Saturday, March 31, 2012

"If You See Something Say Something" -- Becoming the Squeaky Wheel for Wildlife





(Photos: -- Fishermen at the Boat Lake this past week.  They kept the fish out of the water at least five minutes and only threw the fish back when I took out camera.  2-- Mama and Papa at Boat Lake yesterday.  But, will these two already lame geese be safe from discarded fishing lines carelessly left around grounds and pedestrian paths?)
 
 
They arrive in the spring and they stay and stay and stay until seemingly the last summer leaf has fallen to the ground.
 
No, I am not talking about geese or ducks or robins.
 
I am talking about the fishermen whose presence in Central Park is already marked by a crippled sea gull at Harlem Meer hobbling around with at least six feet of fishing line attached to his/her leg.
 
The gull can however still fly, making rescue to remove the fishing line (or even getting a good photo) nearly impossible.
 
During the past week, I have noted fisherman trespassing the "off limit" areas of Central Park, smoking cigarettes (supposedly not allowed in city parks), leaving empty soda bottles in the grass and keeping captured fish out of the water for at least five minutes while the fishermen strike poses and hog for photos.
 
A few days ago a guy was fishing off the small dock at Turtle Pond.  There were at least 30 turtles in the water where the man slowly lowered his fishing line.
 
"Are you trying to hook a turtle?" I asked, perturbed by what I was seeing. 
 
"There's a bass somewhere down there." the man replied belligerently.
 
"You shouldn't be fishing directly where there is an abundance of wildlife." I answered, annoyed at that point.
 
"I am within my rights to fish here!" the man shot back.
 
"Well, fishing at Turtle Pond was NEVER allowed in years past and shouldn't be now!" I answered while taking out my camera to take a photo of ducks.
 
"You can't take a picture of me!" the man shouted defensively.
 
"I wasn't planning to!"
 
I wanted to add, "You ugly jerk!" but didn't.  
 
Instead, I walked away as the confrontation was beginning to get nasty.
 
Still, while witnessing all these infractions this past week, it was the crippled seagull at Harlem Meer that finally propelled me on a journey of seemingly endless calls to various city and state agencies to register a complaint about abusive and unmonitored fishing in Central Park.
 
One tends to discover in "bureaucracy" situations like this, one gets shuffled around and constantly advised to call someone else.
 
And so, in less than two days, I talked to a Park Ranger, officials from the DEC, Central Park Conservancy, Dept of Parks and Recreation, the Dana Discovery Center (located at Harlem Meer) and registered an official complaint with 311.  
 
I am normally a person who never complains to city and park officials about anything. 
 
But, the slaughter campaigns against geese over the past few years and the continual crippling and harassment of wildlife in our city parks by fishermen has turned me into a kind of crusader.
 
Of the people I spoke with, a woman from the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) and another woman from the Dept. of Parks and Recreation were the most helpful, supportive and offering of sound advice.
 
That advice being that one indeed has to become the persistent "squeaky wheel" and immediately report ALL violations first, to 311 and to the other agencies in charge of managing wildlife and law enforcement in the parks. 
 
(The DEC has a special number to report fishing violations when immediately witnessed: 1(800) TippDEC.  1(800) 847-7332.)
 
"They will put their resources where they are most demanded and required." I was advised.
 
I indeed hope that is the case.
 
Because another summer of watching crippled birds hobbling around with fishing lines on their legs, hooked turtles and discarded fishing lines left on pedestrian paths and grass to ensnare dogs or humans (as occurred with my dog, Tina and me last summer) is simply intolerable and unacceptable.
 
Become the eyes and mouths for the wildlife in your parks and be sure to snap photos when possible and make the appropriate calls.
 
We all have to become the "squeaky wheels" for the fish, turtles and birds who cannot defend  themselves nor remove the fishing lines ensnared around and crippling their bodies and feet.  -- PCA 
 
 
                                                               *************  
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Joy Rides and Returns to the Nests






(Photos:  1-- Buster and Brianna. One last fling and joy ride before the call? 2-- The gosling from last year.  3-- The Reservoir geese, returned?)   
 
 
The first sight encountered yesterday when arriving to Harlem Meer on a brisk, but beautiful spring day, were three mallards frolicking in the lake.  
 
The mallards took off from the water and flew in a high, wide circle all around the Meer twice -- only to eventually return and land back in the water, not far from where they originally took off. 
 
One mallard landed about 30 feet from the other two, but quickly flew back to them.
 
I guessed this was the duck equivalent to a "joy ride" for humans.  Flying around for the sheer enjoyment and fun of it.
 
I have noted that kind of "flying around for the hell of it" numerous times over the past five or six weeks among the ducks and geese of Central Park.
 
This is not a season the birds have to worry about conserving energy or fattening up and so it seems they are using much of their time either catching up on rest, staking out territories or just seeking adventure and play.
 
Unfortunately, the Bradley Brigade (Brad, Piggly and Wiggly) the three domestic ducks presumably left by humans at the Meer can never know the joy of just flying around for the heck of it, as they cannot fly more than a few feet. 
 
But, they have their own ways of finding fun.
 
These days, it seems Brad and Piggly are in constant conversation with each other over how to run things at the Meer and Brad particularly loves giving the mallards a hard time.  Sometimes, Brad even goes off on his own just to let the mallards know who is the boss at the Meer. But, "the three duckateers" also find those little spaces in time and place to just rest and relax.  There is a little fenced in area by the Dana Center that is particularly nice and safe for Brad, Piggly and Wiggly to grab quick afternoon siestas together.  
 
Yesterday, I was at first concerned when seeing Brad by himself on the lake keeping the mallards in line.  But, then a few minutes later, he rejoined his pals, Piggly and Wiggly and the three went proudly swimming off together.
 
I then noticed what looked like a small gaggle of geese on the small, sandy eastern portion of Harlem Meer.   I walked over to check the geese out.
 
It was a family of five geese.   After securing my two dogs to a park bench, I walked a little closer to the geese and surprisingly, two of them began to approach me as if in recognition.
 
The gander of the two confidently walked up to me in greeting and gently took sunflower seeds from my hand!
 
His mate also walked up, but bowed her head and shyly turned away from offered hand treat, preferring to eat seeds off the grass.
 
It did not dawn on me at first who these geese actually were, but it was clear they were familiar.
 
The three geese who I presumed to be the offspring of the "dominant" pair took respectfully to the edge of the water, but also watched as if in recognition.  I approached them, but like the mother goose, they declined to take anything from my hand, electing to nibble at the seeds in the sand.
 
It was only when I began to walk away and noticed the gander suddenly admonishing the youngsters when they attempted to walk into the "space" of the parents, that I realized the family was Buster, Brianna and their grown goslings!
 
Apparently, the family returned to Harlem Meer for what I guess to be a brief visit or "joy ride?"
 
Its been at least six or seven weeks since seeing Buster and his gaggle who I had so became familiar with and fond of over the winter.  As soon as the first warm hints and buds of spring began to appear, Buster, his mate and "kids" left Harlem Meer.  
 
Had the family been "harassed" out from where they had spent the last month and a half or had Buster and flock simply used a lazy Sunday afternoon to go "pond hopping" and check out their old haunts?
 
I of course had no way of knowing the actual answers to the questions. It was just really nice to see Buster, Brianna and the "kids" again.
 
But, my sense is that they will not be staying for long at Harlem Meer.
 
Walking back from the Meer, through the North Meadow and the Reservoir, I thought back to last spring and summer and remembered the two geese who raised three goslings at the Reservoir then.
 
I had not seen any geese in the Reservoir over the past six weeks or so and wondered if the family might not return?
 
But, then as I approached the 90th street exit of the Reservoir, I suddenly noticed a pair of obviously mated geese in the water.
 
The geese and ducks don't appear to be actually "nesting" yet, but all the "joy rides" and moving around may indeed represent the preparations.
 
Spring is not only the time for rest, play, staking out territories and joy rides, but also the time for romance and returning to the nests.
 
One cannot be sure, but it appears the Reservoir geese are back and Buster and Brianna will be soon to go again.
 
Perhaps yesterday simply represented one last fling -- and joy ride before the real responsibilities and challenges of the spring set in.  -- PCA
 
                                                               **********
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Let Sleeping Ducks Lie






(Photos: Brad, Piggly and Wiggly catching up on needed rest the other day.  A goose and duck couple relishing rare and special moments of the year.)
 
It seems that every year brings with it, a very small and peaceful window of time that allows for rest, renewal and lightheartedness.  
 
For most birds (and other wildlife) that tiny window of opportunity and wellbeing is the early spring.
 
It is a time when the bounties of food and pleasant, nurturing weather are plentiful and a time prior to the challenges and stresses of raising young.  
 
So it was, when most recently visiting Harlem Meer that almost all the birds were either resting peacefully or playing in the water.
 
A group of starlings madly splashed and seemed to be having the time of their lives by the lake.  One could almost hear them laughing as they bobbled up and down in the water like small children splashing in swimming pool on a summer's day.
 
Several pairs of mallards were sitting together by the embankments and one duck pair strolled romantically on a grassy lawn.
 
And there was one goose pair who enjoyed sunbathing and preening together under a tree by the Dana Center as if they did not have a care in the world.
 
But, perhaps the greatest surprise of all was the "Bradley Brigade."
 
I found all three ducks plopped on the grass in the fenced in area near the Dana Center.
 
They were actually sleeping in the middle of the day!
 
In all the months of seeing Piggy and Wiggly, I have never seen these birds actually relaxing.
 
And I would have to go back to the early spring of last year to recall Brad resting in the grass.
 
Then again, it made sense.
 
This is not a time the ducks or geese have to spend all of their days foraging for food. Nor is it a time where they have to constantly swim in order to try and keep warm or prevent the lake from freezing over.
 
There are no little ones yet to watch over and protect.
 
And there are no preparations to make (i.e, fattening up) for what could be a cruel and meager winter as the birds have to do in the fall. 
 
When seeing all the serenity and relaxation around me, my heart lightened and warmed to match the sunny and beautiful 75 degree day that surrounded.
 
And although having some treats in my bag, I decided not to arouse the three sleeping and peaceful ducks.
 
It is such a small window of time that they get nurturing and caressing days like this past Thursday and Friday, that it was better to let the sleeping ducks lie and catch up on needed rest.   
 
And indeed, today temperatures have slipped to the low 60's and next week they will drop down to seasonable levels. (50's)
 
But, for those few special days of the year when almost everything is perfect, non-demanding and non-threatening, wildlife does get its chances to just kick back, rejuvenate and renew. 
 
I bet the animals are thinking, "That only life could be like this all the time!"
 
Or, more likely, they don't have to think at all -- just enjoy for the brief time they are blessed with the peace and wonder of these few special and magical days.
 
 
                                                             ***********
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Feasts and Famines





(Photos: 1-- New goose pair at the Boat Lake.  Though they came to greet a human offering treats, they spent their time preening on rock, while turtles enjoyed a "feast."  2-Mama and Papa on different rock preening and resting.)
 
Some good news coming out of both, the UK and Lacey, New Jersey the past couple of days.  Both locations have decided to shelve planned culls of geese in favor of allowing non-lethal population control measures sufficient chance to work.   For the latest updates and news articles on these and other noteworthy events, please go to our Facebook page:
 
 
Closer to home, migratory populations of geese have seemingly all left Central Park along with most of the mallards who wintered there since December.
 
The other day I walked around the Reservoir and Turtle Pond where just a few ducks were observed and no geese.
 
At the Boat Lake in Central Park, it was however, a different story.
 
I counted a total of nine geese (ironically, the same number that molted at the Boat Lake last summer.)    This number includes the Boat Lake goose family (Mama, Papa and their three youngsters hatched at Turtle Pond in 2010) and two pairs of seemingly "new" geese.
 
I was a little surprised that the family was still at the Boat Lake as usually in March, they return to Turtle Pond (the site of nesting and previous successful gosling raising).
 
The fact that the family still hasn't returned to the pond is bewildering.  I am not sure if this means that Papa and Mama will not attempt to nest this year (they are after all, a little along in years) or if they are delaying return for some reason.   Last year, something happened to the eggs that Mama was sitting on near Belvedere Castle and they didn't hatch. (The geese are usually also subject to harassment at Turtle Pond during the spring and late summer and fall.)
 
So, the fact the family is still at the Boat Lake leads me to believe they might attempt to stay there through the summer.  But, whether the parent geese attempt to nest at the Boat Lake or not seems questionable.   
 
Their behavior the other day did not seemingly indicate either an existing nest or preparation for one. Mama and Papa were mostly hanging out and preening themselves on the familiar rock in the water where they usually slept last summer along with the other geese who molted with them.   Their three youngsters were also on the rock the other day, but in a lowered position on it (family hierarchy and rule?)
 
I had hoped that Mama and Papa might swim to the rock on the other side of the lake where I usually see them and occasionally offer treat and take photos. 
 
But, there were five young guys fishing on that publicly accessed area and the geese and ducks kept distance from it.
 
There were also many people boating the other day due to the beautiful and unusually warm weather.
 
Although the geese are very used to boats, it seemed they opted more for relaxing and preening than navigating through so much (perhaps unexpected) human activity so early in the season.  
 
The other geese on the boat lake were paired off and also mostly resting and preening.
 
A cyclist stopped to sit and rest on another publicly accessed rock.  The man tossed some bits of bread towards one pair of geese in the water and they then gregariously joined him on the rock.
 
But, the geese did not show any interest in the offered food. 
 
Instead, they preened themselves, while turtles appeared to grab the small bits of bread floating in the water.
 
In essence, what has been observed at Harlem Meer over the past couple of weeks is also occurring in other sections of Central Park.
 
Migratory populations of geese and ducks have left to return to spring and summer breeding or molting grounds.  The remaining "resident" geese and mallards are mostly paired off these days and concerned with preparations for either breeding or summer molting (all that attention to preening). 
 
And with all the new spring blooms and plentiful food supplies, it seems the last thing the birds are interested in are offered human treats.
 
I wonder if the geese and ducks sometimes say to themselves, "That only humans were so generous over the winter!"  
 
Too bad the waterfowl can't "squirrel" away the treats offered during fair weather for those days in January and February when neither food nor generous humans are plentiful.
 
"Feast or famine" it must seem to them. -- PCA
 
 
                                                              *********
 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Too Much Of" -- A Photo Frozen in Time




"To feed or not to feed. That is the question."
 
The play on Shakespeare's words has been on my mind lately as I have cut back drastically on the black oiled sunflower seeds and other goodies I normally take when visiting the ducks and geese at Harlem Meer.
 
That's because there are very few waterfowl to actually offer the treats to in recent days. And the few who are there are not particularly hungry.
 
Even the normally voracious Piggly and Wiggly last night failed to consume all the seeds offered to them.  As for Brad, their leader, he hasn't taken anything from my hand for some days.  Brad's attention these days is fixated on any mallards who happen to wander into the "space" of himself and his two charges.
 
Food is obviously way down on the list of priorities for the ducks and geese during the spring.  There is plenty of it all around them with all the new spring blooms and they no longer have to "fatten up" in anticipation of a bleak winter. For now, the birds can afford to take for granted what they have plenty of.
 
Feeding of waterfowl is of course, a big "no no" for officials in charge of running most parks and particularly those who have it in for the geese.
 
Adults and kids "guilty" of feeding geese are in fact, frequently blamed for whatever "overpopulation" of geese that is perceived and claimed: 
 
"If people feed them, they will never leave!"
 
Of course the statement quoted is no more true of geese than pigs sprouting wings and suddenly flying.
 
Geese don't stay in an area any more for human-offered treats than humans live in a community because of a particularly good local pizza parlor.   It may be nice to have a good pizza parlor, but that doesn't impact human life and resident choices.  (What does impact geese's decisions to "stay" or leave an area are, 1- safety, -- especially to raise young. 2-- access to water and open spaces. 3-- availability of natural food sources, especially short grass.)
 
Those towns and communities wasting money to put up "No Feeding" signs might as well use it to build nice pizza parlors instead.   Both will have exactly the same impact (none) on the population of Canada geese.
 
I did not in fact, see any geese at Harlem Meer last night -- this despite my feeding of ducks and geese there every night since late last fall.
 
Buster and his gaggle (the goose family I did feed every night) left the Meer weeks ago.  And even the one bird, Chrissy (the lame duck) I really thought would stay due to her perceived "dependence" on me for food left with her flock a few days ago.
 
The reality is that when their biological clocks and the calendar says, "go" the geese and ducks go -- and it would not matter if humans were feeding them caviar and champagne around the clock.
 
I am sometimes amazed at the preponderance of misinformation and falsehoods about the wildlife that lives among us.
 
Indeed, it seems wise to speculate that most people know far more about the exotic wild animals, birds and fish living amongst the Arctic ice throws, African jungles or even the bottom of the oceans than we do, the pigeons, geese, ducks, squirrels or raccoons who actually live among us!
 
Apparently, our city wildlife is not interesting enough to do documentaries on or write books about. 
 
But, its apparently OK to wage extermination campaigns against them -- or blame any human feeders for an imagined "overpopulation" of the animals.
 
Some things in life I will never understand.
 
Then again, perhaps it all boils down to this thing of "taking for granted (and not taking time to really know) what we have plenty of."
 
Even the ducks are somewhat indulgent in this behavior as witnessed last night.
 
But, come the fall, the ducks will be tripping over themselves to get to what is now plentiful and can be taken for granted.
 
The question is, will we too, one day lament the loss of what is now claimed "too much of" and even scorned?
 
Oh, how things can change with the seasons!
 
What was true yesterday, is not true today.
 
And what will be true tomorrow is apparently beyond our wisdom and insight to see now.
 
"Too much of" seems relevant merely to time and season -- like a photograph frozen in moment.  -- PCA
 
                            
                                                                     ************
  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The (Spring) Urges to Merge and Procreate





(Photos -- Brad, Piggly and Wiggly yesterday around the egg.) 
 
It seems that Wiggly might have laid an egg! 
 
But, more about that later......
 
With the official arrival of spring now less than a week away, the movements and changes occurring at Central Park are happening at greatly accelerated pace.
 
The robins returned weeks ago.  Flowers are blooming in the park.  New green grass is growing through the old. And many of the trees are budding.
 
In recent weeks, waves of migratory geese and mallards moved through Central Park Some stopped for brief rests, but almost all have now left.
 
Meanwhile, some of the "resident" geese and ducks of Central Park have also returned to whatever locations they normally breed and/or molt.
 
A few days ago, there were as many as 15 geese at Harlem Meer.
 
As of yesterday morning, the number had fallen to 6.
 
Many of the mallards have also left Harlem Meer in recent days.
 
Among them, whatever flock Chrissy apparently belonged with.
 
I was worried a couple of nights ago, when not seeing Chrissy arrive for her nightly treats.
 
But, neither did the Bradley Brigade show up with their chatterings and beaks out beseeching treat.
 
In fact, the few mallards who did come, seemed more interested in hierarchy displays and territorial battles than actually scacking.
 
Gone are the bitter, wintry days when the mallards would fall over themselves at my feet trying to grab whatever seeds hit the ground.  (Food, being scarcer in the winter and more necessary for the birds to maintain heat and fat reserves is the main priority for them during the short, dark days from late fall through the frigid days of January and February.)
 
But, now food is plentiful and focus shifts to pairing off and mating as well as territorial battles and establishing one's place in the flock and terrain.
 
Nevertheless, concerned over not seeing my familiar ducks the other night, I walked all around the Meer in effort to find them.   Brad, Piggly and Wiggly, being domestic, flightless ducks had, after all, to be somewhere around the lake.
 
I did finally find the "Three Duckateers" towards the north east side of the Meer -- the area near the Dana Center where Brad typically hangs out during the warmer months.
 
And Brad was very busy staking out the territory and giving some of the mallards a rough time by chasing them down and sending them away in the water.
 
In recent weeks, Piggly (the other male duck of the three) has joined Brad in intimidation tactics, though he is still mostly in the learning process from Brad.
 
For her part, Wiggly stays out of the frays and is still mostly preoccupied with eating and staying close to the boys.
 
But, I still had not found Chrissy, the crippled mallard and the one who has quickly warmed herself into my heart over the past several months.
 
Frustrated and worried over not finding the pretty little familiar mallard, (who though lame, can fly) I planned to return the next morning when daylight might make the quest a little easier and more successful.
 
Bright sun burned through an early morning fog yesterday.
 
By the time I arrived to the Meer it was easy to see all of the waterfowl on the lake.
 
I was surprised by the low number of geese and ducks.
 
Six geese, spread out mostly in pairs, and perhaps 20 to 30 mallards on a lake that during this past winter had as many as perhaps a couple of hundred of both, migratory and resident ducks and geese.
 
I wondered if Central Park might have returned to goose harassment over the past few days?
 
Its possible of course. But, the fact there were six geese on the water, along with a couple of dozen mallards made me doubt that.
 
Remembering back to last spring, (and looking through blog entries from this period) many of the ducks and geese gradually left Harlem Meer, though at a later date than now.   (Then again, everything is "earlier" this year due to the unusually warm weather.)
 
Once again, I walked around the lake and quickly found Brad, Piggly and Wiggly in the same area discovered the night before.
 
And once again, Brad was vigorously chasing mallards away, both in the water and on the grass.
 
But, as I walked closer to the three ducks who by that time were on a grassy area by the water, I noticed something very unusual.
 
An egg!
 
The egg looked like a ordinary chicken egg that are readily available in grocery stores.
 
But, what human would leave a chicken egg in the park?
 
Moreover, all three ducks were near the egg and Brad particularly seemed obsessed with keeping the mallards away.
 
Trying to make sense out of something that seemed senseless, I could not imagine Wiggly laying an egg in such an open and vulnerable spot!
 
There is no nest around the egg and the domestic female duck was not sitting on it.  Moreover, any eggs (or duck sitting on them) in such open and unprotected area would be sure invitation to a raccoon or dog.
 
But yet, all three ducks would not leave the area!
 
Perhaps in being a domestic, rather than wild duck, Wiggly has no sense about laying eggs in a protected and safe area?
 
Regardless of the efforts of Brad and even Piggly to protect the territory, its hard to imagine the egg having any chance of survival.
 
Wiggly didn't seem to have either a clue or interest to even sit on it.  Then again, it would be dangerous for her if she did. Too many dogs and human activity in the area. And at night, there are the raccoons.
 
In previous years, I always wondered why Angelina who was the apparent mate and constant companion to Brad never produced ducklings?
 
But, its possible that yesterday, I got an answer.
 
Domestic ducks may not have the instincts and wisdom to know where to safely nest and lay eggs in an outdoor, challenging environment, as the mallards do.
 
In fact, as previously noted, Harlem Meer is not normally an area where geese nest or even mallards produce many offspring.
 
For all the mallards who typically come and go or even stay at the Meer throughout the year, only three to four successfully produce ducklings each spring and summer. (And so far in my observances, no geese have produced goslings at Harlem Meer.)
 
Perhaps that explains why most geese and mallards have now left Harlem Meer, including Chrissy and her flock.
 
It is presumed that in coming weeks, the six geese currently at the Meer will also leave.
 
Indeed, the only waterfowl who have no choice other than to stay are the three domestic ducks, Brad, Piggly and Wiggly.
 
And seeing what I did yesterday, (if true that was an egg from Wiggly) there is virtually no chance that these three domestic ducks will reproduce -- despite the earnest efforts of Brad and even Piggly and Wiggly to do so.   -- PCA
 
                                                              **********
 
 
 
 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Two Geese Peacefully Swimming on a Lake




(Photo:  Papa and Mama goose on the Boat Lake in Central Park.  Thank God they are not in Lacey Township, New Jersey.)
 
Two new goose-related Facebook pages have sprung up over the past couple of days.
 
The first one, (54) Concerned Citizens Of Lacey For Humanity supports the geese of Lacey Township, NJ and promotes non-lethal ways to both, protect the birds and humanely manage their numbers.   (The town recently signed a contract with USDA to round up and gas the Lacey geese for a cost of $6,000.)   
 
The second page (apparently put up as some sort of spoof), mocks and derides the geese and issues invitations to goose advocates to "come adopt Lacey's geese!" (56) Lacey Canada Goose Adoption Agency
 
The "Adoption Agency" page went to some trouble to post photos of what looks like lots of geese someplace.
 
But, who knows when and where the photos were taken?
 
I could have, after all, taken photos of what would have appeared a very large number of migratory geese who wintered at Harlem Meer these past few months and then attempted to "sell" the case that Central Park has "too many geese."  (Currently, there are between ten and twenty geese at Harlem Meer since the migratorys departed in recent weeks.)
 
But, for all the whining about geese and the "damage" they do at Lacey (and other areas), there is rarely any actual proof and documentation of the claims.
 
In fact, despite numerous newspaper articles and hundreds of comments regarding Lacey's "goose problem" one has yet to read an actual goose count number, size of the affected location or any variables within the stats.   There are ironically, no statistics to either confirm or dispute anything.
 
Again, it appears to be just one more case of quite literally "Throwing (goose) poop at the wall to see what sticks."
 
I say that particularly in light of a video shot yesterday at Lacey's lake and posted on YouTube. 
 
 
The video shows a man from a goose harassment company discussing with town leadership means of scaring off geese with a fake eagle and whistles.
 
But, the truly significant portion of this video is near its end.  That is when the gentleman, in effort to demonstrate the effectiveness of the product, releases the fake eagle to scare off two geese from the lake.
 
Repeat:  TWO geese off the entire lake!
 
Is this what Lacey Township deems an "overpopulation of geese?"
 
This would be hilarious, were it not so pathetic (truly worthy of a skit on Saturday Night Live).
 
The newspaper articles, the endless whining and complaints, the contract with the USDA, the meeting with a goose harassment person  -- all to "get rid of" TWO geese on a lake?
 
OK.  Not to assume everyone in Lacey is lying, wildly exaggerating and hallucinating (though they certainly are throwing crap at the wall) let's presume there really were "hundreds" of geese in the area a few weeks ago.
 
They were most likely migratory geese who have now, for the most part left to return to their northern breeding grounds -- just like most geese recently left Central Park and other local areas.
 
But, was Central Park in a frenzy over its couple of hundred migratory visitors over the winter?  Did they get their panties in a wad?  Did they call out "Goosebusters, the USDA and military drones?
 
NO.  (Unlike Prospect Park in Brooklyn which crazily and cruelly harassed migratory geese in February.)
 
Harassment wasn't used on the migratory geese in Central Park this winter -- even though there were more geese this year than last due to the unusually warm winter.  That is because Central Park was apparently aware that the geese would leave naturally even before spring actually set in.
 
All of this goes to knowledge about geese; their migratory, life and breeding patterns and knowing the difference between so-called, "resident" geese and migratory geese.
 
It does not appear that the leadership of Lacey knows any of these things.
 
If they did, then responsible and humane action would have been taken years ago to address the so-called "resident goose overpopulation problem" and it never would have come down to knee-jerk, mafia-style hit men contracts with the USDA and the laughable and yet, pathetic chasing of TWO geese peacefully swimming on a lake. -- PCA
 
 
                                                                 ********
 
 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Mean Seasons' Arrivals





(Photos: 1-- Papa goose at the Boat Lake on Monday.  Feather sticking out of side suggesting "turf wars" with migratory geese who have now departed. 2-- Mama goose. An older gal who has survived many winters with her devoted mate at her side. But, it isn't winter that is the real "mean season" in NYC and elsewhere for the geese.) 
 
Much happening over past few days and much to report today.
 
Of top and extremely urgent priority is to gather at least 1,000 signatures to this online petition to save the geese at Lacey Township, New Jersey:
 
 
The Township recently contracted with the USDA to round up and gas the park geese for a cost of $6,000.  http://lacey.patch.com/articles/committee-favors-euthanizing-geese?ncid=following_comment.
 
It seems from the number of articles that have been posted from this location that there has been one very vocal "goose hater" who has been pressuring the town leaders to "do something about the geese."
 
But, rather than do any actual research on geese or inquire from other communities how to humanely and effectively manage wildlife population numbers, the town's leadership simply caved and quite literally signed the geese's lives away.  (Typical political "knee jerk" and  ineffective response meant to make the public falsely believe "something is being done." Unfortunately,  that "something" is mass killing that inevitably leads some animals -- like geese -- to compensate through an increase in breeding.)
 
This kind of inertia, laziness and ineptness by political leadership should not be tolerated in any community whether the "issue" be geese or something else.
 
This is a location that so far has failed to implement known and effective non-lethal methods such as habitat modification, "harassment" techniques or even egg addling to control goose numbers.  Moreover, some leaders have apparently lied to concerned community members falsely claiming that such methods "don't work unless there is a cull first."
 
Geese have never been "culled" in Central Park, New York City.  But, for years the resident  goose population has been kept well in check through the non-lethal methods described.
 
The same needs to occur in Lacey Township and any other communities who "whine" about geese.
 
Speaking of Central Park, it appears that virtually all of the migratory geese who either wintered in Central Park these past few months or simply rested briefly during recent migratory returns have left.
 
A couple of days ago, I revisited the Boat Lake in Central Park which only a month ago, contained close to 100 migratory and resident geese.
 
The day was almost 20 degrees warmer than a typical March day. People in rowboats were scattered on the lake and others were out with dogs, kids, friends and cameras.
 
But, in all this activity, I could only see five geese on the far side of the lake.
 
I could not be certain, but I speculated that the five geese were the "TP goose family," originally from Turtle Pond who, for nearly a year now have been staying at the Boat Lake.
 
If any geese can acclimate (and are already used) to boat activities, dogs and crowds, it is "Papa, Mama and their three grown youngsters" who are now almost two-years-old.
 
Indeed, one Golden Retriever was actually swimming in the water and the geese were not particularly perturbed.  Rather, they casually swam towards a rock as if having dogs in the water was the most natural thing in the world for them.
 
I stayed for a short while and observed the activities.  Eventually, the owner of the Golden Retriever called her dog back and they moved on.
 
Just as I was about to leave the Boat Lake to head to Harlem Meer, I noticed two geese swimming in my direction!
 
And even before they arrived to the rock formation I was standing on, I knew it was indeed, "Mama and Papa."
 
Ah, it was so good to see this romantic and devoted goose couple again!
 
Mama is apparently quite old now and is easily recognizable by her less than robust appearance -- so different from the younger geese we usually see in the park.  Mama is also missing webbing on her right foot, prompting me to sometimes call her "Twinkle Toes."   Papa is also easily recognizable due to his lame left foot.  
 
Both of these geese have apparently been through the mill over the years and have had to take their fair share of nature's hard knocks.
 
Exactly like the last time I saw Mama and Papa, the regal gander remained protectively behind his "wife" while Mama sauntered up to me and gently took some treats from my hand.   Papa gently chased some interested mallards away as it was apparently important to him that his mate get all or most of the offered treat.
 
Only when Mama was reasonably satiated and slowly moved to the side, did Papa move in and join her in grazing up some loose sunflower seeds near the water's edge. 
 
If this isn't chivalry and romance, I don't know what is!  
 
I took out my camera and snapped some photos, some of which can be seen here from our Facebook page:  http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.270093213068761.71321.114425621968855&type=3
 
(I was also the subject of another photographer's photos -- especially when Mama was eating from my hand.    I explained to the gentleman the history of these two very special geese.)
 
Around this time, Mama and Papa's three youngsters swam to the rock to curiously investigate what was happening.  But, they stayed a respectable distance away from their parents.
 
Papa has undoubtedly laid down the spring "rules" to the youngsters once again. This time of year he likes to have his private time with Mama -- as do most of the paired ganders with their mates.   The grown kids are quite literally kicked out of the love nest.   This might also explain why Papa currently has a loose feather on the side of his back.   One can be quite sure, (though they would have left naturally anyway), Papa issued the migratory geese their walking papers with some mean butt-pecking pushes in the process. 
 
"Welcome mats" are not put out for visiting, migratory geese this time of year.   Rather the very clear message is, "Get back to where you belong!  This lake is ours now!"
 
As activities are heightened and rapidly changing at the Boat Lake, so too are they at Harlem Meer.
 
As noted, the migratory geese have left and I believe too, that Buster and his gaggle have seemingly left to return to whatever they call their breeding and/or molting grounds.
 
However, there are currently about a dozen geese at Harlem Meer.
 
I am not sure of the origin of these geese or how long they will stay.
 
They appear to be reasonably familiar with and comfortable at the Meer. Yesterday afternoon, a couple of the geese were grazing on one of the lawns and several were walking up to a young, teenage girl tossing treats to them.
 
They could in fact be "resident" Harlem Meer geese who may have wintered somewhere else and have now returned for the early spring.  Or, they could be very late migratory stragglers.   But, my guess is the former based on their behavior. (Two of the geese came up to me the other night and one of them took a few treats from my hand. They are apparently quite comfortable with people.)
 
But, if in fact the dozen or so geese observed now are resident Harlem Meer geese returned, then their numbers are far below what we would normally see at the Meer in April.  In years past, the number of geese returning to the Meer in April is usually close to 100.  Still, it is a bit early to draw conclusions. . Much remains to be seen over the coming weeks. 
 
As winter draws to a close in the coming week, I am immensely grateful that all of the geese and ducks I personally know and feel special bond with have survived the past three challenging months.
 
Then again, in my several years of closely observing these animals, it has never been winter that served as the "grim reaper."
 
Rather, its the spring and summer we particularly have to fear in New York City for stealing the lives of our beloved geese and ducks.
 
In a few short months, the USDA will be around again.
 
Indeed, the "grim reaper" for geese in this town and elsewhere.
 
Let's hope that the petition and organized community protest can stop the grim reapers scheduled to hit Lacey Township in New Jersey in the coming weeks.
 
There is no law in nature that mandates spring and summer to be the "mean seasons" for wildlife survival.  
 
It seems only humans who transform the normally life-giving and vibrant seasons into ones of uncertainty, cruelty and death. -- PCA
 
 
                                                        ************
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Brave Little Duck




Good news and bad news on Chrissy, the crippled mallard at Harlem Meer.
 
The good news is that she can fly normally (at least for short distance).
 
The bad news is I discovered this by watching her chased and ruthlessly attacked by a mallard drake last night.
 
The scene was unnerving to say the least. The irony is that it came upon the heals of me feeling very pleased with Chrissy's progress and moxie.
 
Chrissy was one of the first ducks to climb the embankment last night and greet me.  Seemingly proud of herself for being able to walk a few steps, she bravely pulled herself forward and held her head high.
 
When other ducks arrived, Chrissy flopped down and was seemingly crushed under an avalanche of feathers and mallard bodies.
 
But, the little lame mallard held her own and managed to grab a good amount of seed.
 
And when Chrissy wasn't swooping from the ground, she gratefully ate from my hand.
 
Such a brave little duck! I thought.
 
It is truly extraordinary the way this disabled and frequently picked upon mallard has managed to endure what is at times, a very harsh environment.
 
When at last, Chrissy had filled her belly and began her difficult struggle to slowly walk and return to the lake, she was rudely pounced upon by a very aggressive drake.
 
The drake shoved Chrissy into the water and then continued to chase and push her. Unable to escape the drake's attacks in the water, Chrissy finally took to the air. But, even then he followed her.
 
The two ducks ascended over the lake and quickly flew towards the western portion, to the point I lost sight of them.
 
Worried sick and unable to get the image out of my head, I delayed my planned exit from Harlem Meer in hopes of finding Chrissy again or that she would return on her own.
 
I walked around a bit, but could not discern Chrissy in the water among the other female mallards.
 
I recalled a park ranger once telling me that the drakes sometime gang up on and kill female mallards!
 
I don't know if that is actually true, but for certain, the drakes can be very rough on the females.
 
Would an already compromised and weakened female mallard be able to survive a particularly aggressive attack from a bigger and stronger drake?
 
I returned to the feeding area where mallards and "The Bradley Brigade" were polishing off what remained of the seeds.
 
As I stood there hoping that Chrissy would return, a family of five geese joined the scene.
 
But, what I assume to be migratory geese appeared to show up more for curiosity than any need or desire for actual treat. 
 
The goose family stood regally and aloofly at the edge of the lake and mostly observed both the ducks and me.
 
After a short while, apparently satisfied that there was no danger or threat, the five geese returned to the lake and leisurely swam away.
 
And then I noticed the little brown mallard stationed at the edge of the water looking up at me.
 
It was Chrissy!
 
Hugely relieved that Chrissy had finally managed to escape the drake and that she was OK, I scrambled in my bag for any remaining seeds and tossed them to her.  Once again, Chrissy raised her head and opened her mouth wide like a baby bird waiting for mama to feed her!   
 
It is so cute when Chrissy does that and indeed it is something I have never seen another mallard do.   Then again, eating from human hands is something most mallards don't do either.   The only other duck who does this is Brad.   As much as Brad's two charges, Piggly and Wiggly know me by now, neither of them eats from my hand.
 
Ducks generally are more cautious in trusting humans than geese are.  I am not sure of the reason for that, but quite frankly its better for them to be wary.  Hand-feeding is something I generally don't encourage in waterfowl except under very special circumstances -- like Chrissy now and Brad in the past.
 
Buster, the lead "resident" Canada goose of Harlem Meer also eats from my hand of course.  But, it wasn't me who conditioned him for that.  Buster was already well schooled in gently eating from human hands long before he made my acquaintance. My guess is that Buster was likely hatched in one of the city parks and learned to eat from human hands as a very young gosling.
 
Meanwhile, the hormone-driven drakes continued to do battle last night, sometimes going head-to-head with each other, sometimes chasing the females and in one case, even butt pecking Brad!
 
Brad, looking very surprised by the unprovoked attack simply moved away from the cantankerous drake and rounded up Piggly and Wiggly.  The three domestic ducks then hautilly returned to the lake, Brad and Piggly chattering away to each other.   "Man, these mallards are really a pain in the spring!  Time to move on from this craziness!"
 
And so resigned to the fact that most of the ducks will no longer "escort" me out of the Meer during these hormone-driven times, I finally gathered my two dogs last night and began to make my way out on my own.
 
But, as I approached the lake's end near one of the exits of Harlem Meer, there was one little brown mallard following me in the water.
 
It was Chrissy!
 
And once again, she looked at me and opened her mouth from the water.
 
But, this time, it was simply to say "Goodnight" and perhaps issue a thanks for looking out for her.
 
"Sweet and brave little girl!  But, go back and join your buddies now. Every duck needs her flock no matter how difficult they are at times."
 
As I left the Meer, Chrissy began to slowly make her way back.
 
I have never personally rescued a duck.
 
But, if ever there is one I someday crazily pick up and bring home, it will probably be Chrissy.
 
She has truly "gotten" to me more than on simply observational level. -- PCA
 
 
                                                       ***********

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Isn't It Ironic?




Over the past two days, temperatures in NYC have returned to seasonable and that resulted in most of the fair weather exercisers leaving Central Park (at least at night).
 
This surprises me as one would think cool and brisk weather is far more condusive to hard exercise.  (Indeed, the only time I ever run is during severely frigid weather when needing to warm up in a hurry.)  Then again, not being a "jogger" what do I know about these things?   It just seems an irony that the hotter and more humid and miserable the weather, the more runners and cyclists in the park. 
 
 A few geese were resting on the water last night at Harlem Meer.
 
I am guessing the geese to be late stragglers from the waves of migratory geese who passed through the city over the past few weeks.
 
They are here for a day or two and then they move on......
 
And yet, for all their movements and peaceful ways, Canada geese still continue to be demonized and targeted, not just in New York City, but in fact, all over the country and the world.
 
Today in England, defenders of geese gathered at Windermere lake (an apparently popular tourist site) to protest a planned "culling" of the geese planned to occur over the next few weeks.   http://www.thewestmorlandgazette.co.uk/news/9582846.Canada_Geese_cull_protestors_at_Bowness_Bay_today/
 
Although Windermere residents report more swans than geese at the lake, the geese nevertheless become the scapegoats for all perceived problems -- just as they are scapegoated in the states.
 
Closer to home, geese are also being targeted in Lacey Township, New Jersey which apparently just agreed to pay the USDA $6,000 to round up and gas the geese and any of their goslings: http://www.app.com/article/20120309/NJNEWS/303090080/Lacey-to-capture-and-kill-geese
 
(For all current articles, information and updates on Canada geese, please go to our special Facebook site: Call of the Canada Geese page )
 
For an animal that has proven itself to be so highly adaptable and resilient to nature's challenges, its amazing the utter contempt humans have for this bird of ingenuity, strength and problem-solving abilities.
 
Like hard and sweaty exercisers running or cycling in the heated throws of summer, it is something that seems oddly ironic.
 
One might think humans would admire and respect "winners" so to speak.  -- i.e. those animals demonstrating remarkable adaptability and survival instincts even in the face of adversity and human attempts to annihilate them.
 
Another reality that is ironic and hard to understand is the seeming indifference (or even condescension) towards geese demonstrated by those who otherwise call themselves, "birders."
 
Canada geese are after all, birds.
 
But, the birding community has, for the most part, been strangely silent or behaving like ostriches with heads in the sand (no pun intended) when it come to the slaughter and persecution of Canada geese.
 
Those fighting to save geese are predominately those with particular affinity for the birds or general animal protection supporters.
 
Then again, perhaps that is not too surprising.
 
It seems the birding community is very similar to the "elite" dog breeding and showing worlds.  As most admirers and participants of dog shows thumb their noses at "mongrel" (i.e. mixed breed) dogs, so too, do most birders seem to thumb their noses at the more plentiful and adaptable birds like pigeons, mallards and Canada geese.
 
Apparently, if an animal is not "exotic" or endangered in some way, it has little or no value in modern human culture and it doesn't matter what happens to him or her. 
 
Imagine were such attitudes carried over to our own species, which, like the geese has demonstrated great adaptability to different environments and therefore, is hardly "endangered" or "exotic?"   Only the "1%" would be deemed valuable and worth saving!
 
I am not sure what "endangered or exotic" actually has to do with intrinsic value, sentience and individual worth.
 
Obviously, some animal species adapt and survive better in the modern world and some don't.
 
While I personally admire those striving to save endangered species or document and educate the rest of society on rare, exotic animals, this is not to say that the more abundant and adaptable animal species should be taken for granted or worse, demonized,  persecuted and destroyed.
 
We have to remember that at one time hundreds of millions of passenger pigeons flew our skies.   But, the last one was hunted down early in the last century.
 
Also, in the last century, Canada geese were almost hunted to oblivion.
 
But, thanks to efforts to "restore" the species (through captive breeding and release) for hunters, the geese made a comeback.
 
And in the process, apparently learned how to adapt to human predations.
 
Canada geese should be admired for that, rather than ostracized..
 
They have proven themselves to be remarkably similar to humans in their abilities to adapt and prevail.
 
Could our disdain for this adaptability be reflection of our own self-degradation or tendency to take for granted and feel contempt for what we think we have "too much of?"
 
I don't know.
 
Somehow it all just seems a little like the Alanis Morrisette song. ("Isn't it Ironic?")
 
We run in the heat and condemn and scorn what should rightfully be admired, praised and even emulated.  -- PCA
 
 
                                                          ***********
 
 
 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Spring Fever




(Photo:  Chrissy at Harlem Meer last night.  Was she a victim of warm weather assault?)
 
"What the fuck?"
 
"This is a pedestrian crossing, you jerk!  You don't own the park!"
 
The unpleasant exchange quoted above was between a cyclist and myself the other night.
 
It occurred when I attempted to walk across the pedestrian crossway at 96th Street and the Park Drive North with my two dogs who were both on leash.
 
Suddenly, the cyclist zoomed around the curve like Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France. 
 
I had to jump in order to avoid getting hit.
 
Apparently, with the sudden warm weather over the past couple of days, walking pedestrians are expected to sprout wings in order to cross the Central Park drives. This in order not to "interfere" with posses of runners and the Manhattan version of the famous french bike marathon.
 
Earlier last night, I witnessed a woman with a baby in a stroller literally running across the same crossway in between hoards of runners and cyclists.
 
It is truly not a question of "if" but "when" for a serious injury to occur between a cyclist and pedestrian on one of Central Park drives as cyclists do not adhere to normal traffic rules.  This, despite the fact that the newer bikes are capable of going at speeds that would put a Harley Davidson to shame.
 
It should probably surprise no one that I feel about cyclists and joggers, the same way some people feel about geese:
 
There are just too many of them. 
 
As soon as the thermometer hits above 50 degrees in New York City, thousands of runners and cyclists descend on Central Park like teenagers swarming into a Justin Bieber concert.
 
The joggers are everywhere.  The Reservoir, the Bridal Path, the Park Drives and most of the pedestrian paths.
 
I was not surprised when the Clairemont stable that used to rent horses for riding in Central Park closed a couple of years ago. Certainly, it couldn't have been much "fun" for equestrians trying to navigate horses among the thousands of runners who took over the Bridal Path during the past ten years or so.  Once again, it wasn't a question of "if" but when.
 
I miss seeing the horses and riders in Central Park. But, as matters were, it couldn't have been fun for the horses any more than the riders. Horse back riding simply became an impossibility in Central Park.
 
But, will simply walking with a baby in a stroller or dogs on leashes eventually become an impossibility in Central Park?   Or, at least during the warmer months and/or when one is attempting to walk across a park drive?
 
I personally believe speed rules will eventually have to be established for cyclists during the warmer months in Central Park and during the most heavily used hours.    With the kinds of numbers and speed we are seeing now, a severe accident is just waiting to happen.
 
Although millions of New Yorkers welcomed the past couple of days when temperatures soared into very spring-like 60's and 70's, I didn't,  for all the reasons described.
 
My favorite season in Central Park is the winter due to the quiet, sparse crowds and sense of being able to "get away from it all."  One can really imagine over the winter actually being in the country as one can particularly walk in the evenings and hardly see a soul in Central Park.  There is  something very nice, comforting and solitary about that.
 
And although winter can be very challenging for the wildlife in our city parks, in other ways it is far more peaceful than the other three seasons.
 
No USDA goose roundups to worry about.  No fishing to stress the fish and sometimes injure the waterfowl.  No kids throwing rocks and sticks at the birds (a suspected source of the injury to Chrissy, the back-injured mallard at Harlem Meer). No goose harassment (at least in Central Park this winter).  And, presumably few or no people to bitch about the raccoons.
 
People do indeed, "bitch" about the raccoons when the animals are careless enough to allow themselves to be seen (or can't avoid being seen due to large crowds).
 
Several times, runners have stopped to "warn" me about a raccoon that was spotted somewhere along a trail.
 
"Miss, you don't want to go there.  I just saw a raccoon!"
 
Usually, I thank the runner for the "warning," but assure him or her that the raccoons are far more frightened of us, than we are them.
 
So now in addition to the geese, I find myself worrying over the raccoons of Central Park. With the coming of spring, there will be so many more thousands of people to needlessly fear and likely complain about them.
 
Speaking of geese, they have apparently moved on from Central Park -- or at least from Harlem Meer as of last night.
 
For the first time since late fall, I did not see any geese on the water -- not even Buster and his gaggle last night.
 
At first, I wondered if Goosebusters had been sent to harass and chase the geese away?
 
That is of course, possible, but most of the mallards were still there. Usually when harassment is employed, the ducks leave with the geese.
 
But, as noted in recent weeks, migratory and even resident geese are on the move.   The unusually warm weather has apparently prompted most of the birds to seek and return to birthing and breeding locations sooner than normal.
 
Since geese do not normally nest at Harlem Meer, I did expect Buster and his gaggle (and any other Harlem Meer geese) to leave.  But, I was hoping it would not be this soon.
 
Its possible that during these unusually balmy couple of days, the geese were merely "pond hopping" and may return in a day or two.   Certainly, I see a number of the mallards pairing off and wandering around the grasses of Harlem Meer. Perhaps (and hopeffully) the geese are simply off on some romantic strolls or ventures too.
 
Disappointed last night in not seeing "my geese" and not seeking another unpleasant exchange with a Lance Armstrong wannabe, I decided last night to return home via Manhattan streets, rather than Central Park.
 
The streets of Madison and Park Avenues were actually far less crowded and "threatening"  than the Central Park roadways.
 
Perhaps now I understand why the geese may have left. 
 
That only one of the geese would have lent me some wings with which to fly across Central Park pedestrian crossways when bikes are burring down like rockets.  -- PCA
 
 
                                                                  ***********
 
 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Rites of Spring





(Photos: 1-- Brad,[right] feeling the hormones and staking out territory.  2-- Buster, marching proudly last night after grabbing wad of down from visiting, migratory goose.
 
Most people,  when wanting to know weather predictions check the local news.
 
I only have to look at the ducks and geese.
 
Because regardless of the current temperatures or conditions, behavior of the waterfowl tells me what the weather is going to be in coming days.
 
So it was, Monday night....
 
Temperatures had taken a dive to the mid 20's and wind gusts were blustering at 25 MPH.  It seemed far more like a night in mid January than the early part of March.
 
But, unlike the dark, bitter days of January when ducks and geese are primarily concerned with creating and maintaining open water (i.e. constant swimming and dunking in the water to prevent icing), Monday night, their minds were obviously on other things.
 
Especially, Brad, the Rouen, domestic duck and headstrong leader of the "three duckateers."
 
Seemingly nonchalant about food and unconcerned about possible icing of the lake, Brad instead eyed a pretty, female mallard in the water and suddenly took after her.
 
I stood on the lake embankment and watched in horror as Brad chased, caught up to and pinned down under the water, the much smaller mallard.
 
"Brad, Brad, stop it!  Leave her alone!  What are you doing?"
 
Brad paid absolutely no mind to my pleas to halt the assault on the mallard.  Instead, he continued to push down and jump on the female duck in what appeared an attempt to drown or "rape" at worst -- or bully and intimidate at best.
 
There was nothing I could do as the birds were too far away in the water.
 
I was of course reminded of when Brad used to attack Joey, the white Pekin duck in similar fashion.  But, Joey was larger than Brad and always managed after a few minutes to escape.
 
But, I didn't know if the smaller mallard could break free. Eventually, I turned away from looking.  It was just too awful.
 
A part of me panicked thinking that the mallard might be Chrissy, the back-injured mallard.  But, Chrissy was safely by the water's edge beseeching food.
 
After what seemed an eternity, Brad finally let the mallard go (or she escaped) and she went flying across the water.
 
Brad then returned like some proud warrior to his two charges, Piggly and Wiggly who were still grabbing sunflower seeds on the grass.
 
Two days later, I am still not sure what that whole scene was about.
 
It seems once again, that with the blast of cold weather (Sunday and Monday), a number of new migratory geese and mallards flew into and stopped at Harlem Meer.
 
I am not sure if Brad was being "territorial" by attacking one of the migratory ducks or whether this was a mating behavior.
 
One would think that were Brad to mate with any of the ducks, it would be Wiggly (pictured) who is both a domestic duck (like himself) in addition to being a member of his flock.
 
But, I am not exactly sure of the mating behaviors of ducks, as I am geese.  Ducks just seem to be far more promiscuous than geese.  (And of course, mother mallards raise ducklings by themselves, whereas in geese, both parents raise the young.)
 
One thing for sure however.  If Brad did successfully mate with the mallard than any offspring will be hybrids between a domestic duck and wild mallard.  It will be interesting to see what transpires over the next six weeks or so.  For sure, if we see any strange looking ducklings, I will be looking to Brad as the culprit.
 
But, of course it isn't only Brad acting "territorial" and belligerent in this now quick march up to spring. 
 
Buster, the lead gander of Harlem Meer has been downright obnoxious to the visiting, migratory geese.
 
Although Buster and his gaggle came to greet me last night in their usual fashion, Buster only took a couple of handfuls of treat and then, (like Brad) turned his attention to the family of geese quietly standing on the grass about ten feet away.
 
He immediately went after the nearest goose, chased him (or her) in the water and grabbed a large wad of down in his mouth in the process.
 
Supremely proud of having snatched the down, Buster then pranced around with head high in the air, holding on to the down in his beak for at least five minutes!   It was as if to announce to every new goose on the lake, "Here, here!  You see this!!!  THIS is what happens to you if you tread on OUR territory!"
 
The family of migratory geese apparently got the message.  All five of them left the grass immediately and peacefully swam away in the water.
 
And so yes, we may had a few very cold days recently.
 
But, I didn't need to hear a weather prediction to know it is about to warm up quickly and significantly for the rest of the week.
 
The wind may have been rustling feathers and the temperatures may have plunged to typical January readings.
 
But, to Brad, Buster and all the other birds, it was the Rites of Spring only a day or two away.  -- PCA
 
 
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Monday, March 5, 2012

"Baggage"




(Photo:  Chrissy sharing treat last night with Loner.)
 
"She took my baggage!  How could she do that?"
 
The profound thought came to me one night a few months ago while stumbling across a ditzy TV program called, "Baggage."
 
In a Jerry Springer version of "Match.com" contestants vie for the affections of another, but first they have to "reveal their baggage."
 
The baggage of one young woman was, "I write a blog that nobody reads."
 
I thought I was the only one who had that claim to infamy!  How could this woman steal my baggage? 
 
Today, I see the page views on this blog have surpassed the 20,000 mark.
 
But, that is after a few years and I am quite convinced that Buster and his gaggle, as well as some other geese have web access and periodically check to see what I am writing about them.
 
So far, the geese (and ducks) have not commented to complain so I presume they are basically OK with what's been said.
 
But, I didn't think any humans were actually reading this thing!
 
But, now seeing the count over 20,000, I have to wonder.  Is there actually a readership for this and if so, who are they?
 
Perhaps the site is being monitored in case I should go off the deep end about the geese.  In these days of terrorists threats, school shootings and other deadly, bizarre happenings, one can never be too sure what others are putting out there on the web.
 
Still, I wasn't planning (and don't now) to organize a "Goose Spring.".  I just happen to like them and feel geesies should be protected and respected.
 
So, how else did the page views on this blog get up to 20,000?
 
Ah, there really must be little green men from outer space or perhaps ghosts.  They and the geesies and duckies have taken away my claim to infamy and "baggage."  I will obviously have to come up with some different baggage if striving to get on the show. 
 
Perhaps this will do?   "I run out at midnight to feed ducks and geese."
 
It was in fact, nearly midnight last night, when scooting up to Harlem Meer with my dogs to check on my duck and geese friends. A get-together with a human friend had run a little long.
 
Things were very quiet at the Meer at the late hour.
 
Initially, I only saw one duck pair on the lake and figured most of the waterfowl to be asleep for the night.
 
"Well, toss out a few seeds to these two and quickly be on your way," I thought.
 
But, then from the east side of the lake, came loud honks and suddenly one goose came flying across the water and trotted cheerfully on to the embankment.
 
"Honk, honk" greeted Loner in a low honk.     ("Loner" is the goose who typically hangs nears Buster and his gaggle, but doesn't seem to actually be a family member.)
 
Apparently, Loner's loud honks woke up the rest of the crowd.
 
Within minutes, the Bradley Brigade came running for a midnight snack as did Buster and his family.  Chrissy showed up too, but was unceremoniously shoved back into the water after a couple of minutes by a cantankerous drake.
 
But, not to be denied, Chrissy stayed at the water's edge, initiated eye contact with me and like a baby bird waiting for Mama to feed her, lifted her head and opened her mouth wide!
 
Anyone claiming birds are "dumb" hasn't met Chrissy.
 
Not only does this disabled mallard use her wits and will to survive, but Chrissy is a master at using charm and vulnerability to play on the sympathies of "bleeding heart" (or crazy) humans.
 
As much as I care about the other ducks and geese, I always try to get the bulk of treats to Chrissy, though that isn't always easy considering the bullying tactics of other ducks.
 
Finally walking home through empty streets last night, I could not help but think how "crazy" it was to head out near midnight just to be sure Chrissy and company didn't go wanting.
 
Surely, if that ain't "baggage," I don't know what is. 
 
Certainly enough to send any one packing. -- PCA
 
 
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