goings-on. 
This would normally be such an exciting time of the year with the many flocks of migratory birds traveling in and out of the park.
But, primary among those migratory flocks should be the familiar "V's and haunting calls of the Canada geese.
But, looking up in the skies last night, I saw mostly incoming and outgoing airline flights from La Quardia airport, some of the planes flying so low, one could count the window lights.
Becoming depressed after a while, I finally got up from the bench with my dogs and started to leave.
Brad and the "regulars," as usual, followed me for some steps.
"Go on, guys.......I ain't taking a bunch of ducks home!" I attempted to laugh.
Walking home through the North Meadow, more planes continued to fly busily overhead...seemingly at shorter and shorter intervals and lower altitudes.
"The geese have been replaced by planes." ran through my mind.
And then I had to stop in my tracks and put my hand to my face in effort to stop the suddenly  gushing and free-flowing tears.
"Don't worry.  In another week or two, you will see plenty of geese flying into Central Park!"
No, Mr. Gosser.   It is now almost a month later and I am not seeing any geese flying into Central Park, but rather "plenty" of planes flying over it.   Will the two geese seen on Friday soon be shot down over New York or Pennsylvania?
Two geese.  Five geese flying.   Such easy targets without large gaggles of geese around and behind them.
That only someone had warned me last year of the very real poison of "goose chasing and harassment" when the geese are being shot and gassed and slaughtered everywhere else outside of the "safe" zone.
I tried to warn others this year.  But, no one wants to rock the boat or "alienate."
So, ultimately the geese will completely disappear from New York City. Not because we necessarily saw them get killed up close and personal.  
But, because we were afraid to question, protest and "alienate."
It is long past time to call off the guns, slaughterhouses and gas chambers.
But, since none of that is happening (or will happen) it is especially past time to call off the dogs.
The feathers we are so afraid of rustling, will soon be or already are, no more.  -- PCA


Anonymous said...

this is good blog but so sad all is documenting the death of geese. i was watching videos of the government take them i can believe they do this in new york. cant this be stop? its too bad more people are not ass passionate about the geeses than you are. there are so few people. i like to take pictures of the geese. i saw maybe 15 at the morningside park at te pond that was yesterday. the are so nice. maybe you could find more organizations or people you can work with maybe PETA or anither organization??

PCA said...

Thank you for taking the time to comment.

The purpose of this blog -- aside from keeping a personal record of counts and events pertaining to the geese --is also hopefully to sensitize and inform others of what is happening to these birds.

It is important for those who care about keeping geese in their local parks to also stay aware and let park leadership know of your care and wishes to keep the geese safe.

It sounds like you are doing some of these things already.

Thanks again!