Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How To Manufacture a War

(Photo:  Brad, the domestic Rouen duck at Harlem Meer. If only he could talk. What did he imagine and experience last night?)
Although yesterday's blog entry was written tongue in cheek to show how a "war" can be manufactured against even the most beautiful and innocent creations of nature such as trees and mallards ("When Next, the Mallards and Trees?"), it might not have been so fictitious and exaggerated after all......
Last night, when arriving to Harlem Meer, I found myself suddenly looking at a "black mirror."
The water clear, dark, still and reflective with no sign of life or movement on it at all.
Jesus, what happened to all the ducks, including the regulars?
For weeks the lake at Harlem Meer has been a "staging" site for mallards and most recently, wood ducks and shovelers.    The night before, there were more than 100 mallards on the lake.  
Where and why would they ALL suddenly and hastily depart?
Indeed, I could not see Brad or even the resident mallards who live at Harlem Meer throughout most of the entire year.  The entire lake, a still and seemingly, lifeless black mirror.
The immediate suspicion was "goose harassment," but this time, waged against the mallards and other waterfowl.
But, walking down from the hill where I first view the lake and birds when arriving to Harlem Meer, I noted at the far west side of the meer, a raft-type boat on the water with bright, beaming lights.  The boat was barely moving.
Speedily walking towards the west to investigate, I passed a table near the shore with some people sitting behind it, rustling papers. I noted one paper with the letters, "DEC" on it.
I asked a woman at the table what was going on?
The 30-something, brown-haired woman with a cheery smile announced they were there to "test" the water to be sure it was "healthy for the fish."
(At almost 9 PM at night?  And at a time the lake is most plentiful with waterfowl? In another month or so, the lake at Harlem Meer would start to freeze over and there would be few birds on it.)
"What happened to all the ducks?" I asked.
"Oh, they are somewhere at the far side of the lake," the woman continued to smile assuredly.
"I don't see any.  Did you chase the ducks away?"
"Um, no.  Perhaps the lights from the boat scared them," the woman replied, the smile disappearing from her face.
"They use harassment against the geese, you know. Now, there are no geese here and some of us are not happy about that!"
Figuring I wasn't going to get whole or accurate answers to the questions I had, I walked away as by that time, I was alarmed for Brad, the domestic Rouen duck and felt  need to find him.
Numerous police cars patrolled the area.  That too, seemed a bit odd if the intention was solely to test the lake water.
Walking to the north west side of the lake, I was able to get a better look at the boat about 20 yards away. There were a few people casting small nets into the water, presumably to catch some fish or other aquatic life.
But, my concern was for the still missing Brad -- or any ducks at all.
I walked around the entire lake, carefully checking the grassy embankments for any sign of Brad or other waterfowl.   I knew Brad had to be somewhere, as unlike the mallards, he could not fly away.
I felt utterly terrible and fearful for Brad.  It must be so terrifying for this domestic duck to be suddenly abandoned and alone. Where could he be?
Finally getting to the East side of the lake, I peered into the dark, sullen water and was able to make out what appeared to be four ducks sitting like tiny statues on the still lake.  They did not move at all.
One of them appeared to be, due to lighter coloring, Brad.
Suddenly feeling somewhat relieved, but not positive, I needed to stay a bit longer to be sure it was Brad and not some figment of my imagination or wishful thinking.
Eventually, the boat left the water at the far side of the lake.
It was only then that the four ducks appeared to move very cautiously and slowly in the water.
As they gradually drifted towards the south side of the lake, I was finally able to get a better look under the park lamp lights.
And yes, it was Brad with what appeared to be three juvenile, female mallards.
But, all four birds were utterly petrified. 
Despite knowing me like one of his webbed feet, Brad did not approach me, nor did any of his three young female companions.
It was a totally depressing scene -- and yet one which I found myself immensely and strangely grateful for.
I wondered how Brad was able to persuade the three young mallards to stay with him, as opposed to flying off with the more than 100 other ducks, some of whom had to be their own flock members?
It was a question very hard to figure an answer to as one had to presume the three mallards could fly.
But, I was relieved and grateful that the three young ducks stayed, regardless of the reasons.
Still, it brought back the question of whether or not harassment was used last night to scare off all the other waterfowl on the lake?
And I had to speculate the answer to that question to be "yes," though its unlikely the DEC people actually did that.
Its hard to imagine one small boat, moving that slowly would have freaked out 100 birds to suddenly take off, despite the bright light beams on the water.
The other factor prompting me to surmise that harassment was used, was the late hour of the "water testing."
If the soul purpose of the venture was to test water, why would they not do that during normal, day light hours when bright light beams wouldn't be necessary?
None of it was making a whole lot of sense. 
Not the late time of evening -- nor the time of year.
One would think DEC would want to "test" water quality and fish "health" prior to the fishing season, as opposed to afterwards.
And why at a time of year so many ducks and waterfowl are normally gathering?
Was this to try and manufacture some "case" against the ducks and other birds for "contaminating" water as has been done against geese?
A colleague suggested today that I should call the Central Park Conservancy to get answers to the questions.
I may do that at some point, but am not optimistic about getting the right person at the Conservancy who is able and willing to answer the questions directly, wholly and truthfully.
Surely, they are not going to admit to seeking reasons to reduce, harass or "manufacture a war" on ducks anymore than USDA would admit to manufacturing a war on geese.
It just seems a bit ironic that no sooner did I write mockingly and half jokingly about creating "wars" against mallards and trees that it appears I actually walked right into one being created last night.
Certainly, it must have seemed to Brad and the three young mallards who mysteriously stayed with him last night (when all the other birds suddenly left or were chased away) that some kind of "war" was happening.
The only times I have seen birds that petrified are the times harassment is actually used.
Even I could not impart to Brad and his companions any sense of peace or security last night.
I now wonder about those two helicopters hovering over the Reservoir the other evening as mallards were attempting to fly in and out?  (I could not see any mallards on the Reservoir last night.)
Were they really weather or tourist copters -- or something else?
It seems no suspicion, no matter how crazy, exaggerated or "paranoid" these days is actually outside the realm of possible reality.
What normal person, would, after all, ever seriously imagine a day when we would invade city parks and round up thousands of peaceful geese for gassing and slaughter?
"How to manufacture a war," indeed.  -- PCA

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