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