Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"GooseWatch" (International?)

A new, "Goosewatch" Facebook page has been established with the express purpose of preventing further goose massacres in New York City:
It is vital that everyone who cares about protecting geese in New York City sign up, follow and share this page to the greatest degrees possible.
For those outside of New York City and supporting the geese on a national and international level, please sign up with the Call of the Canada geese FB page, (if not having done so already):
The concept of Goosewatch is extremely important and its success critical to the protection of geese, not just in NYC, but around the country.
For better or worse, what occurs in New York City usually expands to other locations.
Certainly that has unfortunately been true of goose cullings, which, though seemingly begun in NYC almost ten years ago, have spread like some infectious and deadly disease all across the country.
But, hopefully the dedication and resolve to stop this carnage, (starting in New York City now) will similarly expand outward.
Today has been a mixture of both good and bad news for the geese.
The good news of course, is the continuing commitment to the geese and new efforts to save them locally.
The bad news is the announcement in several media outlets today of a planned 3-day "goose hunt" in a city park in Little Rock, Arkansas just a couple of days before this Christmas:
Just when one thinks it cannot get worse for the geese, it somehow does.
City Council members in Little Rock decided to close the public park for three days to allow for the hunt.
The geese will literally be sitting ducks for a carnage to occur just shortly before one of the highest holy days of the year for most Americans.  Talk about irony.  Obviously, no Christmas "greetings" for the geese in Arkansas -- unless one considers bullets to be greeting.
It is urged that people comment to the above article!
One has to wonder if the Little Rock council members considered at all, the likely media coverage to this bizarre and violent action just prior to Christmas, as well as  the fact that many of the geese are likely to be migratory birds resting in Arkansas over the winter.  
Migratory populations of Canada geese are already in serious decline without being blasted away towards the end of December.
A prior article about Little Rock geese mentioned that coyote cutouts had been used a few times to scare geese, but were "unsuccessful."  But, nothing was mentioned about landscaping, hazing with trained Border Collies or egg addling -- methods we know for a fact, work to keep geese away.  Nor has this community purchased a Naturesweeper
Naturesweep - In the Media which easily picks up goose droppings and renders them into fertilizer.
That only a GooseWatch could quickly be established in Little Rock, Arkansas before the planned Christmas massacre.  (Or, better yet, a Goosewatch, International.)
The only "shootings" needed are those from cameras.  -- PCA

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Witness to a Massacre

On this long holiday weekend, I updated a couple of things on my Facebook page and while there, noticed a box that indicated, "Notes."
"Hm, what's that?" I wondered.
Curiously, I opened the box and discovered a number of animal rescue or rights notes posted by friends over the past couple of years.
One of them jumped out at me.
Apparently, the note was posted last year, but I never noticed it until now.
It's written by a Yvette West, a long time advocate for animals and witness to a USDA roundup of Canada geese that occurred on Randals Island in June of 2009.  
Ms. West was not on the actual island when the roundup occurred.  Rather, she was walking her dog along the Promenade of Carl Shurtz Park on the Upper East Side of Manhattan when she and others heard the horrifying screams emanating from across the river at 10PM that fateful night.....
Rather than describing the note, I called Yvette today, both to fill in and verify details and to request permission to run her full testimony in this journal.
Although the testimony is from two years ago, it is as pertinent today as the actual time of the violence because, as has been noted countless times, the goose massacres are still occurring in our city and are planned for next and future years.
The questions that need to be asked are, "Where does this all end?  Will there be any geese left to kill next year?"
Or, as Audubon Society described the massacres in 2010: "This seems management to extinction."
Below, Ms. West's full testimony and note.  Commentary and updates to follow.
Witness to a Massacre -- by, Yvette West
The note below was written by me last year. As you can see the genocide has broadened and without a group monitoring what the USDA and the Environmental Protection Agencies are doing, this "in the night" brutality will continue and worse, broaden. 

Testimony from June 2009:

I was on the Promenade of the East River at Gracie Mansion tonight.  Promptly at 10PM the roundup began. I could hear their screams.  Molting Geese and Goslings screaming and begging for freedom.  Nets placed atop them and who knows what means they were using for the actual slaughter?  A city worker sitting on a bench.   A friend who was walking her dog was sobbing and two girls unsuspecting heard it and starting crying hysterically. I kept thinking about the baby seals and their screams.
We need to film the killing to bare witness to this evil.  Which of the larger groups can bare witness? Peta? HSUS? The birds' screams were piercing, relentless and constant. I have never heard screams like this from an animal before and I have heard and witnessed much.
These are parents trying to save not only themselves,  but their babies. They are gentle creatures who mate for life and have been resting at these places for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

There is no solution here to be found in their brutal killing.  I oppose our Mayor and his plans to kill thousands of these Canada geese this summer. First and foremost it was migratory birds that interrupted the flight over the Hudson, not resident geese from city parks. There are non-violent ways to safeguard airplanes from collisions with birds.
I hope public outrage will convince our representatives to stop this misguided initiative. I urge you all to insist that they employ non-lethal and long term management of the geese. A sweeping eradication is not a long-term commitment to reduce flock growth as without modifying landscapes and waterways that attracted them in the first place, they will remain attracted to the landscape.

The GeesePeace chapters in New York (there are 7 of them) specialize in population stabilization and site aversion and integrate lasting strategies.  I have been advised they have partnered with USDA and are no longer promoting peaceful measures outside of rubbing oil on eggs. For real peaceful solution please explore geesebusters eagle kite solutions.
It is particularly inhumane to ambush geese when molting and flightless. Yet that is how goslings and adults will be trapped on municipal properties surrounding Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. Even though our Mayor knows there are successful, non-violent methods that have been used nationally to divert flocks resting and growth successfully, he still signs off on mass killings. I urge anyone who can, to film the roundups so we can bare witness to the brutality and show people what our leaders are really made of. Criminals in designer suits.
Why aren't they out there witnessing these graceful animals fruitlessly beg for their lives?"   -- Yvette West, June, 2009.
Commentary and Update
Since Ms. West wrote her testimony, as predicted thousands of other NYC geese have been brutally rounded up and either gassed or sent to slaughter.
Although Ms. West was unable to actually see the USDA roundup of geese that occurred on a small island across the river from Carl Shurtz Park, the fact she and others were able to hear the cries and screams of birds being entrapped and captured at least two miles away is astounding and chilling.
One can only imagine the actual sights and horrors of the location and event.
Due to the fact Ms. West and other witnesses on the Promenade that night contacted city officials and the press the following day to express their grief and outrage, changes were made in 2010 to conduct goose roundups in very early mornings (as opposed to night) to presumably attract less public attention.
But, the massacres did not go unnoticed in 2010, either.
Citizens around the Prospect Park area in Brooklyn noticed all their geese suddenly gone one July morning in 2010 and rightly suspecting the worst, contacted the New York Times which then exposed and covered the USDA goose killings in some detail.
Although Ms. West did not know how the geese were actually killed at the time, it was  revealed a year later, that geese rounded up from city parks were sent to Kennedy Airport for gassings.
But, when in 2010,  there was public outrage about the goose gassings and dumping of the bodies in landfills, tactics were again changed this past summer to round up the geese and send them to slaughter in Pennsylvania.  
But, 575 geese, (each adult weighing more than ten pounds), yielded only 424 lbs of "edible meat" (less than one pound per bird.)    Obviously, the PR ploy of sending the doomed geese to slaughter almost 4 hours away from NYC not only represented extreme and unjustifiable cruelty to animals, but an unpardonable waste of tax money, as well. 
The fact is, we could have fed "hungry people" Russian caviar for far less than it required to round up, transport, slaughter and supposedly, toxicity "test" wildlife from city parks.  One has to question where exactly did the USDA and city officials "cut corners" to make the irrational and insidious venture in any way financially doable?  The so-called, "toxicity testing" seems the likely and only feasible cut.
The bottom line and question to ask of both the past goose massacres and the present is, Where does this all end?
In the discovery of Ms. West's astounding and chilling testimony from two years ago, it seems the only legitimate and sane answer is that the brutal goose killings should have ended that very night in 2009.
Or, more appropriately, they never should have occurred at all.
How is it even possible that we would still plan further killings of whatever geese still miraculously remain and survive in public parks and city properties?
What have we really become?
How do we dare to call ourselves "civilized and humane" as a culture and a people while allowing such brutalization and eradication of innocent and defenseless wildlife not only to occur in the first place, but to continue ad infitum?   -- PCA

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Quick Takes

Yesterday, President Obama pardoned two turkeys named, "Peace" and "Liberty."
How ironic the names considering that neither peace nor liberty are granted to the millions of other turkeys bred, factory raised, slaughtered and destined for ovens or turkey fryers on Thanksgiving Day.
Media footage of the event showed the Obama girls, Sasha and Melita gently stroking the spared turkeys.
One could not help but wonder, how does one pet one turkey and eat another?
I am ambivalent about Thanksgiving.
On the one hand, it is important to set aside a special day for appreciation of life's blessings and bounties.
On the other, why must such gratitude, thanks and celebration require the slaughter of millions of animals?
Presuming one of the things we give thanks for is "peace," why would we not grant that same peace to others with whom we share this planet?
Among the many things I feel grateful this Thanksgiving Day is the health, vitality, devotion and company of my two dogs, Tina and Chance.
I don't look at my dogs as "pets," "kids," or "property."
Rather, they are my partners.
Tina (a Corgie/Spitz mix) will be 16 years-old shortly.   Chance (a large, 17 lb Pomeranian)  is 14-years-old.
Both dogs were rescued from death at the city pound (AC&C) many years ago.
My dogs walk two miles every day with me.  People often remark on how "well trained" they are and how young they look.
But, I never "trained" either Tina or Chance (or consulted with or hired a trainer) and except for shots, neutering and occasional teeth cleanings or dew claw clippings, both dogs have required no veterinary interventions or treatments.
Contrast all that to this insightful article ("Can the Bulldog Be Saved?") from last Sunday's New York Times:
Morals of story:
If you want a healthy dog, adopt a mixed breed or old standard purebred.
If you want a well behaved dog, partner and exercise with your dog every day and condition him or her to the behaviors you desire.
Do the right thing and things will turn out right.     
Something else I am grateful for this Thanksgiving Day.
The beautiful geese who flew into Harlem Meer yesterday afternoon.
The lake was mostly empty when I first arrived.  Only Brad and the troupe of ten ducks were immediately observed.
But, then overhead, came the unmistakable and haunting sounds of arriving geese!
First, a gaggle of nine geese!
Then, another of seven geese!
And finally, a flock of about eight!
They glided over the tops of the trees in perfect "V" formations and then came down gleefully skidding across the water.
I haven't seen this many geese in one location in Central Park since last spring!
Once on the water, the geese divided up into two groups, one of which (the original gaggle of nine) drifted over in my direction.
I took pictures and hand-fed some treats to a few.
I imagined these were the same former "resident" Harlem Meer geese observed a couple of nights ago.
But, what about the others?
Could they be the first migratory geese finally arriving to Central Park?
It could be, as reports from around the nation indicate that the geese are migrating now.
And though I am constantly worried about the additional pressures put on geese through hunting this time of year, I am at least a little encouraged by both the sight of newly arriving geese yesterday and the following newspaper article out today:
A very informative piece that talks among other things, of how Canada geese "elude hunters."
Ah yes, let us not forget that among the many attributes of Canada geese are their intelligence, cleverness and adaptability.
I do believe that the geese secretly read the New York Times every day and make their plans accordingly.
And for that, I am most appreciative, grateful -- and just a wee bit hopeful.
(Take that, USDA.)
A special and happy Thanksgiving Day to all who would rather pet a turkey than eat one. --
Peace and Liberty to ALL! -- PCA

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Low Honks of High Winged Geese

"My cup runneth over!"
That was the thought last night when returning to Harlem Meer and shockingly finding what is guessed to be some of the former resident geese who regularly stayed at the Meer during past falls and springs.
When first arriving and not immediately seeing waterfowl from the west side of the lake, I was a bit concerned.  
But, figuring that the mallards were probably gathered towards the eastern portions of Meer, I walked around path curves.
Sure enough, there was a large cluster of mallards lazily swimming around in a kind of circle.   
But, in the middle of the circle were geese!
And not just the usual and singular family of four or five pitiful geese that I've become accustomed to seeing sporadically over the past three months, but at least a dozen geesies!
Not believing my eyes, I wondered if such a "large" gaggle suddenly arriving might be migratory?
But, I eliminated that speculation when one of the families of five geese began to swim in my direction.
It was apparent that they recognized both my dogs and me!
"Where have you guys been hiding all these months?"  I asked, knowing that geese don't understand English.
The five geese looked at me and one of them mumbled a low honk greeting as they casually approached the grassy embankment.
I tossed a few treats on the edge of the bank to the geese, but then noticed Brad, the flightless Rouen duck peering at me from a few feet away.
"What about me?"
OK, first things first....  
I was there, after all, to look after Brad and his mallard pals.
Brad (for some unknown reason) will only embark on the open lake embankment further west.
So, as usual, I motioned to him with my hand and began to walk in that direction.
Brad gathered up the regular troupe of about eight mallards and they all followed me.
We went to the usual location and Brad bounded up cheerfully on the grass and took his treats from my hand.
His mallard buddies (of convenience) also trotted up on the grass and nibbled at whatever fell to the ground.
After a while, Brad had his fill of treats and walked to the lake's edge.  
And then, for at least 30 seconds, Brad enthusiastically flapped his flightless wings as if preparing to fly.
This scene always makes me chuckle. And yet, it is sad in a way, because Brad of course, can never actually fly.
I often wonder what it is like for Brad, who being a duck himself, is surrounded by ducks and other waterfowl who can --and routinely -- fly?
Brad realizes obviously he is "different" and at least in previous years, he had Angelina (also a domestic Rouen duck) who was his constant flightless companion. But, since her mysterious disappearance (and presumed death) this past spring, there are no other flightless birds at the Meer to my knowledge.
I worry of course for Brad when the harshness of the winter sets in and the Meer freezes over.  Most of the mallards will leave as they are opportunistic birds who cleverly find whatever open water exists in the park (usually the Reservoir in winter). 
Can Brad ultimately be successful in enticing any of his "troupe" to stay at the Meer through the winter?
That is a question yet to be answered.....
Finally satisfied last night that Brad and the troupe had their fill, I gathered my dogs and headed back to where the geese were.
I had saved just enough treat to share with the family of five geese who had greeted me a few minutes before.
Sure enough, the same five geese recognized and approached me again. This time, two of the geese confidently hopped up on the embankment, along with a couple of mallards.
The two geese ate from my hand -- though a bit rough at first.
"Hey, gentle!  Don't take my finger!"
They were obviously not the Turtle Pond goose family, though quickly (like geese do) learn.
After a couple of seconds, the two geese were much more relaxed and soft in the mouths.
(Maybe they do understand English?)
Just then, a man passed by with a black German Shepherd mix dog. 
One of my dogs, Chance (my Pomeranian) jumped out protectively barking at the Shepherd.
The shepherd didn't react and nor strangely did the geese!  (The mallards quickly jumped back in the water.)
Obviously these five geese were very accustomed to Harlem Meer and had to be part of the resident geese who once used to live there.
Meanwhile, the other seven or eight geese that the family apparently arrived with remained in the water and casually observed everything from a safe distance.
I am not sure if in fact they were former resident Harlem Meer geese or just a family or two that the resident five hooked up with along the way.
The "along the way" is, of course, what is really questionable.
Where were the resident Central Park geese hiding out all these months?
I have no idea where they were during all this time (including the Turtle Pond family that returned back to the Boat Lake recently).
I had worried that most of the geese had been "hazed" from Central Park and ended up being rounded up and killed from other parts of the city this past summer.
That still might unfortunately be true for many of the geese who used call Central Park their home in recent years.
But, thank God, it is obviously not true for all.
Walking home from the Meer last night, I wondered if the geese, sensing a "target" on their heads, cleverly found some off-beat hiding place to safely keep themselves out of danger and relatively free from harassment?
Figuring that the geese really DO understand English, the speculation looms as real possibility.
It wouldn't surprise if the geese actually do secretly read the New York Times  everyday during those times we don't see them. 
They are really not the "silly" geese or "dumb animals" we assume them to be.
Those low honk greetings actually mean something -- as do all the other verbal and body communications that geese and ducks routinely use.  
Included among them, perhaps, the ability to understand English? -- PCA

Monday, November 21, 2011

Oh, Happy Day!

(Photo: [new] 1-- Romantic dinner. Mama and Papa last night at the Boat Lake 2--One of the youngsters on "sentry duty.")
Some are pleasant, some not so pleasant and some knock you off your feet.
I wasn't expecting any "surprises" when heading to Central Park shortly after dusk last night.
But, I did change the usual direction.
Figuring it had been a while since checking out Turtle Pond and the Boat Lake, I decided to survey the areas once again on the seemingly futile search for geese.
Turtle Pond was a flurry of waterfowl activity last night,  but not of geese. There appeared to be at least a couple of dozen mallards gliding peacefully under the moonlight.  Briefly checking  the Reservoir, I could note mallards and vibrant groups of shovelers swimming in circles -- but again no geese.
I then headed with my two dogs towards the boat lake, resigned that no geese would be found there either.
The boat lake is of course the site where the Turtle Pond goose family (Mama, Papa and their three yearlings) molted and stayed over the summer, along with 5 other geese.
I used to love coming to the boat lake from June to late August as the family of five are my very favorite geese and are actually the basis of my love and admiration for these wondrous birds.  I quite literally watched the "babies" grow up when the family was at Turtle Pond during the summer of 2010.
But, this year (as noted) the family stayed at the Boat Lake, perhaps because they were chased from Turtle Pond where they had returned in early March and stayed temporarily through a failed nesting of the parent geese.
Once the gaggle of geese developed their flight feathers in late August, all ten left the boat lake.
I did however see Mama, Papa and the three grown "kids" last month briefly at Harlem Meer.   They stayed for a couple of days and then moved on.
I felt a sense of despondency when returning to the boat lake last night.
As beautiful and peaceful as it is (especially at night), the large lake with the twinkling skyline view of midtown Manhattan seems desolate, lonely and empty without geese.
Additionally, it is full of memories.
I didn't look forward to revisiting the boat lake last night, but felt it necessary to check out.
Arriving to the entrance of the lake and peering out, I thought I saw what seemed like large bird forms resting near one of the rock formations.
It couldn't be, I thought skeptically.  Probably just some rocks.....
But, I walked towards the large rock patch on the lake anyway.
Walking through a little winding path that leads to the rocks, I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks.
There, under the glistening moonlight were four geese standing near the edge of the water!
Oh, my God!  Glory be!
Expecting the geese to be startled by my dogs and bolt for the water, I was further surprised to see them totally unafraid and actually walk a couple of steps in my direction!
Could it possibly be?  Could it really be them?!
Not wanting to jump to conclusions, I led my dogs to a stone "bench" (where they obligingly stayed) and I slowly approached and cooed to the four geese.
They seemed to recognize me and stepped a little closer!
I reached in my bag and pulled out a small bag of cracked corn and sunflower seeds.
Sure enough, two of the geese confidently nibbled from my hand!
Their gentle mouths virtually assured to me, it was, indeed the Turtle Pond goose family!
And though it was very dark, I was finally able to make out Mama goose by the missing webbing on her right foot and Papa goose by his lame left leg!
"Twinkle Toes!"  (my pet name for Mama.)  "Papa!  It's soooo good to see you guys again!  You are a sight for sore eyes!"
It was then that Mama goose murmured a low "honk" that was barely audible.
I recognized that as typical goose greeting.
Mama then gently pecked at the youngster eating from my hand as if to order him to "sentry" duty.
Sure enough, the yearling moved away and took sentry position on one of the rocks.  The other youngster also took a sentry position on one of the other rocks.
Mama then continued to eat from my hand as Papa goose watched closely a couple of feet away.
I then started to toss some of the seeds to the ground and the romantic couple moved towards each other and nibbled the treats together.
I sat on a rock for a while, snapped a couple of photos and just marveled at how incredibly romantic and devoted these birds truly are. 
In the two years I have observed this particular goose family (with the exception of when Mama was nesting last spring in the rocks of Belvedere Castle and Papa kept close watch in the water), the parent geese have never been more than a couple of feet from each other.
The sheer love, devotion and undying loyalty of geese to each other is, I believe, unrivaled by any other animals in nature (certainly, unchallenged by humans).  
It is indescribable the sheer joy I felt in seeing this wondrous and beautiful family once again. -- Like finding a long, lost lover.
Looking out upon the dark water, I was able to make out what appeared like two or three other geese in the not too far distance.
One of them eventually arrived to the rock and I guessed s/he was the third yearling.
Papa goose honked once and gave the youngster a gentle, but commanding nudge.
Its funny how the parent geese command the youngsters to take on sentry positions while Mama and Papa have their romantic time together.
And of course, the "kids" always oblige and have learned their lessons well.
Parental respect looms very high in goose families. 
If geese have survived so proficiently despite man's endless persecution and massacres, it is due, I believe, to these extremely powerful and enduring mate and family bonds.
Not expecting to find any geese last night, I had not brought much in the way of treats.  What I had brought, was quickly gone.
But, the geese did not leave.
Rather, all five stood peacefully around the rocks, gazing either out on to the water or acceptingly in my direction.
It was like reliving a beautiful dream.
But, all good dreams come to an end.
Eventually, I got off the rock to get my dogs and prepare to leave.
"It's been so wonderful seeing you guys again!"
I could swear all five geese smiled at me as I turned to leave with my dogs.
Exiting the park at 79th Street, I encountered what apparently was an "Occupy" rally being held across the street from Mayor Bloomberg's town house.
But, it didn't seem so much of a "protest" as much as some kind of strange celebration.
Some people were dancing and others playing loudly on drums.
I might have joined them for a bit, but my dogs seemed a little spooked by the noise and extra human activity.  
Then again, I had already had my night of "celebration."
Not only to finally find geese in Central Park, but my very, very special family.
Oh, happy day -- and happy, happy surprise!  -- PCA

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"We Care"

The family of five Canada geese observed two nights ago at Harlem Meer have since moved on.
Though I fully expected the newcomers to quickly leave (as has been the pattern over the past three months), it was nevertheless disappointing to be back at square zero in terms of the number of geese discovered in Central Park.
Yesterday, I looked back on short videos posted on YouTube last year of geese staying at Harlem Meer this time of year.  There were from 30-40 geese moving in and out of the Meer, as well as a few geese at Turtle Pond and other areas of Central Park.
One year later, one can walk almost three miles in Central Park and not find even one goose.
When bringing up these matters last week to the gentleman from Audubon Society, I was told that, "Central Park has been hazing geese for years."
That is true of course. But, it doesn't explain how the number of geese at CP went from almost 50 geese in the autumn of one year to zero the next.
As Central Park officials have repeatedly said, the main goal of hazing (harassment) is to simply "move geese from one part of the park to another" as the Conservancy doesn't want geese congregating on lawns. 
I of course, have been critical of the hazing and harassment of CP geese, but I truly don't believe it to be the main reason there are few or no geese at all in Central Park over these past three months.
I believe rather, that the goose population has been decimated, not just in NYC, but around the state.
Admittedly, "proof" of that is difficult lacking a verifiable, current and reputable count -- which is the reason for calling Audubon in the first place.
But, Audubon Society (as well as politicians, state officials and of course, the USDA) is apparently under the impression that, "No one really cares about the geese."
And that really seems to be the gist of all of these animal cruelty issues, whether it be the "hazing" and slaughter of thousands of geese from city parks over the years, or the confinement, torture and deaths of billions of "battery chickens" and other domestic animals.
"No one cares about geese and no one cares about chickens."
Of course carrying that mentality to its extreme limits, we eventually find ourselves having to examine the question of whether anyone actually "cares about" children being raped by authority figures in churches, universities and other "reputable" institutions as news headlines have reminded us again over the past few weeks.
The assumption that "no one cares" or that silence can be bought through reward, promotion or cheap prices is a very troubling and cynical one as it seems to point to a kind of moral decay -- not just regarding our treatment of animals, but other vulnerable and powerless members of society, most notably, children.
Where does such cynicism, acceptance of wrongdoing and jadedness end?
Does it end with the actual extinction of species on our planet due exclusively to human corruption and killing?   Does it end with the development of antibiotic-resistant viruses and diseases as result of the cruel, unnatural, "maximum sustained yield" ways we raise, abuse and slaughter billions of animals?  Does it end with the destruction of innocence and trust in our own children?
Personally, I don't have answers to any of these immensely complex questions.
But, I truly don't believe that, "No one cares."
It is true that most Americans aren't marching on protest lines, writing letters or making the calls that perhaps they should to elected officials, agencies, organizations and other decision makers.
But, that should not be interpreted to mean that no one gives a damn about anything of an ethical or moral nature.
Yesterday, I was distressed that a major network, having presented an accurate and important report of the animal abuse conditions in a industrialized egg production plant, seemingly dismissed the exposure by advising viewers how to properly "cook" the product of said plant (eggs).
The network, (in my view) incorrectly assumed that most viewers weren't troubled at all about the moral implications (i.e. animal cruelty) of the report, but rather only concerned about protection of individual health and how to "cook" the product derived from said exploitation.
It seemed both yesterday and today that the network advice was therefore "cynical" in that it completely failed to acknowledge any ethical considerations the viewer might have, as well as it seemingly diluted the discoveries of its very own investigative report.
(There are of course, things people can "do" to not support such exploitative industry even apart from totally swearing off a particular product and becoming a vegetarian or vegan. Support of small, organic or free range farmers, for example and cutting back on consumption of the product in general.)
That the media, as well as governmental institutions and agencies only seem to assume the worst of average Americans (i.e. that we have no moral compass whatsoever and only makes decisions based upon personal gain or unwillingness of personal sacrifice) is, needless to say, troubling at the very least.
Although personally willing to admit that I am perhaps one of most skeptical or even "cynical" people on the planet, even I don't believe that the average American has totally lost his or her moral and ethical compass.
Rather, I believe that most thinking Americans are indeed disturbed ethically about many things currently happening, but probably feel uncertain and confused about the best ways to express those feelings or powerless to stop the various injustices and abuses.
I believe that is part of the reason many thousands of people have joined up with the "Occupy" movement.  --  As a way of "expressing" discontent with the status quos.
Expression is the opposite to depression.
Depression is currently like a national epidemic in our country.  Millions of people are on prescription "anti-depressants" and millions more attempt to avoid feelings of disquiet, discomfort or despair though compulsive exercises and/or obsessions with personal health or appearance or reliance upon alcohol or other recreational drug consumption.
I don't believe most people fully realize the power they actually do have to, not only make changes in their individual lives that directly impact the "status quo" (i.e. purchasing power and choices), but also, in how and who they express themselves to.
The "silent majority" (which actually represents most Americans) needs to learn how to express itself and simply say, "we care" -- not only as a matter of societal and environmental consciousness, but individual mental and emotional health as well.  
The price for not doing so is the assumption of complicity to wrongdoing and absence of cultural ethics codes.
That is a heavy price indeed, as it ultimately results in destruction of self, as well as the moral fibre of society itself.
In a little while, I will head to Central Park again in search of any Canada geese that might still survive or have recently arrived somewhere in the 874 acre property.
But, I will be thinking, "That only others can rise up and say, 'We care' before it is too late for both the geese and us."  -- PCA

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"State of the Art"

If Canada geese currently represent the most persecuted animals in nature, chickens undoubtedly represent the most tyrannized of domestic animals.
Billions of chickens are factory raised and slaughtered for "meat" each year and millions of hens are subjected to a life of indoor hell as "egg layers" for things like "Egg Mcmuffins" or millions of morning breakfasts.
In what is a very unusual move for network TV, the news program, "20/20" last night aired an investigation of a commercial egg factory:
Sparboe "farms" describes itself as, "State of the art when it comes to the production of eggs."
Such is tragically a true statement as intensive factory farming is indeed how most eggs in this country are produced.
Another way of saying it is, "maximum sustained yield."
Who cares how many chickens die in the cages or are slammed around by cruel or frustrated humans as long as billions of eggs are laid?
Even on the ABC report, little attention was actually paid to the cruelty towards the chickens as the focus was the potential health threat of the "dirty" eggs to humans.
The report also focused on McDonald's dumping Sparboe as an egg supplier. ABC claimed this move to be a "major victory" for Animal Rights.
But, it is hardly a victory for Animal Rights as McDonalds will simply contract with another similar company to supply its millions of factory derived eggs.
The move by McDonalds to dump Sparboe can only be rightfully seen as a major Public Relations move.
After all, it doesn't really look good for McDonald's rosy, "Lovin' It!" images for people to see workers in one of its supply factories swinging live chickens around or removing stiff, dead chickens from cages.
(ABC announced that much of the cruelty footage filmed undercover from a Mercy for Animals investigator was "too graphic" to be shown on Television.)
McDonalds had no choice, BUT to dump Sparboe under the circumstances.
Not only were numerous laws violated in the footage from Sparboe, but the image of concrete factories where workers have to wear protective gear contradicts the images in McDonald's commercials showing bucolic and quaint farms where chickens run freely in barn yards. 
Of course, one could argue that just about everything shown in McDonald's commercials is fabricated in lies, Madison Ave "spin" and misrepresentations of truth.
Towards the end of the overall, excellent report by Brian Ross, 20/20 news anchor, Chris Cuomo tells viewers to "Go to our website to learn how to properly cook eggs."
But, was cooking the subject and source of question of the piece?
How disconnected and stunted is ABC from what it is actually showing or how disrespectful and cynical to both animals and humans can a network be that it apparently concludes the only questions viewers would have after a disturbing report like that would be on cooking?   (I could not believe my ears when hearing that.)
Then again, maybe it is me.   Perhaps I am seeing things that networks and other people apparently don't.
Still, it seems even common sense might dictate that if one has to cook something at such extraordinarily high temperatures or lengths of time to properly "kill everything" then perhaps humans should not be eating the product at all less they ultimately kill themselves.
(Viewers would have been better served if guided on where to seek "product" that is not produced through endless, "state of the art," maximum sustained yield, tyranny, abuse and cruelty towards other living beings.)
When it comes to animals in our modern society, both wild and domestic, the term, "state of the art" has taken on a whole new dimension and meaning -- and not necessarily, positive ones.
As the USDA constantly seeks new, "state of the art" methods to capture and "remove" wild geese, so too do our corporate factory farms forever seek new "state of the art" methods to oppress and exploit domestic chickens and other animals.
It seems "state of the art" has nothing to do these days, with either art or humanity.  -- PCA

Friday, November 18, 2011

What Is...?

A favorite TV addiction for many years is Jeopardy.   Though not particularly well educated, I am often surprised how many answers I mysteriously know the questions to.
Then again, I have always been much better at questions, than answers.
One of the events raising far more questions than answers these days is the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Yesterday, thousands of people marched in the streets of New York City and elsewhere.
But, I cannot seem to get a clear grasp of exactly what they are marching against?
Some days it seems to be corporate greed. Some days it is income disparities. Some days it seems just some kind of general malaise or unhappiness with everything -- especially cops.
But, aren't cops part of the "99%?"   (It doesn't seem too many cops are billionaires.)
I am confused about the 99% and exactly what that encompasses?
Does it include criminals, pedophiles, racists and terrorists as long as they aren't billionaires and are capable of beating a drum?
Does it include right-winged conservatives, religious zealots and USDA goose killers as long as they don't own mansions and yachts?
If something is so nearly all-inclusive and encompassing, where exactly is the focus and the principles on which it stands?
What exactly are the goals and what is the ultimate agenda of OWS?
In the two months since OWS launched on the scene, its main agenda seems to be lots and lots of daily protests, marches and "occupies."
That is fine. I am all for free speech, the right to assembly and the right to protest. But, what exactly is being protested and what is the specific remedy sought?
What has OWS got against the Brooklyn Bridge, for example?
I always thought the bridge simply provided a means for people to get from one borough to another.
Do the occupiers want the bridge destroyed and taken down?   Is the bridge to blame because someone lost money in their IRA account? 
Should people have to swim from Brooklyn to Manhattan?
I am not sure how that would put money in IRA's or create jobs (well, except perhaps, more lifeguard positions).
I actually believe in and support many of the voiced grievances of the OWS movement.  But, I don't know that I would necessarily support all. (Indeed, I don't know what constitutes "all.")
What if, among the many complaints of OWS, some protesters hate geese and want them all dead?
I would obviously have a problem with that.
But, my greatest question or concern about the OWS movement is what will be the ultimate result of these daily protests seemingly without end or specific goal?
The American electorate seems to have a low tolerance for these kinds of disruptions and "inconveniences" over a period of time.
All those anti-war demos in the 60's ultimately succeeded in the country electing Richard Nixon in 1968 as a kind of "backlash" to all the unrest and disquiet.
Protests are important for opening dialogues and drawing attention to vital issues, particularly of social injustice.  (But, then what?)
Protests for the sake of protests however, could ultimately have the opposite effect to their intentions and mission no matter how otherwise noble or well intended.
If the answer on Jeopardy is, "Tents in Zuccotti Park, drum banging and Brooklyn Bridge," I think we could all come up with the question, "What is, Occupy Wall Street?" 
But, what if the answer was, "Social justice, economic equity and harmony with nature?
Even I couldn't come up with the question to that one.
Last night, there was a new family of five geese at Harlem Meer.
I am quite certain the new geesies were neither migratory nor the same family of geese observed last week.  (None had leg bands and all five appeared familiar with the environment and accustomed to people and even dogs.)  
I am guessing the new arrivals are former "resident" geese of Harlem Meer, returned for a day or two.
But, if the answer on Jeopardy was, "The future for Canada geese in the USA," I would hesitate to ring in with the question.
I hate to think it is really, "What is removal?" or worse, "What is extinction?"  -- PCA

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Through the Fog......

There is something very beautiful about walking in the park on a rainy, foggy day.
Few people and the misty, wetness of the air gives everything a dream-like quality.
I felt as if in a dream yesterday circling the Reservoir -- especially noting all the new arrivals of migratory birds in the water.
Clusters of Northern Shovelers and all kinds of ducks from mallards to teals to wood ducks. Flocks of sea gulls flew around and landed in the Reservoir and even a couple of cormorants were observed lazily swimming and occasionally diving for fish.
What of course was conspicuously absent were any sightings of Canada geese.
And that was not only true of the Reservoir, but also the pond on the Upper West Side and Harlem Meer.
I had hoped that my not finding the five geese at Harlem Meer the other night was due to the darkness of the lake at night.
But, yesterday's viewing in the middle of the afternoon confirmed that the five geese seen over a period of four days were definitely gone.
Whether they were "hazed" out of the Meer or departed on their own accord is not clear.
It does however appear over the past three bizarre and unpredictable months that even if a few geese show up from time to time at the Meer, they don't stay beyond a few days -- perhaps because there are no other geese there.
The same has also been true of those few geese occasionally seen on the Reservoir.
Here one day, gone the next.
My concern about the near-absence of any geese in Central Park has now expanded to that of alarm.
Today, I called the New York City branch of The Audubon Society to discuss and express my dismay about the current situation of no geese in Central Park at a time thousands of other migratory birds are passing through.
"I have never seen anything like this," I told a gentleman named Glenn who spoke with me over the phone.
Glenn confirmed that the number of reported Canada geese sightings in Manhattan is down from what it was a few years ago, but he also said that most migratory geese don't usually arrive until December and that bird watchers don't always report Canada geese.
I assured him there were hardly any geese, migratory or resident,  to report for the past 7 months -- at least in Central Park.
Although obviously not pleased with all the USDA-conducted goose slaughters around New York City, the Audubon Society seems to be under the impression that, "People don't really care about Canada geese."
"Last year we sent a letter to our members requesting that they call 311 and write an email to protest the goose killings," Glenn told me.  "But, only seven people actually reported back to us that they did.  Many people actually dislike and complain about geese."
"I am aware that many people don't like geese," I replied.  "Then again there are people who hate dogs, cats or even kids.  It doesn't seem right that such people should be dictating policy. Nor, should it be assumed that goose haters represent what the majority feel.  They are simply the loudest.  Most people who enjoy seeing geese in the parks are totally unaware of what's been happening to the birds."
Glenn and I both agreed that in order for the geese to have any chance of being spared another USDA roundup and slaughter next year, an accurate survey and count of their actual numbers would have to be conducted.
Apparently, it costs a total of $40,000 for the Audubon Society to do such a survey and more than one would have to be done.  Goose counts would have to be conducted, starting in January and going into the spring.
The problem seems to be that The Audubon Society doesn't think there is public "demand" for this expenditure of money or attempt to save geese.
I got the unmistakable impression that Glenn thinks I am the only person in NYC that cares about geese as he basically said as much.
I am not sure where and why this "disconnect" seems to have occurred between the hundreds of New Yorkers who have showed up to protest goose slaughters, written letters and made calls to spare our geese and the Conservation organization that was specially formed to protect endangered birds. But, there seems to be a very real disconnect and an unawareness of what each is doing.
Glenn promised to send me some materials in the mail regarding exactly where Audubon stands on the Canada goose issue and I am looking forward to that.
But, it is somewhat disconcerting that the society is totally unaware of all the people in NYC who actually care about saving geese.
Apparently, Audubon only hears from the governmental and city agencies wanting to do the geese in or individuals who for whatever bizarre, twisted reason, "hate geese."
If all of that is true, then it is indeed, a very sad state of affairs for the future of Canada geese in NYC (and elsewhere).
Those who care about saving geese need to find their voices to speak up and actually communicate (especially to the main organization formed to protect birds) as those marching on Wall Street are doing now. 
Perhaps the problem is that most people have become complacent about geese after so many years of casually seeing them in the parks.   "Surely, geese cannot be danger anymore than pigeons are!" is the supposed thinking.
But, geese aren't like the ubiquitous pigeon who can exist almost anywhere. Geese are waterfowl who need certain conditions, watercourses and landscaping to survive.  And right now, they are either being harassed from desirable habitats all over the country or "culled."
What was true 3, 5 or 7 years ago is no longer true.
Once in motion, killing programs against animals can be very hard to stop -- until it is too late and the animals' numbers too few to actually preserve and save a species. Already migratory populations of Canada geese are down from what they once were.  And we are  recklessly killing resident geese by the tens of thousands with seemingly wanton abandon.
This may sound "crazy," but I truly believe that what ultimately happened to the African Black Rhino last week, could happen to Canada geese eventually
Sure, there were ultimate efforts to "save" African Black Rhinos from extinction, but they were too little, too late.  The decades of poaching were already in motion and could not  be stopped.
The same is projected for African elephants.
We are sometimes unable to see something while it is actually happening before our eyes.
That said, we still need to find voice.
Yes, it was mystifying and beautiful yesterday walking in the rain and the fog around Central Park.
But, even through the fog, it was clear there were no geese. 
Was it a "dream" -- or really a nightmare?  -- PCA

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Removals" and Setting Suns

 An amazing and absolutely precious video to share today:
Note the devotion and attentiveness of the parent geese as they encourage the tiny goslings (especially the last little one) to make that huge leap up the step!
Canada geese are truly such incredible and exceptional animals. -- And yet so persecuted for the very qualities for which they should be admired and emulated.
Yesterday, in an email, a colleague wrote:
"There are things in life you come to trust, to depend on, like the setting sun and the Canada geese that made the sky dark when they would head home.  It has really broken my heart, although most people would probably think me nuts for saying so."
The writer was referring to her distress in witnessing the geese from her local NYC park disappear over the past few months. The suspicion is a USDA roundup and cull, but the site was not listed for such in the latest 2011 "Goose Removal Report."
Of course, we who love geese are now conditioned to being suspicious of either harassment or massacres every time we note disappearances of the birds.  These harsh and senseless "removal" techniques have become the new norms and realities both, in New York City and around the country. 
Instead of concentrating on the two-legged, human menaces that truly need to be "removed" from civilized society (as written about yesterday) we concentrate on demonizing and "removing" the innocent and pure Canada geese that represent harm to nothing and no one.  (On the contrary, the geese represent beauty, peace and stability.)
I too, consider the worst every time the few geese observed in Central Park seemingly vanish over night.
Last night, I could not find the five geese observed for the previous four evenings at Harlem Meer.
At a time I thought the resident geese might stay at least until the lake starts to freeze over, they once again disappear.
The first thought in all of these instances at Central Park is "harassment," even though one realizes it is normal for both, resident and migratory geese to move around this time of year.
But., like the writer of the posted quote, there is always this sense of loss and the un-normal when what one comes to depend on and trust to be around every day, "like the setting sun" isn't there anymore.
Nature however being what it is, especially during times of bird migrations, populations can fluctuate from one day to another in a location.
A few days ago, there were many mallards at Harlem Meer.
Monday night however, it appeared some of the mallards had left and some Northern Shovelers had flown in.
The shovelers clustered around the family of four geese at the Meer and it was kind of funny to note all of the birds, including the geese, dipping their heads in and out of the water and swimming in circles.
I did not see Bandy, the "loner" goose with tarsal bands on both legs on Monday night, but figured being "independent" as he is, he might have been somewhere else on the fairly large, dark lake.
But, last night, I didn't see any of the geese.
The one thing that has truly not fluctuated at all in Central Park over the past three months is the nearly non-existent population of Canada geese.
It is actually seeing any geese at all that has become the new "unique."
Figuring that it can be difficult to see every bird on the water at night, I am planning to go to Central Park during daylight hours today. 
The hope is to again find the family of four geese and their tag-along pal -- or any geese at all.
How odd to be saying this at a time of year "thousands" of geese are supposedly migrating through the Atlantic flyway.
New York City is on the Atlantic flyway. And we are constantly being told about the "overpopulation" of Canada geese.
And yet, it will be a banner day if finding any geese at all in Central Park.
What does that really say?
It says: 
"There are things in life you come to trust, to depend on, like the setting sun and the Canada geese that made the sky dark when they would head home.  It has really broken my heart although most people would probably think me nuts for saying so."
Today, I will seek Canada geese and setting sun on an otherwise day of overcast and rain.  -- PCA

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


A little more than a week ago, I pondered the question, "Would the early morning runners of Central Park notice or protest were the USDA to come in one day and round up geese?"
I think the answer to that question is a probable "no," considering we as a culture seem to look the other way when our own children are preyed upon by pedophiles.
I don't usually use this journal to comment on news events, but today I am making an exception.
Some things just strike an emotional and moral core too large to ignore.
One has to seriously wonder and question what we have become as a society when leaders of churches or college football teams seemingly push aside and dismiss what should obviously represent "red flags" of egregious criminal and twisted behavior in favor of "political correctness" or organizational reputation.
Last night, after returning from Central Park with my dogs, I switched on the TV.
Bob Costas of NBC was interviewing accused child molester, Jerry Sandusky, assistant football coach of Penn State University.
It was truly hard to believe one's ears as this shadow of a man plundered through excuse after excuse and denial after denial for his actions against young boys covering 15 years.
"Horsing around"....."showering with young boys," "touching legs with without sexual intent," etc,.etc.
Certainly one understands the wisdom and justice of "innocence until proven guilty."  But, there is so much smoke around this guy -- especially from his own words -- that it is hard not to envision a burning barn in flames.
When questioned about the witness testimony of others alleging child rape and oral sex on a young boy and why people would make up such charges if false, Sandusky simply shrugs and answers repeatedly, "You have to ask them that (question)."
The real question to ask if how did all of this despicable and manipulating, criminal behavior occur for 15 years without seemingly anyone taking necessary action to insure this man was reported to police and ideally removed from society?  (Certainly, at the very least not allowed anywhere around children.)
Rather, it seemed at Penn State (like the Catholic Church) there was tendency to pass the buck, look the other way and return to business as usual.
But, rape of a child can never be considered "business as usual" or something to simply be pushed off on a higher official to make decision upon and then forgotten about.
Nor is it "men acting stupid" as comedian Bill Maher seems to equate child molestation to.
"Acting stupid" is drinking a case of beer and falling down drunk or driving a motorcycle off a cliff.
Intimidating and using one's power and authority to gain the confidence of and then molest and rape children is rather, one step lower than actual murder.  It is among the very worst of actual crime.
Children who are victims of pedophiles are "murdered" in a sense. Their trust and innocence forever altered and destroyed, they are (even without realizing) forever changed into someone and something else.
Recently, I pondered the question of whether most people would notice, care or protest if all the wildlife in our parks was suddenly rounded up and killed?
But, after witnessing some of the news events of these past couple of weeks, I sadly have to conclude the answer to that question is, "no."
We have blurred the lines between "looking the other way" and taking action when necessary, as some of us (including the accused) apparently confuse "stupidity" with actual and serious crime.
Those who perpetrate these depraved acts upon trusting and vulnerable children are sick and severely compromised individuals who have obviously lost their moral compass (if indeed they ever had one.)
But, those who witness and fail to take proper and necessary action to stop are guilty of perhaps an even worse crime not listed in law books.  That of complicity to and acceptance of wrongdoing.
"The only thing necessary for evil to prosper is for most good people to do nothing."
That is what ultimately played out at Penn State University, as well as the Catholic Church and to large degree our city parks.
If we cannot and will not protect the children of our society from the evils that some people do, then it is highly unlikely we will protect anything or anyone else -- including the innocent and vulnerable geese in our city parks and indeed, the planet itself.  -- PCA

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sweet Surrender

(Photo -- NEW! -- Bandy, last night at Harlem Meer. Note, ID bands on both legs.)
Usually when heading to Central Park, I grab a home made tape for my Walkman without looking closely at what it actually is.
I enjoy having a variety of music from rock to semi-classical on nature walks and over the years, it's funny how certain songs conjure up certain images and memories.
I can't hear the 80's rock song, "Sister Christian" (Motoring) without seeing the Turtle Pond goose family on the Central Park boat lake this past summer. Or the song, "I Got You Babe," from Sonny and Cher without being on Jones beach some summer decades ago.
Last night, I grabbed a John Denver tape.
I don't believe that any other music from any other singer quite fits so perfectly,  the spirit and feeling of spending time with the animals of Central Park.....
I was apparently wrong about the four geese who magically showed up at Harlem Meer a few days ago.
First of all, its not four geese, but actually five.  Secondly, I don't believe now they are migratory geese at all, but rather, the family of four geese (two parents and two goslings) who stayed at the Reservoir over the summer.  Last August, when able to fly, the family left the Reservoir to fly to the "gathering" site for waterfowl in Central Park, Harlem Meer. That is where and when the "loner" goose joined up with them.
The five geese were then apparently harassed away from Harlem Meer not to be seen again -- until now.
The fifth (or "loner") goose was not seen several nights ago, because although s/he generally is accepted by the family of four, (and chooses to hang with them) s/he is usually some distance away and not part of the actual gaggle.
I now have a name for the loner goose who I am guessing to be a gander because of his seeming independence and usually high neck and body posture.
I call him, "Bandy" because he has ID bands on both legs.
Bandy apparently lost his mate or family somewhere along the routes of wherever he originated from.  Fortunately, for him, the Reservoir goose family accepts his presence as long as he doesn't interject too closely.
I was wrong about something else, too.  
Figuring the geese to be migratory, I expected them to quickly depart the Meer.
But, they have been at Harlem Meer for the past three days.
And their presence has seemingly attracted a whole lot of new mallards.
Harlem Meer has literally been hopping with all kinds of waterfowl activity over the past three nights!
Two nights ago, warmer temperatures, a full moon and the presence of the geese brought about (once again) the "drunken sailor" mode of the ducks.  Lots of chattering conversations, running and chasing about and yes, the inevitable "bar room duck brawls" that one becomes accustomed to seeing when there are geese to act as sentries for the raucous and unrestrained mallards.  
The family of four geese meanwhile sat almost poetically on the water watching with dignity and curiosity, both the activities of myself and the "crazy" ducks on the lake embankment. But, as previously speculated, geese do seem to take "cues" from the mallards, (no matter how "daft" the little quackers seem) as the family ventured much closer to us than the first night discovered.
Then again, they may have been taken cues from Bandy.
Unlike the family of four (fairly shy) geese, Bandy bravely ventured on to the embankment the other night after seeing Brad and his mallard pals approach me.
It was then I noticed the two bands on his legs and remembered seeing a two-banded goose over the summer at Harlem Meer.
In essence, the five geese at Harlem Meer now are apparently returnee "resident" geese and not migratory.  They might actually stay a while -- if not harassed of course.
Two nights ago, "Bandy" simply approached the embankment and cautiously observed.
At one point, Bandy stood on the edge of the grass, looked over the lake and called out a  slow and kind of pitiful, haunting honk.
He apparently still seeks the mate or family he lost.   The Reservoir goose family was only a few feet away when Bandy cried out to some invisible presence.
The image was sad and reminds me of those times Brad stands on the edge of the lake and stares out into seeming nothingness.   I know Brad still misses Angelina and looks for her almost constantly.
But, with geese present, Brad too, is "different."
Perhaps just a tiny bit jealous of my attention to the geese, Brad has tendency to hover around my feet and confidently "demand" that I not lose sight of or forget about him when geese are present.
But, of course, I would never "forget" Brad.  He is the main reason I visit Harlem Meer each day.
But, it is so extra nice when there are also geese to see.
Last night was particularly beautiful and magical.
Brad was happy, chattering and even fluttering flightless wings.  The mallards were comparatively peaceful. The family of four geese drifted nearer in the water and sat comfortably in a neat row. And Bandy approached so closely, I was actually able to snap some pictures of the daring and photo-cooperative gander.
It is not certain exactly how long I stood there just taking in all the bountiful around me, but its as though I could literally feel my heart rising in my chest.  Had I dared to close eyes for a second, I think I would have drifted straight up into the air.
Finally and reluctantly leaving, Bandy too, flew back into the water to join the other geese, as Brad and a group of the "regulars" followed me along the grass or from the water to say their usual good night.
So high, was I, I could have flown over the tree tops.
But, feet on the ground, I walked with my dogs up the hill, and turned the volume in my pocket stereo back up.
John Denver singing.......
"Sweet, sweet surrender
Live, live without care
Like the fish in the water
Like the birds in the air...."
And I thought, what a perfect song for a perfect, perfect night.
This song sure to be associated forever with the beautiful images from last night.
 But not so much from circumstance, as from the fact it so perfectly fits all that is felt and experienced now.  -- PCA

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Odd Marriage

Fall has arrived.
The leaves now blowing and falling from trees like huge, golden snowflakes.  Many of the trees rendered into winter, skeleton forms.
Cooler weather over the past couple of days has seemingly rendered the mallards of Harlem Meer into more serious, "get down to business form" as opposed to more flighty, feather pecking, chasing ways of warmer days.
The ducks realize now they are going to have to concentrate on eating heartily over next few weeks and conserving energy.   Winter doesn't allow for a whole lot of shenanigans.
But, last night, when first arriving to Harlem Meer, I could not see any ducks at all!  They were not swimming in the usual southern part of the lake. Nor, could I see any on the western portion of the Meer.
Don't tell me the ducks have been harassed out of here!"
It is unfortunate that the first thought when noticing "missing" ducks or geese is harassment, but experience has a way of altering one's normal thought patterns.
The fact is that Central Park used goose (and other waterfowl) harassment up until December 16th of last year.   And it was only halted then through the rest of the winter due to (my) complaint.
But, as matters turned out last night, the usual and initial suspicion was unwarranted. 
I set out to look for Brad, the flightless Rouen duck who usually finds and greets me within a few minutes of my arriving to the Meer.
But, after ten minutes, Brad did not show up.  So I began with my dogs to walk towards the eastern part of Harlem Meer, which is normally blocked from view by trees and winding park paths.
Turning the corner of one of the pedestrian paths, shock and happy surprise immediately greeted!
There they are!
Almost all the Harlem Meer ducks were lazily congregated around -- can it really be? -- FOUR Canada geese!
Yep, there in the middle of what appeared to be a peaceful assembly of about 50 mallards, were four beautiful, migratory Canada geese.
I say, "migratory" because the small family of geese were immediately wary of my and my dog's presence and moved skittishly towards the middle of the lake.
However, Brad and some of the mallards, recognizing me, came immediately swimming in my direction.
"Ah, I see you guys are hanging with the geese tonight!  OK, smart move. I get it."
Smiling, but not wanting to spook the geese any further, I turned back towards the western part of the Meer, while motioning a hand to Brad and the others to follow.
Amazingly, like a trained dog, Brad followed, swimming in the water with a small group of "die-hard" mallards behind him.
By the time we all arrived to the usual embankment where Brad and the mallards are used to getting their treats, there were a dozen duck pals with him.
I thought it very interesting however, that most of the 50 or so mallards, despite knowing me, elected to stay with the geese.
Security and momentary happiness is apparently more important to most mallards than food treats.
Hopping up on the embankment and grabbing a few handfuls of nuts, seeds and corn from my hand, Brad then returned to the water and started to swim back in the direction of the other mallards and the four visiting geese.
I tossed most of the other treats to the dozen mallards and then, with my dogs, followed Brad back to where most of the mallards and geese were congregated.
Careful to walk very slowly as not to scare the migratory geese, I tossed the remaining treats to the edge of a bank where some mallards came to grab them.
One of the geese looked at me curiously, but, apparently more at ease than the first time, the geese remained where they were and did not attempt to flee.
Geese seem to pick up the "vibe" of an area and very quickly learn what to be fearful of and what not. Its probable the geese take some of their cues from the mallards -- as the mallards apparently take security from them.
As I left Harlem Meer, I felt very happy to once again experience this beautiful picture of "normalcy" at the lake -- ducks and geese peacefully together. It is a kind of odd marriage between two waterfowl species, who though not always loving or needing each other to survive, definitely seem happier and more secure when together.
Walking home through the slightly chilling winds and tossed, falling leaves, I thought about the oncoming winter.
Brad and the mallards certainly  have thick layers of down on them this year, (giving a "bigger" appearance than normal), to get through the bitter, cold days.
But, they rarely have any geese for security measures, early warning systems or even to help keep open water.
For the few times seeing any geese at all in Central Park over the past three months, they have always been in tiny, family groups and rarely stayed beyond a day or two (except for the six weeks of molting and flightlessness).
In fact at no time since last spring have I ever seen more than ten geese together in any one location of Central Park.
For a species of bird that usually migrates in large flocks of 30 or more this is more than concerning.
I wonder if the mallards realize they are slowly losing their partners in brine?
An "odd marriage" indeed.
But, one that is inexorably being ripped apart, not by dissention or disharmony of the partners themselves, but outside, human forces.
Still, at least for last night, the marriage, without human interference, came briefly together again.  And that was very beautiful and pleasing to see.
A few blissful moments of happiness and security for the ducks.
So happy, that most mallards elected to stay with the geese last night -- even to forego the temporary pleasure of their nightly treats. 
It was perfectly understandable. 
The interconnection and odd marriages of species, that is.
I am hoping that this small family of four geese might stay a while at the Meer.
But, I know that won't occur.
Perhaps that is why the mallards hung on with the geese so tightly last night.
Yes, I believe the mallards understand all too well, the threat this "odd marriage" is truly under.
The mallards have to appreciate what they have for the brief times they have it again.  -- PCA