Sunday, May 13, 2012

Strange Days

Everything about the past few weeks has been strange.
From the two minor airliner strikes with birds, resulting in Senator Gillibrand's politically expedient call to "expand" and "speed up" goose kills in NYC, to the troubling disappearance of "Piggly" (one of the three domestic ducks at Harlem Meer), to what now appears to the odd disappearance of the latest USDA document on goose "management" and "reduction" in NYC from their website.
The USDA document link posted in this blog a few days ago (and then working) now brings up a "404 error message" that the page is "no longer available" (or moved).
Attempts to find the new site link failed and a note sent to USDA requesting new or proper link has not yet been responded to.
This is disappointing and strange.  I had extra time yesterday to pour over the laborious pages of documents to hopefully earmark and begin to formulate comment. ("Comments" are due by June 11th). But, have now seemingly lost the entire weekend.
A DVD (or CD) sent a few days ago from USDA Wildlife Services with the same material failed to be read by my otherwise working, DVD player. 
Seemingly disappearing documents along with a disappearing duck.  Strange events.
Unfortunately, Piggly was not the only duck to meet a strange and untimely end in Central Park over the past week.
A May 10th article describes the horrible and cruel death of a mallard in Central Park due to the jaws of an off-leash dog:  Attempts to save the mangled mallard ultimately failed and the duck had to be euthanized:
As a dog lover and owner myself, these kinds of events are extremely unsettling.
"Off leash" hours at Central Park are normally very pleasant times for dogs and their owners to get together in early mornings or evenings and enjoy the special freedoms and privilege of dogs being able to run and play. 
But, "privilege" is not something owed, but rather something granted through demonstration of responsible behavior and respect.   Those dog owners allowing their dogs in park ponds and lakes to harass waterfowl or allowing "prey driven" dogs to chase and terrorize squirrels or other animals obviously have little "respect" for either park rules or animals other than their own pets.
Personally speaking, I never allow my dogs off-leash despite the "off leash" freedoms.  My dogs get enough exercise and I have always made sure from the very beginning that both dogs are respectful towards other animals in the park -- including waterfowl.
I will never know what happened to Piggly this year or Angelina last year or the two flightless, Pekin ducks at Harlem Meer two years ago.   All four domestic ducks just mysteriously "vanished" at different times during otherwise beautiful weather and "easy days."  
But, I do know that Joey, another Pekin duck was attacked by a dog at the Meer in January of 2011 and sustained life threatening injury.
Joey was lucky that he was able to be saved, treated and eventually adopted.
But, other animals in our city parks are not so fortunate.  
As written a few days ago about the fishermen in our parks who routinely disregard park "off limit areas," and  leave garbage and fishing lines around to pollute the environment and mangle wildlife, if rules cannot be followed and respected, then the privilege (whatever the privilege is), should be revoked.
True, the few "bad apples" make it bad for the other members of a group who are responsible.
But, as noted so many times, our city parks simply do not have the manpower and law enforcement staff to be everywhere all the time.
It is therefore up to the members of a group to "come down" on those members who flaunt park rules and apparently believe the wildlife of our parks is only there for their torment and abuse.
Personally, I always "gently remind" those dog owners allowing their dogs into the waters (especially the Boat Lake)  of Central Park to harass ducks or geese that such is against park rules.
As said yesterday, opening one's mouth to correct or protest is never pleasant (I personally loathe having to do it).   But, unless willing to do the small stuff of everyday life, eventually, many of the privileges that people enjoy in our parks could be revoked out of necessity to protect the environment, wildlife and even other human park goers.
Bottom line is that dog owners need to "get their act together" just as fishermen do in our parks -- or otherwise risk losing their privileges.
Not wanting to encounter the stress and conflict once again of witnessing unregulated and seemingly "out of control" fishing at Harlem Meer yesterday afternoon, I instead went to the Meer in the early evening (after the Dana Center, which rents out fishing equipment. was closed).
There were still a few people fishing off the rocks in the lake ("off limit" area) with their own fishing lines and rods.
But, there were very few ducks or geese in the water for them to harass or potentially harm.
The few mallards at the Meer these days were mostly huddled in the marshes and plants surrounding the lake as if trying to rest or hide out.  (There was much human activity around the Meer last night due to the unusually warm and pleasant evening.)
There were only two geese at Harlem Meer and both were in the middle of the lake, seemingly resting on the water together.
I am not sure if one of the geese might be the same goose who was, for more than a week, alone, usually at the east portion of the lake.  I did see "Loner" the other night, swimming alone on the water but moving around more freely. 
Did "Loner" suddenly find a new goose friend in the past couple of days?  
Possibly.  And if so, that is "strange," but welcoming news. 
Still, the lake was mostly empty of waterfowl last night -- but not without its "strangeness" as has been the hallmark of the past several weeks.
I found Brad and Wiggly (pictured) in their usual grassy, "off limits" (to humans) area near the Dana Center.
Wiggly seemed happy to be on land and appeared, (like the mallards) to prefer to rest for the evening ahead.
But, Brad had other ideas. 
I watched for better than a half hour last night, as Brad left the small protected area to swim with and seemingly "befriend" a lone, mallard drake.
This was very strange indeed, as for the past two months, I have seen both Brad and former protege, Piggly do nothing but harass mallards from their "territory."
Why was Brad suddenly being so "nice and welcoming" to a mallard?
I honestly have no idea.
But, knowing Brad to be a very calculating duck, I am quite sure the action wasn't random or without some significance or plan.
Perhaps having recently lost a key member of his "flock" Brad is seeking a new replacement for reasons of security and defense of territory?
Certainly, Wiggly is useless for security and territorial defending. -- Though she does like to keep her "boys" in line.
At one point, Wiggly, seemingly annoyed that the two male ducks were wandering too far from her line of vision, squawked very loudly and immediately, both Brad and the drake swam back to Wiggly as she stood, vehemently protesting and calling.
Wiggly rarely, if ever opens her mouth to "talk."  But, when she squawks, the boys listen.
Shortly thereafter, Brad and the drake swam off again, and for a few minutes, Wiggly followed.   But, she had no real interest in "soliciting" a new member to the flock and returned to the embankment where she continued to carefully watch the boys, while wanting to take it easy on land.
I wanted to tell Wiggly that she should simply follow Brad's lead and decisions all of the time as he knows well what is needed to survive at Harlem Meer.
"Soliciting" a new duck may not make sense to Wiggly at this time, but the truth is, that had Brad not welcomed her seven months ago, its likely she would not be alive today.
Unfortunately, wild mallards and domestic, flightless ducks do not have that much in common -- other than both being of the same species.
When the going gets too tough at the Meer, wild mallards can just take off.  Additionally, mallards like to fly around (especially in the spring and summer) just for the "fun" of it -- something neither Brad nor Wiggly can ever do.
I don't know that this seemingly new "alliance" between Brad and this wild mallard drake can ultimately work.
But, apparently Brad feels the "need" for a third member of the flock -- one who can aid in security and territorial defense.   There are, after all,  no other domestic ducks at the Meer for Brad to solicit for this purpose.
Do desperate means call for desperate measures?  Or, is "The enemy of my enemy, my friend?"
Was this lone drake perhaps shunned from other mallards for some reason?  Does he have some limitation (such as inability to fly) of which I am unaware, but Brad recognizes?
I don't know.  As in everything else, much remains to be seen.
It was just very strange to witness Brad cozying up to this drake last night in what appeared very similar behavior to him soliciting and welcoming Piggly and Wiggly last fall.
All of these things, a series of "strange" events during recent and very strange days.  -- PCA

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