Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Mights, Mays and Coulds"

Just when you think USDA Wildlife Services cannot stoop any lower, somehow it always manages to.
After shooting 19 geese at Honeymoon Lake in Washington last year, "Wildlife Extermination Services" will be back this year to round up and gas a family of seven geese.
This at the bequest of some wealthy lakefront home owners who resent geese living on a lake.  The apparently wildlife-intolerant humans build homes practically up to the water's edge and then go into a tizzy because waterfowl have the gall to be on water.
Who do you call when confronted, not by ghosts, but wildlife?
"Wildlife Busters!" -- The USDA.
As like last year, many of the community residents are outraged with this senseless and brutal assault on innocent animal life.  Some started an online petition which so far has almost 900 signatures:
But, as previously noted, petitions do little in terms of actually stopping these demonization campaigns and slaughters.
What matters are the "mights, mays and coulds." (In this case, "The geese might overpopulate.")
Whenever we want to justify unjustifiable actions, we dredge up these words for the purpose of creating public fear and loathing for something.
"The geese might fly into a plane."   "Goose poop may make someone sick if they eat it."  "Geese could be aggressive when nesting or protecting young."
There are of course all kinds of "mights, mays and coulds" in life.
A dog or cat may bite us.
Being in a park could make some of us sneeze or "feel sick." (allergies.)
Drinking soda pop may cause us to get fat.
But, should we be passing laws and taking "pre-emptive" actions to "ban" or "get rid of" of all those activities, things or creatures who have the potential to harm some people in some way?
In the past couple of days, there has much media uproar over Mayor Bloomberg's latest attempt to play "Daddy" (or dictator) to us all by pushing for a ban of sugary drinks over 16 ounces because some people get fat.
Although I am not normally a soda drinker and don't have a weight issue, I nevertheless purchased a 16 ounce bottle of "sugary" coke today as means of personal protest against the Mayor's once again tendency to trample on individual rights and freedom of choice as well as to ostracize certain segments in society (in this case, overweight people).
Other targets on our Daddy Mayor's "hit list" of demonizations?
* Women who bottle feed their babies.
*  Anyone who smokes.
*  Canada geese
When referring to the thousands of geese rounded up and gassed from city parks by USDA over the past few years, Bloomie quipped,  "They just go to sleep and have nice dreams."
Presumably, if Bloomie had his way, he would have all the smokers, bottle-feeding mothers and overweight people "euthanized" along with the geese because it seems to be his belief that they are responsible for bringing society down -- like geese are "bringing down planes."
We really need to question and be skeptical when government seeks to demonize and blame any particular group for all of society's ills and problems -- even when the targets are non-humans.
Those "mights, mays and coulds" currently being used against geese to justify their slaughter may one day be used against us to justify societal derision and assignment of blame.  
All humans (like geese) have their particular downsides or "vices."
Be careful those vices aren't on government hit lists -- along with the geese. -- PCA

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Individual Rights to Enjoy Geese and Nature in our Public Parks

Three important news pieces published within the past two days.
The first one is from today and sheds light on both past city slaughters of the geese as well as the planned, upcoming and expanded carnage. Please comment and thank reporter.
The second is an Editorial from this past Sunday's Sacramento Bee calling for Congress to get a grip and reign in USDA's "Wildlife Services."
It is critical that both of these pieces be widely shared and cross posted.
(The third significant news piece will be addressed later in this entry.)
As we approach the first days of June, I am filled with dread of what the next two months will bring.
I fear for the few geese (and goslings)  I still see at Central Park and I feel great pessimism for other geese surviving up until now throughout NYC's five boroughs and public parks.
As noted yesterday, there are many thousands of New Yorkers who take wonder in and enjoy seeing geese in our city parks.  For those (particularly in low income areas) who don't have the means to travel to the country or keep pets in their apartments, the wildlife in their city parks may be their only connection to animals and nature.
That the people and their children of our great city should be deprived of that right and opportunity (particularly with the most social and human-friendly of all birds in our parks) for political smokescreens, re-election campaigns and slick "PR" spin should be to the shame and disdain of all of us.
But, here is the problem:
Most people simply won't know or be aware of when the goose roundups actually occur.
Two years ago, when 368 geese and their baby goslings were rounded up and gassed from Prospect Park, only two people (one of whom is a wildlife rehabber) immediately recognized that something had occurred and called the press.  Other people, when asking, "What happened to all the geese?" were told by park officials that the geese had "flown away."
"They just flew away" is what most people assume when geese suddenly disappear and so most people believed the lie from Prospect Park officials until a series of New York Times articles exposed both the lie and the goose massacre that had actually occurred. 
Under normal circumstances, geese picking up and "flying away"  would be true.   However, for six weeks of the year (June-July) when geese are molting and flightless they cannot fly anywhere.
If geese suddenly turn up missing during these times (especially in NYC parks) one needs to be suspicious and start asking questions.
But, complaining or protesting after the fact is example of "too little, too late."   The geese are, after all, already dead by the time most people figure out or learn what has occurred.
Numerous protests since the gassing of Prospect Park's geese two years ago, have sadly accomplished little in terms of preventing further roundups and killings.
What seems mostly to be needed now is legal challenge and public comment to the USDA EIS "Goose Management Report" released several weeks ago:
Public comment is due by June 13th.
Very interesting news in New York City today is this information of the "smoking ban" in city parks being suspended due to legal challenge by a smoker's rights group. (The third important news piece -- even though not directly relative to geese.)
If we can get cigarettes back in our parks due to legitimate legal challenge and lack of due process, it seems this is what is ultimately needed to save and keep our resident geese in our parks.
Because the same way protocols and laws were subjugated, skipped or twisted to allow for a ban that infringes on individual human rights, protocols and laws are similarly being twisted now to allow for carnage of park wildlife while also infringing on individual rights to enjoy nature in parks.
Whatever one thinks of smokers, they deserve credit for organizing and legally challenging the infringements of their constitutional rights without due process.
Those who care about keeping the wildlife in our parks and our constitutional rights to enjoy nature without Big Brother peeking over our shoulder and depriving us of that right should do likewise.   -- PCA

Monday, May 28, 2012

Can't See the Humans for the Geese

Every now and then a real nice story comes along about geese and humans.
Such was the case earlier this weekend from Piedmont, California.  A group of human mothers aiding a new family of geese to cross traffic and arrive safely with their goslings to a nearby lake:
I believe these mothers to be typical of most normal, thinking and feeling Americans.
As a people, we appreciate nature and wildlife.  Our hearts and empathy particularly go out to other "parents" in nature struggling to raise their young.
But, I could not help but wonder when reading this story, "What if these mothers lived in New York City instead of California?"
What if, after guiding this family of geese to safe haven, the mothers learned three weeks later that the same family was rounded up by government agencies (USDA
Wildlife Services) and shipped to a slaughterhouse?
My guess is the mothers would be horrified and outraged.
But, mothers throughout New York City are facing just that in another month.
Gaggles of helpless geese, including many families with young goslings will be rounded up from city parks and one wildlife refuge and sent to slaughter.
What do the mothers tell their children who ask, "Mommy, where are the geesies?"
I am thinking particularly of the young mother I met a few weeks ago at Harlem Meer. A loving mother who brought her 6-year-old daughter every weekend to "feed the ducks and geese" in Central Park.
The woman told me how much her little girl looked forward to seeing the birds in the park and how much they both loved animals.
"Unfortunately, where we live, we are not allowed to have any pets." the young mother confided. "Coming here is my daughter's only way to connect with and enjoy animals."
A few minutes following this brief conversation, the little girl asked to walk around with my dogs. Seeing the smile and hopefulness on her face, I could only say yes.
For many children, particularly those growing up in urban "no pet" apartments, their only means of seeing and learning about animals and nature are their city parks.  In many cases, the families don't have the means and finances to take their children for country drives or trips to Yellowstone.
But, these days there are no geese at Harlem Meer and very few ducks.
The young mother and her child were actually chased away from one area of the Meer that day by fisher people when the little girl attempted to feed a duck.  
Are these shades of things shortly to come?
It sadly appears that way.
Over the years, I have witnessed thousands of little children, young romantic couples, senior citizens, photographers and even many exercise enthusiasts stop to take special moment and enjoyment of the wildlife in Central Park. 
And no animal has been the beneficiary of that outpouring of human wonder and awe more than Canada geese.
That is due to the particularly social nature of the geese and their willingness to trust and "invite" humans into their lives.  
I can never forget particularly, the utter joy and smiles on the children's faces when Mama and Papa raised their six goslings at Turtle Pond in 2010.
It was literally a bounty of human love, generosity and adoration pouring out every day at the small pond near Belvedere Castle.
Small wonder Mama and Papa and their six balls of yellow fluff readily waddled up to people and children everyday.  Indeed, they even quickly learned to trust most of the dogs passing through, including my two.
Turtle Pond seems so empty now without this major life force and source of entertainment for thousands of people (though fortunately, geese are still present at the nearby Boat Lake -- at least for the moment).
But, let us not foolishly assume it is only children, parents or senior citizens who take special pleasure and comfort in geese.
I have seen many an otherwise "macho man" tossing bread to geese.  I even recall the young rap singer "serenading" a gaggle of Canada geese on a nearly frozen Harlem Meer one January afternoon in 2011:
And he wasn't the only rapper liking geese.  There is also this YouTube video (which is admittedly better, though "saltier" than mine): 
One could say geese have a diverse fan club that seemingly knows no bounds.
Still the question remains, How will all these people feel when they wake up one day to realize the geese who "used to be everywhere" and who they so "loved" are suddenly gone?
Another question to ask:   Why is it the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's job ("duty of care") to "insure airline safety" by arranging for the killings of thousands of resident park geese throughout NYC's five boroughs?
Should that not be the responsibility of the FAA and the aerospace industry to insure their planes are "safe" for travel?
It seems the PANYNJ's main responsibility should be to insure that trains, buses and planes arrive and depart on time.
If we want to stretch their responsibilities to include more, then perhaps an argument can be made that the PANYNJ has some obligation to insure that runways and airports are safe for landings and departures.
But, contracting with  paid killers (USDA) to invade city parks within 7 miles of an airport to roundup and slaughter geese seems a "responsibility" that goes way outside the normal realms and expectations of a Port Authority.
How did we ever get to this sorry and inexplicable state of affairs?
It seems the Port Authority, the FAA, the aerospace industry and at least one New York Senator have some "s'plaining" to do.
Not to me, necessarily.  But to all those urban mothers with small children whose only "connection"  to animals and wildlife are the geese and ducks in their local park, to the senior citizens who look to the birds in our parks as companionship and comfort when adult kids have moved away,  to romantic couples gazing upon the loving antics of the geese or even to aspiring city rappers who sometimes find their best audience might be a gaggle of geese in the grass or on a frozen lake.
Explain the excuses to them.
So busy are our politicians, agency officials and wildlife killers preparing documents, "bills" and arranging for our so-called "safety" through reckless slaughter that they don't stop to actually look at what is happening around them and what actually matters to people..
One could say they can't see the parks or the humans in them for the geese. -- PCA

Sunday, May 27, 2012

"Build It and They Will Come -- And Then We Killed Them All"

When are press releases sent out and news stories run that politicians and officials generally don't want the public to see?
Fridays and Saturdays as a general rule.  But, if such stories can run on a holiday weekend, so much the better.
This past Friday, Mayor Bloomberg publicly released his 2011 tax returns -- presumably with the hope that few people would see it.
And yesterday, the Daily News ran this piece about the upcoming bird carnage at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge:
Presumably, Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) is breathing a sigh of relief.
Because if there is one thing the ambitious senator would not want her animal-loving, environmentalist or naturalist constituency to see, it is her proposed massacre of all Canada geese (and their babies) as well as six other birds species on the "crown jewel" of wildlife refuges -- Jamaica Bay.
It is no small irony that less than a year ago, the DEC and DEP issued a press release announcing the multi-million dollar plan to clean up and "restore" the famous ecosystem that each year attracts millions of visitors and nature lovers:
So, while we are spending millions of tax dollars to restore and create pristine "marsh lands" to attract birds, we are also launching (tax funded) plans to wipe the birds out.
"Build it and they will come-- and then we will kill them all." 
That should be the new motto for Jamaica Wildlife Refuge -- or, the new recipient of the "Golden Goose Award" given out for senseless, conflicting and colossal wastes of tax dollars.
It is truly despicable that any government agency or politician would capitalize and profit on public paranoia that they themselves (along with the media) created.
The chance of someone being killed as result of a plane colliding with a Canada goose is about a trillion to one.  One is far more likely to die while walking in the park on a sunny day and being killed by a falling tree branch (which has actually happened).
But, we are not chopping down all the trees -- nor are we avoiding city parks.
Canada geese and other birds are of course, easy targets and victims.
They have no lobbyists in Washington,  they can't "Occupy Wall Street" nor can they even vote.
Low level government workers can simply invade the parks and refuge when the birds cannot fly, round up entire families, stuff them in trucks and drop them off at a slaughterhouse.  
Easy.  Relatively cheap.
The politicians and other officials can then announce, "We did something to insure airline safety!"
Just don't ask what the "something" was.
I am merely wondering if the USDA and Senator Gillibrand will send out press releases just prior to the actual culls?
"USDA to begin shootings and Canada goose roundups tomorrow at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.   Media invited!"  
Ah, but the USDA only do their roundups on weekdays and non-holidays.
Not the best times for news you want no one to see.
"Build it and they will come -- and then we killed them all! "
Not sure that we will see this slogan on Senator Gillibrand's campaign ads this fall.
But, she will need to have some explanation to the millions of tourists, bird and nature lovers who show up to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge with cameras and binoculars asking, "Where are all the birds?" -- PCA

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Romantic Holiday Getaways (Yes, Geese Do mark Human Calendars!)

Long, Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Time for beaches, amusement parks and in some cases, romantic adventures and getaways.
But, I was worried yesterday when arriving to the Boat Lake and not seeing Mama and Papa in their usual spots.
Where are they? 
A lone goose was swimming on the water and honking repeatedly.
Is that Papa?  Did something happen to Mama?  Oh my God!
It is highly unusual for these two "love birds" not to be immediately seen together.
I could not figure what was going on, but for the moment, was distracted by the new family of geese who apparently have taken a recent liking to one of the rock formations off the Ramble.
I went to spend a little time with them before heading off on a search for Mama and Papa.
Knowing the father of this family to be extremely protective and untrusting of dogs, I parked my two dogs, Tina and Chance an extra few feet away from the family.
But, that did not deter the overly wary gander from staring in their direction and continually hissing for the roughly half hour that I spent with him, his "wife" and their six goslings.
Although I only know this family less than a week, the goslings grow by the day.
They are already as big as mallards, though still possess some of that yellowish, fine down.
The goslings are particularly trustful of humans and readily walk up, demanding treats. Several of them I can pet, though both parent geese keep a particularly watchful eye of that.  One false move and I might well be a goner.   I still have that image of the parent geese banishing the snapping turtle from the rock a few nights ago and sending him plunging into the water.
That could be me, though luckily I can swim.
Nevertheless, still worried over not seeing Mama and Papa, I cut the visit with the family short. With two parents as vigilant as these two, I have no great and immediate fears for the Mom, Dad and six obedient goslings who stay within a very tight group. The parents watch their babies better than eagles.
Nervous, I reclaimed my dogs and began to walk along the edge of the lake to areas in the Ramble neither I nor Mama and Papa normally go.
Thick brush, tall trees, winding paths and off limit areas made full visibility on the Boat Lake somewhat difficult.  But I was determined to walk the entire perimeter of the water if I had to!
After about 15 minutes, I finally reached a clearing that allowed visibility to the water as well as public access. 
And low and behold, I could make out two geese ambling lazily among the wood chips on the ground.
Going closer,  I noticed the one lame gander and the missing webbing on Mama's right foot.
It was Mama and Papa!
"Well, what in the world are you guys doing all the way over here?  Do you realize the scare you gave me?  I thought something horrible had happened!
Papa gave his usual low honk greeting and Mama waddled up to take treats from my hand as she always does.
Neither goose made any apology.
Meanwhile, a third goose who was standing on a rock nearby began to make his way over to curiously investigate.  Mama gave a forward head motion as if to say, "We don't mind you hanging with us, but don't spoil our party!!"  (Was this the goose I saw earlier swimming and honking on the lake?  Could be.)
And while all this was happening, two of Mama and Papa's grown "kids" from 2010, took several "joy flies" over the lake, flying in circles and honking loudly.
"Wow, listen to the racket those two are creating!" I said to Mama and Papa. "You'd better tell them to quiet down or they'll have the USDA here in no time!"
But, Mama and Papa were too enjoying their little romantic adventure to pay my warnings - or me much mind.
It is, after all a holiday weekend.
Finally saying goodnight to Mama and Papa and leaving the little cozy enclave, I wasn't quite sure where I was.
I then realized I very close to Bow Bridge -- one of the most "romantic" areas in all of Central Park and a popular hangout for lovers!
Ah, OK, I get it now!
Walking back the same way I came, the goose family had settled down on the rock for the evening ahead.   Parents on each side and the goslings clustered together in two groups of three.   But, the gander immediately looked at me passing with my dogs and hissed.
"Oh, hush up there, Dad!  We are just passing through. Its a holiday. RELAX!
Ganders of goose families never in fact, "sleep."   If they attempt to rest at all, it is with both eyes open all of the time.
I have often wondered what geese do during the dark hours of night when parks are closed and all is generally quiet?
But, as speculated in the past, I believe the geese secretly read newspapers and also check calendars.
Most of the geese have in fact, left NYC parks just prior to anticipated USDA roundups.  The few who remain are those "resident" geese who have been hatched and raised in city parks.
But, I trust my Central Park geese have some kind of plan for splitting up and avoiding USDA culls.
As for the "calendars," well there is no doubt the geese are very aware of all the holidays we humans mark.
Just three weeks ago, Mama and Papa's grown "kids" returned to visit them on the home rock during Mother's Day.
And of course last night, there was that little "romantic adventure" to Bow Bridge by Mama and Papa.
What better way to celebrate the beginning of a long, holiday "getaway" weekend?
I believe Mama and Papa settled down to a candlelight dinner after I left, listened to the bongo drum "concert" from nearby Bethesda Fountain and probably took some night photos from the ever romantic, Bow Bridge. --- PCA

Friday, May 25, 2012

"D'em Damn Geese!" -- Airline Terrorists AND Lazy Loafers?

Forget about making it on American Idol or winning a Nobel prize.
It seems if one wants to really "make the news" these days, all one has to do is whine about and demonize geese.
Certainly, Senator Gillibrand (D- NY) made national news recently when announcing her bill to wipe out Canada geese at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and virtually all of New York City.
The senator depicted the geese as suicidal winged terrorists of the skies, bringing down airliners every chance they could get.
"We cannot wait another day to take action!" Ms. Gillibrand added passionately.
(Undoubtedly, the "concerned" senator must have read and taken to heart, this piece published a few years ago: )
Although the senator has been involved with many other pieces of legislation, it is her proposed "war on geese" at a wildlife refuge that gained her national attention and media spotlight.
Nevertheless, most publicized complaints about geese are the exact opposite.
Instead of suicidal winged terrorists stalking our skies and airliners, Canada geese are "one bunch of lazy birds" who "don't go anywhere."
"You have to just about run them over with a golf cart to get them to walk, not fly, out of your way" laments one disgruntled writer to a newspaper, who of course was published:
I was always under the impression that to get anything published in a newspaper, the letter, Op-Ed or article had to be well written and present some evidence of fact or claim.
But, that is apparently not true when complaining about Canada geese. All one need do well is whine.
A couple of weeks ago, a news crew from "Channel 2 Action News" in Georgia rushed out with cameras and some measure of urgency to cover the story of the "scourge" of Canada geese "messing up" some old woman's lawn. 
But, there were no geese to film when the news crew (and CSI team?) arrived to the crime scene.   Nevertheless,  the video and article ran anyway on the local news. 
Facts and evidence not needed.  Just a big mouth whining about geese is all that is necessary these days to gain publicity and get one's name or mug in newspapers or on TV.
But, here is the question to ask of all these "news reports."
"Which is it?"  
Either the geese are suicidal terrorists of the skies taking down airliners left and right.  Or, they are a "lazy bunch who don't go anywhere."
Can they really be both? 
Ah, such a pity that we can't pin Wall Street boondoggles, violent crimes or climate change on Canada geese.
But, fear not.
Someone is presumably figuring out how to do just that.
After all, no better and easier way to gain notoriety and "fame" than by blaming Canada geese for all the ills of the world.
"Ah, 'dem damm geese!  T'aint good for notin!" -- New York Times, can you hear me now?     --- PCA

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Parenting Skills and High Survivability of Canada Geese

There is reason why Canada geese survive so well much to the chagrin or dismay of many humans.
There is probably no other animal who is so fiercely alert and protective of its young. And the species as a whole prioritizes families at the very top of its social structure and hierarchy.
There is definite reason for the popular term, "Mother goose" and quite frankly, "Father gander" should be right up there as well.
The two together create a formidable team and pity any animal or occasional human who strays too close to the family or poses any kind of threat to the goslings.
But, while geese with broods shoot straight to the top of goose hierarchy, deference is also displayed to the senior members of goose gaggles and flocks.
It is the youthful, non-breeding geese who tend to get batted around and rank lowest on the goose totem poles. It probably takes several years for geese to learn all the complexities and rules of the species, as well as rise in status.  And the latter mostly occurs when the geese finally mate and successfully produce offspring. (About three-years of age.)
In many ways, Canada geese are a great deal like humans, though "divorce" doesn't seem to exist among mated pairs of geese -- nor, bad parenting. 
Its almost as if their rules are set in stone and every goose seems to follow them -- though there are the occasional young upstarts or "rebels" who may stray too far from the gaggle or go off on their own adventures.  When that occurs, usually two siblings will be assigned to "go get them."  (Observed that over this past winter with migratory geese who wintered at Harlem Meer.)
While nature can often be merciless towards the young, (taking them days or weeks after hatching or birth), Canada geese (and humans)  might just be the two exceptions to the rule.
That is mostly due to superior parenting skills and traditional raising of the young by both parents.
It is speculated that most healthy goslings hatched in Canada geese survive until adulthood, unless something happens to both parents.  That is sadly not true for most animal species who bear multiple young at one time.
Goslings are more fortunate than most -- thanks to the devotion and vigilance of their parents and protection of the species as a whole.
Some, but not all of these things were observed again last night when at the Central Park Boat Lake to visit with "Mama and Papa" goose.
Mama and Papa are of course the "senior resident geese" of the Boat Lake and probably all of Central Park.   They produced and successfully raised their own family of six goslings in 2010 and though they again attempted to nest this year, the one or two eggs did not hatch (which is probably good due to Mama's age and declining vigor).
Nevertheless, Mama and Papa still command and receive top respect and deference of the other geese at the Boat Lake -- with the now exception of the new goose family.
Similar to two nights ago, I was sitting on a rock feeding treats to Mama and Papa while two younger geese stood peacefully off to the side.  My two dogs rested quietly about ten feet away.  Both Mama and Papa (as well as the other younger geese) are very used to my dogs and barely pay them any mind -- nor my dogs to them.
But, this was a different and smaller rock formation than the one on the west side of the lake where we encountered the new goose family two nights ago. At that time, my dogs were leashed and tethered to a small wire fence about 20 feet from the geese. 
Though I didn't think about this initially last night, I soon would......
Suddenly, I could see from the corner of my eye, what appeared two geese swimming in our direction.
But, when Papa raised his head and started to honk loudly, I knew it was the new goose family.
As they did two nights ago, Papa and Mama immediately ceased eating and moved to the far side of the rock -- apparently to "clear the way" for the goose family.
Although there are six goslings in the new goose family, it is hard to see them when the family is swimming as the little ones are tightly wedged between both parents.  The family appears like one unit in the water.
The family arrived to the rock and once again, the gander was the first to climb on -- presumably to insure it was "safe."
The goslings then followed with Mother goose carefully holding up the back.
But, "Daddy" gander was not entirely happy.
His eyes were fixed upon my two dogs ten feet away and he hissed loudly and frequently.
Fortunately, my dogs neither reacted nor moved a muscle.
After a while, the gander seemed to "figure" that my dogs were not a serious threat.
Although he eventually stopped hissing, he never took his gaze from them.
Meanwhile, the goslings merrily and confidently pranced up to me and begged for food -- a couple of them being so bold as to gently peck at my hand.  (This family is well used to people -- probably from growing up near Bethesda Fountain, a popular tourist spot.)
Like the Daddy goose, Mother also watched carefully, though occasionally lowering her head to swoop sunflower seeds from the rock.
Both parent geese chased off ducks wandering too close to the goslings and at one point the Daddy goose,  apparently not satisfied with the distance of the two juvenile geese, vigorously went after and banished them from the rock.
"Begone with you, you young pups! You stray too far over the line!"
Lesson learned for two juvenile geese still figuring out the rules of goose life.
But, new father gander made no motions towards Mama and Papa at the far side of the rock. Seniority counts for something.
All went smoothly from that point on -- until a large snapping turtle made its way on the rock and started to move towards the sunflower seeds -- and too close to the goslings.
BOTH  parent geese, suddenly united to flap wings and aggressively go after the huge turtle.
Turtles are not noted to move fast -- but this one did. Within seconds the turtle was off the rock and back in the water.
Parent geese mean business.  -- So much so, even I was a bit spooked by them with the huge, flapping wings, hissing and lightening fast motion.
Canada geese are often accused of being "aggressive" when guarding nests and young.
I don't know that "aggressive" is truly the correct term as I have never seen a Canada goose actually hurt anything. (They have no teeth or claws, after all.)
But,  they can seem quite formidable by making themselves appear much larger than they actually are.  Canada geese curl and bend their heads like snakes and even copy snake-like hisses.  That along with the outstretched and flapping wings is enough to scare off most predatory animals, including foxes and possibly even coyotes.
Once, when Papa and Mama were raising their goslings and I encountered them one night along a grassy pedestrian path, Papa approached my dogs in this manner and it was the one time I was actually spooked and worried for my dogs.  I slowly and carefully had to back off.  I realized later, that the family was more vulnerable on the path away from the water and that was why Papa took on what appeared to be a more "aggressive" stance.
Watching the way both parent geese reacted quickly to the threat of the large snapping turtle last night reminded me of that incident.
As the sun went down and I was depleted of treat, I realized it was time to leave -- though I could have stayed another hour, the scene before me was so fascinating.
Daddy goose was still watching my dogs, though had long ceased hissing at them. The goslings and Mother continued to sweep up any remaining seeds on the rock.   And meanwhile, it appeared that Mama and Papa goose might settle down for the evening on the far side of the rock as they had done two nights earlier.  
Was this an extra pair of eyes for protection?  Normally, Mama and Papa retreat in the evening to the small rock in the middle of the lake.
I am guessing that whenever the family finally left to return to their normal resting spot, Mama and Papa probably did too.
But, I did not wait for that.
Instead, I carefully retrieved my dogs and we gingerly made our way from the rock and the Ramble.  I am sure the Daddy gander was watching us every step of the way.
What I learned from the evening is that while much can be said for the intelligence, adaptability, resiliency and steadfastness of Canada geese, the one thing that sets them apart from almost all of nature (and even many human lifestyles) is their fierce alertness and protection of young and truly superior parenting skills.
It is the rare gosling that (unless ill) doesn't make it with two healthy Canada goose parents and equally protective species members.
That is the main reason for the high survivability of Canada geese.  -- PCA

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Back to the Future -- Bye Bye Blackbirds and Bye Bye Geese

I am taking a not-so-nostalgic trip back in time today.
Specifically past goose roundups in New York City and USDA's "Wildlife Services" spectacular record in wiping out animals.
First there is a revisit to an article from the New York Times following last year's USDA goose roundups and slaughters:
 Note the title:  "Fewer Canada Geese at NYC Parks, So Fewer Are Rounded Up and Killed."   The USDA in fact, struggled last year to make its prediction (or quota) of rounding up between "700 - 800" geese from New York City. They "only" got 575 geese -- and that required several revisits to parks -- in one case, rounding up as few as 7 geese.
But, the really strange thing about the above article is that originally it included the "2011 Goose Removal Report" prepared by the USDA as a sidebar and actually referenced it. But, the Removal  report is no longer included or "available" in the article even when clicking on the "report" link.
It was, of course, quite shameful to realize when reading the report that the USDA stretched its own protocols when rounding up less than ten geese in some areas.. That in addition to the fact the 575 geese only yielded "424 lbs of edible meat" (less than one pound per 10lb bird) after an arduous journey to a Pennsylvania slaughterhouse almost 4 hours away. 
One guesses the USDA doesn't really want that information on such a public site  as the New York Times. Some people actually read the reports. 
Nevertheless, the real question to ask when reading the Times piece from last year is, "What geese are they going to round up and kill this year?"
If the USDA was so successful "removing" and "reducing" NYC's Canada goose population to less than half of what it was and if they could not meet their own kill quotas last year, then how are they going to fulfill Senator Gillibrand's demand for a goose genocide in NYC this year? (Gilibrand targets geese near JFK, where they haven't hit a plane in nearly 2 y)
Well, there is always the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge which in the past actually acted like a "Refuge" by refusing to allow USDA access to come and kill all its geese.
But, that is supposed to change this year according to the demands of the ambitious and opportunistic Senator running for re-election.  Gillibrand is attempting to fast track a bill through Congress that calls for the "elimination" of all the geese at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge by this August..
This despite the fact that there are new families of geese at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge --including recently hatched goslings. (Obviously, no non-lethal methods of "goose control" --such as egg addling -- were implemented at the refuge. Killing seems to be the preferred method of government agencies and the USDA -- and they are experts at it.)
The goose and gosling roundups at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge should make a very pretty picture.  USDA low level workers invading a wildlife refuge, corralling entire families of terrified, defenseless geese and their babies, cramming them into turkey crates and trucking them to slaughter.
One wonders if the New York Times or ABC News will be invited to take photographs and shoot video of this important news event?  Such would go nicely on "Re-elect Senator Gillibrand!" posters and commercials. "She gets things done!"
Just don't ask what the "things" are.
Speaking of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, there is this fascinating (or perhaps hilarious now) press release issued by the DEC last year:
The DEC announced project to clean up Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge from pollution from waste water plants and  restore critical wetlands and marshes.   It refers to Jamaica Bay as the "crown jewel" of wildlife preservation areas and a "major attraction for thousands of tourists and bird lovers."
One wonders how those "bird lovers" are going to enjoy watching  USDA goose and gosling roundups?  The photos should be something to post on Flickr sites.
But, perhaps photos of an empty "wildlife refuge" and "estuary" might be even better?
One has to wonder what birds are going to stick around when witnessing other birds rounded up and crammed into trucks?
One also has to wonder what the "wetlands and marshes" are actually being "restored" for?
An introduction of crocodiles perhaps?
One has to laugh or cry when realizing the absurdity and apparent disability of government agencies to read their own press releases and some Senators to read anything at all regarding an issue before running to the halls of Congress with insidious "bill" proposals.
Nevertheless, one need not go back to the past to realize where we are now.
Below are two recent articles about USDA "Wildlife Services:"
It appears that killing geese merely represents the tip of the USDA's spectacular extermination iceberg on animals -- especially birds.
"Bye bye, blackbirds" and bye bye geese.
We are essentially, "back to the future."  -- PCA

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

USDA: Stay Away from our Babies!

 (Photo:  New family of geese at the Boat Lake last night! -- other photos in link towards end of text entry)
What does one do when devoid of hope and dreading the future?
Where does one run when running on empty?
I run in search of geese. And these days that means trips to the Boat Lake in Central Park. 
Somehow, if I can still find Mama and Papa goose and know they are safe, it renews and restores something. -- A sense that no matter how seemingly bleak, the spark of hope and possibility still exists.
It rained steadily most of yesterday and was still raining lightly when I headed to Central Park shortly before dusk with my two dogs.
That was fine.  The rain brings with it, a kind of cleansing and refresh.  Moreover, one imagines it is welcomed by most of the wildlife as the rain brings peace and tranquility.
I first walked by the Reservoir in Central Park.  Grey mist hung over the fading day and there were few birds on the water.   However, I did see two Cormorants diving under and then taking off from the Reservoir.  Normally, I enjoy seeing Cormorants (though I don't know much about these mostly elusive and shy fish catchers).
But, yesterday, I was reminded that Cormorants are also a "target" bird on our airlines and USDA "hit list" and therefore the experience was more depressing than uplifting. (Sometimes I wish I wasn't aware of all the new target birds on agency hit lists. Whoever said, "ignorance is bliss" knew what they were talking about.)
From the Reservoir, I walked to the Great Lawn and that is when the glumness of the day suddenly began to change as sun breaking through clouds.
Because of the rain, the Great Lawn was closed to the public.
And it was a literal field day for the birds!
Pairs of mallards nestled peacefully in the grass as if enjoying a "free concert."  There were at least 8 to 10 of them somewhat spread out in a row.  
But, the "concert" was the variety of bird tweets and calls as starlings, sparrows and other feathered friends took full advantage of the human-empty lawn to merrily hop and graze.
And low and behold, among the "others" of birds were the two Canada geese (grown offspring of Mama and Papa goose) who have, in recent days, taken to the Great Lawn for occasionally feast sharing with other birds.  
As soon as seeing me, the two geese came to greet, as they used to do when tiny goslings.    The geese were hatched at Turtle Pond,  "next door" to the Great Lawn during the spring of 2010.   I remember when they grew their flight feathers, how the two youngsters  loved to "hop" from the pond to the Great Lawn while their parents and siblings remained at the pond.   These two were always the "adventurers."
Seeing the two geese again in their favorite place took me back to happy memories and engendered a feeling of longing that, however unrealistic, some things (hopefully) never change.  
From the Great Lawn, I headed toward the Boat Lake already feeling a kind of spiritual uplifting from the sweet encounter with Mama and Papa's grown "babies."
From a distance I could make out Mama and Papa on their little home rock in the middle of the water, but there were two other geese on the publicly accessed rock on the other side of the lake. 
 I went to check out the "new" geese first.
Of course the geese weren't really "new" at all.   I am quite sure I have seen the two juveniles both, at Harlem Meer and the Boat Lake. (The female of the two has a white spot on the black portion of her face.)   Both geese are very social with humans and immediately walk up people and both have the immature tendency to "nip" when taking treats from the hand.  I suspect the two youngsters are probably among the geese who hatched at the South Pond last year or the Reservoir.   They are no strangers to Central Park.
I could tell Mama and Papa were looking at the scene from across the lake and unsurprisingly took to the water and started swimming our way.
As always, Papa arrived first with Mama trailing behind.  And no sooner did Papa climb the rock, then he immediately began to honk and assertively "scoot" the youngsters to the far side of the rock.  "Over there, now, you young upstarts!  Go on! -- NOW!"  
The two young geese, apparently respecting their elders, obediently obliged without fuss or protest.
All was peaceful following the gentle coaxing and "correcting."  Mama swooped seeds from my hand while her faithful mate watched and grabbed a few seeds for himself.  The two youngsters took a position of relaxation and sentry duty atop the rock, a short and respectful distance from Mama and Papa.
Just when I thought things couldn't get any more peaceful and lovely, to my surprise, two other geese were swimming towards us from the south side of the lake.
But, as they drew closer, I suddenly saw a cluster of young goslings between them!
Oh my God, its a new family!!
I almost could not believe my eyes as the family began to embark the rock, the gander leading the way and immediately taking charge.
To my utter shock and surprise, Papa goose, along with Mama, respectfully deferred to the new family and slowly moved out of their way to the far side of the rock! 
(I have never seen Papa goose defer or move away from any geese!)
But, apparently in the goose world, families with babies take priority and rein at the top of the hierarchy.
More surprisingly, the gander of the new family equally displayed respect towards Papa and Mama and made no moves to "chase" or intimidate them in any way. 
But, he did honk and turn his head towards the two younger geese still at the top of the rock.  The moves were apparently goose language to "stay away."
And once again, the youngsters obliged the goose in charge and made no moves from their position at least ten to fifteen feet away from the family.
And such a family it was!
As the gander had cleared the way and his "wife" and babies climbed the rock, there were six healthy goslings whose yellow feathers were already turning dark. The babies were at least a month old!
Where had they been all this time?  Why had I never seen them until now?
The Boat Lake is actually the largest of the lakes in Central Park. It winds around the Ramble and ends at Bethesda Fountain.  It is not possible to see all of the lake at one time. 
I was aware that there were a few other geese at the south portion of the lake, but I had no idea of an actual family!   As the goslings are larger and stronger now, the parents are apparently taking them farther on the lake.
And the entire family is well used to people. The gander even took seeds from my hand!
Apparently, the goslings were hatched at the south part of the lake, probably close to Bethesda Fountain area which is a huge tourist attraction.
It was absolutely rejuvenating and amazing to watch this fantastic turn of events last night!
Not just to realize the incredible resiliency of the geese against all the odds and hostile, destructive campaigns against them, but even more so, to witness the steadfast "family values," cultural structure and how the geese look after and protect each other.
By the time I left the Boat Lake last night (after almost an hour), all of the geese were peacefully settled in various stations of the rock.   Mama and Papa stood together at the far left side, the two youngsters towards the middle and the new family, claiming most of the space nibbled at stray seeds along the entire right side of the rock formation.  (Photos from last night below.)
I wondered if they would stay that way for the rest of the evening?
Finally walking home, I had sense of renewed hope.
Almost to defy the USDA, FAA, Port Authority and all the other agencies involved in the relentless and hideous slaughter of the geese a new family has prevailed and they have the blessings, support and protections of Mama and Papa and presumably all other geese in the area.
All for one and one for all.
It might be tempting to say all is well.  But, of course we know that is not true.
But, I do believe the intelligence, steadfastness, loyalty, devotion and protection capabilities of these magnificent birds will out in the end.
And perhaps just to prove that point, there is this article today out of Canada.
 Geese not only look out for their own, but also bequeath that generous and magnificent protection spirit to the young who are not even their own species -- in this case, mallard ducklings.
Today, I will again tackle the grotesque and lunatic fringe pages of the latest USDA "document of death" for the geese.
But, a part of me will be laughing inside, fully knowing that whatever torments of the damned that USDA "Wildlife (Extermination) Services" comes up with, the geese will always find a way to endure.
"USDA -- Stay Away from our Babies!"  
Truth, purity, steadfastness and courage -- like the rain -- will out in the end. -- PCA

Monday, May 21, 2012

"Send in the Clowns"

Harlem Meer, Sunday, May 20, 2012:   
Waterfowl count:  Canada geese:  None.  Adult Mallards 10. Ducklings: 7  Domestic ducks: 2.
There were more fisher people yesterday at Harlem Meer than waterfowl.  
I found Brad and Wiggly (domestic ducks) inside fenced and safe area near Dana Center.  I tossed small handful of sunflower seeds to the two ducks and took photos (while they're still here and alive). 
A group of about six people (most of them young) were fishing nearby. One of them, a teenage girl about 13 came over to me.  "You ain't supposed to feed birds!" she snarled.
Suddenly angry, I shot back, "Am I bothering you?  Are these two ducks bothering you? There are lots of things at this lake that bother ME, but I am not in anyone's face.  And, if you know what's good for you, you will get the hell out of mine. -- Go call a cop. See what I care."
Looking surprised, the young girl moved away without saying anything more.
I stayed a while longer and continued with what I was doing.
Sure, there are signs not to feed wildlife.  But, the fact is, there is barely any wildlife to feed at Harlem Meer anymore.
Later, walking to the east side ot the Meer, I encountered a young mother with a little girl about 7-years-old feeding some bread to a pair of mallards.  "Have you seen the duck family today?" I asked. "There is a pair of parent ducks with babies here." 
"I think they may be on the other side." the young woman answered. "But, no, we haven't seen them yet."
"Your little girl is lovely with those long, black curls.  And she seems so sweet and gentle with the animals." 
"Thank you.  Marina and I love to come here to feed the ducks." the woman replied.
"Well, don't go by the Dana Center." I warned. "Some little teenage snip will yell at you."
"Oh yes!  She yelled at us too!  That is why we came here."
"Don't let creeps like that intimidate you. Bullies in the making. I gave her a dose of her own medicine."
The woman smiled.
Just then her little girl came up to me and asked if she could pet and walk my dogs a little.
"Sure you can!  Just don't run with them. My dogs are old." I smiled.
The little girl loved my dogs and they her.
Her mother took out her cell phone to take a picture of her daughter with my dogs.
"Here, let me take a photo of you with your daughter and the dogs!" I offered.
"Oh, that would be wonderful!  Thank you!" the young mother replied handing me her cell phone.
Remembering back to when my own daughter was little, we took many pictures of each other, but rarely got any of us together.
It was a very nice moment. -- And it was lovely to meet such a gentle, happy child and mother -- especially after the ugly encounter earlier.
Later, looking for the mallard family, I walked around the entire lake.
But, I found something very strange.
A drake standing on a small rock and two ducklings swimming in the water close to him.
Where's the mama? I wondered.
There was no sign of a female mallard anywhere nearby.
I realize that many ducklings don't survive.   But, mother mallards?
I tried to figure that maybe mama took a break somewhere and left "daddy" in charge. And yet, the drake did not seem particularly interested in the ducklings.  I got the impression they were merely staying close to him for safety.
Walking on, I finally found the familiar duck family.   Only this time they seemed to have two extra ducklings. There were five in all. 
Strange things at Harlem Meer yesterday.
Returning back to the first duck "family." it was still the same scene.  No mother duck and the two babies staying close to the drake who was still standing indifferently on rock.
Were these orphan ducklings?
If so, I could only hope they find the other mallard family and are accepted.  Not sure the drake is their "father" or has any particular interest in protecting them.
Walking home from the Meer yesterday, I felt somewhat more depressed than when heading over there.  No Canada geese seen anywhere on the north side of Central Park, the obnoxious fisher girl, apparently orphaned (or at least motherless) ducklings and the few ducks huddled in the marshes or hiding out in the few protected areas.  Indeed, the only pleasant experience of the day was the young mother and her beautiful little girl.
Bizarre stuff at Harlem Meer yesterday.
But, if I was somewhat blue coming back from Harlem Meer, it was nothing compared to the near utter despair when leaving my home to escape to Central Park.   -- Despair yesterday afternoon when going through the latest USDA- APHIS Wildlife Damage Report:   USDA - APHIS - Regulations and Assessments - Wildlife Damage Management
I jotted down some notes and will be recording them throughout blog entries over the next couple of weeks.  What follows are the few from yesterday:
Noteworthy Bird/Aircraft collisions:
1975 - JFK airport.  DC10.  Herring gulls ingested into engines.  Engine exploded, aircraft destroyed.  No Fatalities.
1995 -- Air France Concorde Jet.  Two Canada geese. Damage to plane. No fatalities.   Sued Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ).  Settled out of court for five million dollars.
2009. -  United Airways (2-engine) Airbus (flight 1549) collides with migratory Canada geese, ditches in Hudson river.  Plane destroyed. No fatalities.
From 1994 - 2009 -- 1,759 bird strikes at JFK airport involving 98 bird species.
"Alternative 6 -- Increase Intergrated Bird Hazard Management"
"This alternative would result in substantial reduction in the number of Canada geese and other waterfowl within 7 mile radius of JFK airport."
"It is possible that all birds may be removed from specific sites for periods of time."
"In most situations, birds would be allowed to remain as long as numbers remain low. (Less than 10 birds within 5 miles of airport.  Less than 20 birds within 7 miles.)"
"The non-native black tailed Jackrabbit population might be substantially reduced or eliminated by the proposal action."
"Alternative 6 has been selected as the proposed action."
General Information on Bird Strike Hazards to Aircraft
"Reasons for the increasing risk of wildlife strikes include:
* Increased air traffic.
* Shifts from 3 to 4-engine aircraft to more efficient and quieter 2-engine aircraft...."
In 1965, 90% of planes had 3 or more engines.  In 1998 only 30% and by 2005 only 10% of 8,200 aircraft had 3 or 4 engines.
"Lighter, faster, quieter"
"Studies indicate that birds are less able to detect and avoid quieter, modern jets with Turbofan engines.   Additionally, reducing the number of engines increases risk that multiple bird strikes can affect all engines and result in life-threatening situation such as flight 1549 in which both engines were damaged."
"A new trend in airline industry is use of Very Light Jets (VLJ's) aka microjets mostly providing for air taxi service."
"These new jets will be ever more difficult for birds to detect and avoid than current aircraft."  (Emphasis supplied.) 
"Airbus 320 most involved in bird strikes -- 22%."  (Flight 1549 was Airbus 320)
"US Commercial aircraft increased from approximately 18 million aircraft movements per year in 1980 to over 26 million in 2009 and are projected to increase to about 37 million by 2030."
"A high percentage of bird strikes occur during peak migration periods, but dangerous situations can develop during any season."
"36 of approximately 650 North American bird species have body mass of  more than 4 lbs."
Canada Geese
"The original pre-Colonial population was primarily the subspecies, "Branta Canadensis" but birds were extirpated from state.  Current population introduced in early part of 20th century by state agencies using game farm stock... and also hunt clubs."
"NYSDEC has established a General Depredation Order for the take of Canada geese between April 1 and Sept 15 and any number of goose eggs....with permits."
Just some of the notes from yesterday and none of it looking good for Canada geese, all types of gulls, Cormorants, Mute Swans and a variety of other birds within 5 to 7 miles of our airports.
The report talks about birds and other animals like they were inanimate objects that just get in the way of faster, quieter planes running on fewer engines.  (All of these things increase the likelihood of bird strikes because birds cannot detect or avoid fast enough.)  The mention of the "new trend" for use of "Very Light Jets" (VLJs) is also very troubling.   ("These new jets will be ever more difficult for birds to detect and avoid than current aircraft.") 
Question:   If we have the technology to build faster, quieter jets on fewer engines that birds have difficulty escaping, should there not also be obligation to develop technology to better warn wildlife of oncoming danger?  -- This for human and wildlife safety?    When one thinks about it, we have technology to build passenger cars that could go 300 MPH, but we don't put these on the market, because they would jeopardize the safety of millions of people -- even though drivers could get to where they want in less time.
Shouldn't  responsibility coincide with technological development?  
Or, is the attitude to simply kill any and all birds that can't detect or get out of way of these advanced jets fast enough?
Very dark days ahead for the wildlife of New York City -- or, to quote a line from an old Judy Collins song, "Don't bother, they're here."   -- PCA

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Silent Springs and TV Dramas

As yesterday's blog entry was long and focused, today's will be divided among brief updates on the geese and ducks in Central Park, as well as the TV drama, "Grey's Anatomy."  As noted last week, the popular show chose to include in its final episodes, the fantastically remote and unlikely scenario of a plane going down as result of a "bird strike."
First the "Daze Anatomy" drama -- in more ways than one:
Last night, I forced myself to endure the last two episodes of Greys' Anatomy by using the demand feature on TV.  Here's the lowdown:
The previous week's episode titled "Migration" opened with main character, Meredith talking about the "great migrations of birds."
It ended with a shot of migratory birds taking off to the skies exactly at the same time Meredith and her doctor pals are in a small plane heading home.  Next shot, Meredith and doctor pals are on the ground after their plane collided with the birds. That was how the show ended, leaving the watcher suspended for the season finale.
The season finale ("Strike?") that aired this week, opened with Meredith, pilot and pals horribly injured on the ground. One doctor is apparently dead and the others are left with gaping holes.  There is no mention anywhere in the show of what caused the plane to crash!  (Anyone who missed previous week's show was simply left in suspended animation.  Perhaps planes crash for no reason at all -- except TV drama?)
We don't actually know if any TV scenes or explanations were edited out.  Maybe this is just bad TV drama.   Maybe Grey's Anatomy wanted to "cash in" (ratings wise) on all the bad press recently about "bird strikes."  Everything on this show is wildly exaggerated -- such as a doctor with gaping hole in arm able to do makeshift surgery five minutes later.
Bottom Line:  Its annoying and disheartening that Daze  Anatomy cashed in on bird strike hysteria to end their final episodes.  But, since they entirely left this information out of season finale, I think we have to give them a begrudging pass. Just sorry I personally wasted two hours on this nonsense -- and am glad that Mad Men (an actually good TV drama) airs tonight.
Now, on to infinitely more pleasant subjects -- like the geese and ducks still at Central Park:
To my knowledge, Central Park has not harassed geese so far this year. (Too few to harass.) They apparently did not addle eggs either. The two geese who raised goslings at the South Pond last year are again raising new family -- I believe 4 goslings.   I generally don't get to the South Pond because it is too far from me.  Nevertheless, I pray that this new family of geese and the few others magically still surviving in Central park will be spared the upcoming USDA onslaught. 
But, as Central Park is within 7 miles of LaGuardia Airport ("Goose kill zone"), nothing can be taken for granted.
Last night I went to Harlem Meer and could not see any geese and very few ducks. Even Brad seemed a little unnerved and uneasy by the presence of so few waterfowl.
I am relieved Brad still has Wiggly with him or he would be virtually alone.  The lake appeared like a still, black mirror last night and the two barnyard ducks standing before it, appeared incredibly small and vulnerable. All was silent and almost eerie. 
Such a contrast to the nights of winter when Harlem Meer was like Times Square on New Year's Eve with the lively and heavy presence of more than a hundred migratory geese and ducks. 
Who would ever believe it would be spring that is the "silent" season in our premier city park?
Nevertheless, the mallard family is still hanging in at Harlem Meer.  They lost one duckling, but the three remaining ducklings growing quickly and appear very lively and healthy.  Interesting that both parents look after babies.  I have never seen a drake stay with mama mallard and babies before.  For mallards, they are acting more like geese. Not sure of the reason for that......
Mama and Papa are still safe and sound at the Boat Lake.  It was funny when visiting them the other night, that I had a headache and wasn't feeling that great. (Too much stress and worry these days?)
But, after sitting on the rock for about a blissful half hour with these delightful and peaceful birds, I magically felt better.  Mama gently taking seeds from my hand. Papa protectively watching over his very beloved "wife" and occasionally murmuring low, grateful honks to me.  
There is just "something" about the acceptance and welcoming -- or vibe and spirit of the geese that is incredibly uplifting and acts like some kind of "feel good" medicine that heals and nourishes both body and soul.
I think these are among the reasons I so love the geese -- and especially Mama and Papa.
After spending time with Mama and Papa I felt completely energized and "optimistic" (something not ordinarily felt these days), returned home and wrote up the "Tasks and Facts to Save our Geese....."
Most of all, the geese inspire me.
I cannot in fact, imagine Central Park (or any park or lake or pond) without geese.
I could not find the silence and stillness of Harlem Meer last night -- devoid of geese and most of the ducks -- uplifting or inspiring.
It was just eerie.
Who would ever believe it would be spring that is the "silent" season -- like the landmark, Rachel Carson book from decades ago?   -- PCA