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

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