Saturday, June 30, 2012

Of Geese and Human Family

One of the intriguing things about Canada geese are their tight family units and their devotion to each other. Geese are one of the few species that truly "mate for life" and it has been documented that if one goose of a mated pair dies, the partner will often be observed mourning over the body.
One of the main reasons why the young of Canada geese survive so well is because both parents are involved in the raising and protection of their goslings. Canada geese are also known to readily take in and "adopt" goslings who are not their own.
Finally, unlike most other wild species whose focus and devotion are primarily among members of their own kind, Canada geese will readily relate to and peacefully interact with unrelated species. -- Particularly humans.
They are a little like dogs and cats in that respect -- though without the thousands of years of domestication by humans.
For these reasons and more, many people enjoy and regard Canada geese almost as they would, members of their own families.
This is particularly true for many senior citizens whose own mates might have passed or whose adult kids might have moved to other parts of the country.
The geese become like a substitute "family" -- especially since the animals so reflect and exemplify everything we normally associate with ideal human family and human values.
I was therefore not greatly surprised yesterday when talking with another woman (who appreciates and loves the geese in Central Park as I do) who told me about a friend of hers.
"I met my friend this morning and she was crying and extremely upset!" Liana told me, sounding very concerned.   "She said that when she went to see her geese by the Hudson River yesterday, they were gone!"
"Gone?" I asked.  "Do you know what area around the Hudson this specifically was? The USDA is currently rounding up geese around the city, but geese also swim around."
"I don't know the specific area, but I will ask her," Liana replied. "But, my friend said the geese are always there!  There are at least two families with goslings. My friend has been following and feeding these geese since last winter.  She is heartbroken and could not stop crying. The geese are family to her! She even has names for them."
Later in the conversation Liana told me her friend lost her husband two years ago and her grown son lives in California.  If the geese became "family" to the woman, there is a fairly clear reason why.
Not only do geese exemplify the ideals of (human)  family life, but they are quite welcoming of humans into those lives. 
I could of course not determine from the scant information provided, whether or not the geese from somewhere around the Hudson River were actually rounded up by the USDA  or the geese simply took a swim further down or upstream.  (Hopefully, it is the latter.)
The Hudson River is, after all, not like a lake, pond or Reservoir that one can easily walk around and fully check out.
But, what mostly came out of that conversation (to me) was the deep attachment that many people form with Canada geese in and around city parks or even living on a river.
I don't believe that is something that the USDA, city agencies and least of all, the politicians "get" to any degree at all.
Unfortunately, the people like Liana and her friend (older people who generally have lost family and loved ones, one way or the other) usually don't have computers, cell phones, Ipads or even cameras. Nor do they attend protests or write emails or text messages to legislators.  They are thus pretty much "invisible" to the powers that be and the decision makers.  (These days if you are not electronically "connected" you pretty much don't exist.)
These predominantly older people just happen to love and connect to their geese (and other birds and animals of our parks) like "family."
Being somewhat in that boat myself, (i.e. older with loved ones living on the other side of the country), I fully appreciate, relate to and understand that dynamic as it applies to myself.
The only difference is I have a computer and a camera.
I obviously use my computer and camera to share stories like this and attempt to get across the message that life is not just about our technological advances, exercise routines, diets, fashions, movies or travels, but for some of us, it is about much more.
Its sometimes about connecting to family, however and wherever you may find it.
It is a known fact that when USDA Death Services rounds up geese, they are in fact, rounding up mates and entire families.
But, do they also realize that to some people, those geese are their families?
And no, USDA and politicians,  "families" are never truly replaced. 
Especially when those family members have names. -- PCA

Friday, June 29, 2012

Silently and Without Public Notice, Goose Carnage Begun in New York City

Last night, I rushed to Central Park like a mad woman doused with boiling water.
This, in the wake of a New York Times blog piece that hit the Internet about 5 PM:
(Please comment to this article.)
In it, we learn from writer, Andy Newman that the goose roundups in NYC began last Monday and have so far yielded 255 geese from across city parks.
This news came as a huge shock to many of us who expected that goose killings would not begin until the DEP released an official announcement (which has always been done in the past).  This was also indicated in an article from the Brooklyn Paper last week.
The fact the DEP and USDA did not even bother with the press release this year, but simply forged ahead with the clandestine killings seems to demonstrate not only utter contempt for public opinion, but an action of irresponsibility.
"Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing."
I did not know what to expect when finally arriving to the Boat Lake in Central Park last night.  I literally held my breath.
But, thank God, both goose families were safe and sound.  I took a bunch of photos and later posted them to FB sites in effort to get their faces publicly out there: 
I have watched the six goslings of Buster and Bonnie grow from fluffy yellow chicks two months ago to now beautiful adolescent geese soon to take their first flights in about a month. 
I want to be sure they are around to spread those wings and take to the air that first time.
From the Boat Lake, I walked to the Reservoir to check on the roughly dozen geese who have been molting there over the early summer.
The Reservoir is fairly large and it is difficult to see clearly across it especially at night.
I don't always see the geese if they are towards the north side of the Reservoir and normally that is not cause for concern.
However, on the heels of the NY Times article, when not immediately seeing the geese last night, it nearly sent me into a panic.
Of course, I told myself they were simply on the other side of the water and such fear was over reactive.  
But, I had to be sure.
Though it was an extremely steamy evening and I was already a bit bushed from walking all around the Boat Lake, I and my two smallish dogs set trail around the entire Reservoir.
Of course, I finally found the small gaggle of geese completely opposite to where I had started.
I wanted to yell at them for giving me such a fright!
But, instead, tossed out some sunflower seeds, which the dozen or so geese happily scooped up from the water.
Finally walking home from Central Park, I realized how these clandestine goose slaughters occurring around the city are turning some of us into neurotic and paranoid basket cases -- perhaps me, most of all.
It of course made little sense that a goose roundup would be conducted at the Reservoir which is surrounded by rocky inclines and thick foliage.   There is no flat ground on which geese could be easily corralled and stuffed into crates.  But, considering that nothing "makes sense" these days, we have learned well that nothing can be taken for granted or assumed in crisis. -- Even the normal protocols of issuing press releases announcing the start of goose culls.
That 255 geese have already been rounded up from around the city and are likely dead by now without us even having a "clue" this was happening is disturbing to say the least. 
Additionally, the USDA "goal" is 400 geese.
That means there are another 140 geese from other areas still to be rounded up.
Temperatures today are supposed to reach 94 degrees in NYC.
Imagine the geese stuffed 5 and 6 to a crate, crammed in hot trucks and transported God only knows how many miles and hours away in 94 degree heat?
Carol Bannerman of the USDA has some gall to talk about geese being "stressed" by people taking photos.
The geese are well used to that.
What they are not used to is the barbarity and callousness at the bloody hands of the USDA Wildlife (Death) Services.
It is extremely hard to find any "silver linings" in all this injustice, secrecy, carnage and outright lies.
But, there are a couple.
The first is that thus far, none of the geese from parks that we have been monitoring have been rounded up.
While it is too soon to tell if our monitoring efforts with cameras had any effect in preventing roundups, early indications might seem to suggest that -- but again, far too premature to make any claims or judgments.
Personally, I just feel horrible for the geese who ultimately are falling victim to the remote and difficult to access locations they chose to molt and our seeming inability to find people to monitor and watch over them.
Sometimes, life or death becomes a matter of blind luck.
The other silver lining is represented by the comments to the Times article.
So far, there are 47 comments and about 98% of them passionately oppose the roundups and defend the geese.
That is significant change from last year when the Times ran a similar article and public reaction was somewhat split.
As said yesterday, "change" (particularly in terms of public perception) comes slowly, but it does come.
I deeply hope that more people concerned and distressed about this issue take the five minutes or so to make those feelings known in comment to the Times.
At the moment, this is one of the very few venues and platforms we have to defend these innocent victims from ruthless and seemingly unending massacre.  
As said yesterday, the change that needs to and will inevitably come needs to happen before the last goose is gone and dead from New York City. -- PCA

Thursday, June 28, 2012

No More Geese Left to Kill?

(Photo:  Protester, Rina Dench holds poster at yesterday's rally. "Target" one of more than 3,500 geese rounded up and executed from New York City parks over past 4 years.) 
From today's Newsday regarding the rally yesterday across from Bloomberg's townhouse.  (I am pasting the full article, as it otherwise is difficult to access online without subscription Personal commentary follows the article.):

Planned use of geese as food draws protest

Members of Friends of Animals and GooseWatch NYC

Photo credit: Craig Ruttle | Members of Friends of Animals and GooseWatch NYC stand at a rally across the street from MayorMichael R. Bloomberg's residence on East 79th Street in Manhattan as they protest plans to kill Canada geese in city parks. (June 27, 2012)

About 50 people carrying signs across from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's townhouse yesterday evening protested plans to round up the city's wild geese and turn them into hamburgers for the homeless.

The protest near the mayor's home at 79th Street and Madison Avenue not far from Central Park was organized by the Friends of Animals and Goose Watch NYC organizations.

"The mayor doesn't want to hear from the animal-rights people," said Edita Birnkrant, the New York director of Friends of Animals and a protest organizer. She said she tried to meet with the mayor to work out a solution, but his office declined.

Bloomberg's office said Wednesday the mayor had no response to the protesters.

The U.S. Wildlife Service, with the city Department of Environmental Protection's and the Port Authority's cooperation, plans to remove about 400 Canada geese from 14 city parks within 7 miles of Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports.

This is the fourth year of the removal program.

It's a response to the 2009 downing of an airliner into the Hudson River after geese were sucked into its engines and shut them down.

US Airways Flight 1549, en route from LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte, N.C., was forced to glide to a powerless landing in the Hudson. No one was seriously hurt.

Birnkrant said killing the local birds won't protect aircraft and that her members are prepared to go to the 14 parks involved during the roundups to interrupt the efforts by blowing whistles to disperse the birds before they are corralled.

She said she's tried to meet with Bloomberg to help find alternatives, such as growing the grass longer near the airports so the birds can't nest.

To catch the geese, the city says, biologists surround the birds, either on land or in the water, and corral them into a 4-foot-high plastic shelter.

Once corralled, the live birds are shipped to a meat-processing plant, where their breast meat is ground like hamburger and donated to food pantries.

This year, the meat will be donated to a regional food bank for distribution to local food pantries.

Goose Watch NYC questions whether the meat is safe to eat because the birds live in parks treated with pesticides.

Protester Patty Adjamine, 65, who lives near Central Park, wants the government to leave the birds alone. She said she recently counted only 35 Canada geese in Central Park. "If they go back in, they're going to kill them all, leaving us with nothing. It's an extermination."


As far as articles go, the above is neither the worst nor the best.

Newsday was only one of two major news organizations to show up and for that we have to be grateful.  (The other was the NY Post, but so far we don't see an article.)

The headline of this piece is disturbing because it makes it appear that we (the protesters) would rather see hungry people starve than kill a goose.

That, of course is neither the issue nor the truth.

When interviewed by the reporter, I was asked nothing about the plan to "donate goose burgers"  to "regional food banks."

Had the question been raised at all, I would have informed the reporter that the 424 lbs of goose meat (from 575 geese) supposedly "donated" last year represented less than one pound per goose

Geese typically weigh more than ten pounds. The 424 lbs was thus less than 10% per bird.

For that the geese were transported almost 4 hours away to Pennsylvania, slaughtered, processed and (supposedly) tested.   

Perhaps that explains the tremendously high taxpayer costs to round up and kill the 575 geese last year which nearly reached $100,000. 

This was not only a cruel and unjustifiable action against the geese, but a total rip off of the taxpayers for what was essentially a public relations ploy.

We could have sent vats of caviar to the Pennsylvania food banks for less money than what it cost to round up and subject these pitiful geese to a hell journey to Pennsylvania for ultimately a pitifully small "donation" to food banks.

Moreover, considering that geese are sponges for their environments and live on a diet of pesticide, insecticide and chemically treated grass, one has to question the potential health risks to those eating what could be a tainted product.

So yes, any of us could have told these things to the reporter -- had we been asked the actual question.

But, it apparently was easier to make it appear that we are simply against donations to food banks and put the lives of geese before those of humans.

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

The fact is that even if one cared nothing for geese, one should still be outraged about the waste of tax dollars for cruel and shameful publicity stunts. That almost $100,000 could have been used to provide both quantity and quality to food banks. 

 Instead it was used for mayhem and quite literally "dumping" slaughtered wildlife remains from city parks on an unsuspecting and most likely, poorly insured, downtrodden people.

Shameful and disgusting in more ways than what directly relates to the scapegoated and massacred geese.   It is also shameful and disgusting in terms of the consequences to both taxpayers and the poor alike.

Another thing that bothered me personally about this article was that I informed the reporter that had we killed every resident goose in NY State, it would not have prevented flight 1549 from colliding with two MIGRATORY geese from Labrador, Canada and landing in the Hudson on that fateful day in January 2009. 

I even told her the source of that information which is the Smithsonian Institute that tested the feathers in the engine.

Unfortunately, such vital and relative information NEVER makes it in to news reports no matter how many times we point it out.

Nevertheless, there are a couple of "positives" from this article -- if indeed, we dare use the word here. 

First, it is positive that Bloomberg "had no comment" to the protest.

That is better than his asinine statements two years ago when, referring to goose gassing the Mayor said, "The geese go to sleep and have nice dreams" among other equally inaccurate and insensitive remarks.   Sometimes its better to just shut one's mouth than sputter and advertise ignorance and crassness. Perhaps the mayor has learned something over the past two years.

The other positive is that we at least got the bottom line in the article.

Yes, there will virtually be nothing left (at least in terms of geese in our parks) when the proposed slaughter goes through. It is thus and quite accurately, an "extermination."

(Already there are very few if any geese at all in many NYC parks and that is before the proposed roundups and killings.)

While perhaps not fair of me to single out Central Park (where up to now, we have no evidence of past goose roundups), the fact is, it is part of the NYC Parks and Recreation Department and that is one of the "cooperative" agencies involved in the contract with USDA for goose slaughter.  As said, Central Park is not immune to a potential goose roundup and that is why I felt special need to mention the roughly 35 geese there in hopes of spotlighting attention on and protecting them.

But, I am not sure how we ultimately protect the geese from our city parks in the end from these mindless and ruthless executions.

50 protesters showing up to a rally to defend the geese is not enough in a city of 8 million people to either draw significant media attention or more importantly, attention from the forces responsible for these archaic and brutal decisions.

If even one tenth of the people I have spoken to over the past few years who indicated their love of the geese and wish to protect them had attended yesterday's rally, it would have made huge impact and resulted in wide and meaningful media coverage. 

But, "activism" per se is simply not in vogue these days. It seems most people are distracted with other things, particularly, work, electronic gadgets, or focus on personal health, fitness or families.

That is all well and good.  But, we also need people willing to speak out against social injustices and work towards creating a better and more peaceful world.

Nevertheless, there were subtle and positive changes from yesterday's rally.  Significant of these is that of the people passing by, many or even most were very supportive of the action.  Many seemed aware, smiled, took fliers and in at least one case, joined the protesters.

A bus driver passing by honked the horn and gave an enthusiastic "thumbs up" from within the crowded bus.

(Below are 15 photos from the actual rally: )

Though our message is getting out painfully slowly, it does seem to be getting out, little by little.

The question is, can it get out quickly enough to save any geese from this year's planned executions or stop the slaughters all together in coming years?

One would hate to think that the goose slaughters will only end when there are finally no more geese left to kill.

And it is that which is our greatest fear and what we are struggling so hard to prevent. -- PCA


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Only a Dream?

Please don't forget today!
We really have to hope for a great turnout to defend the lives of New York City geese across from the Mayor's townhouse tonight.  Once again: Wednesday, 6-27, 6: PM.  17 East 79th Street. Please bring blow up photo of geese or creative sign if you can.
Already reports are coming in from around the country of goose roundups taking place.
102 geese rounded up in Birmingham on Friday.  Approximately, 40 geese and goslings rounded up in Delafield, Wisconsin yesterday by the USDA. 
All are dead now.
But, according to one Delafield witness, (Jim Pfeil) in their haste, USDA apparently left one gosling behind in Delafield. --  A gosling now without a family. 
Delafield has apparently repeated exactly what it did last year --  An infamy that will forever "live" on YouTube:
There is still no official press release yet for the slaughters about to occur in New York City.
But, it is surely to come as night follows day.
It has been surprising over the past few evenings to meet people in Central Park actually aware of the goose roundups and killings. All have been upset by them.
First there was the middle-aged, professional-type woman a few nights ago who claimed goose roundups had previously occurred in Central Park.  (I still have a hard time believing this from what I have personally observed over the past few years and from what Central Park Conservancy has admitted in past conversations.) 
Unfortunately, the sheer knowledge that goose roundups have occurred for numerous years throughout New York City parks and other locations has rendered many people (including myself)  nervous and borderline paranoid that the same will happen in all city parks, including Central Park.  
However, one of the prime reasons for writing this blog (which now focuses on geese) is to help people understand better what is normal behavior, life and flight patterns in geese and what is not.
For example, one could be observing geese throughout the winter in a location and then notice one day all the geese are gone.
But, it is typical for geese to naturally move with the first and early signs of spring (usually in February).  
They may move again as weather gets warmer and many return to nesting locations -- usually in April.    And many geese who have not produced young may move again just prior to the summer molt (mid to late June) when they seek safety and plentiful food sources.
Upon completion of molting, raising young and growing in flight feathers, geese again typically move (usually in late July to early August) to what are sometimes called "gathering sites."   There, they meet up with other family or flock members just prior to fall migrations.
"Resident geese" usually don't migrate however, unless forced to due to lakes or ponds freezing over in winter.  In those cases, they will fly only as far as necessary to find open water available.
The bottom line to all of these flying patterns of geese is that there are times of the year, one might expect them to suddenly "disappear."
However, those times would NOT include the period from mid June to mid or late July, the times when the geese molt and are incapable of flight.
Those people noticing geese "suddenly disappearing" in this time frame ought be very suspicious that something nefarious has occurred.
Although USDA typically conducts goose roundups during the molting period (as noted above), that is not to say they never conduct roundups when geese can actually fly.
Last September, for example, 80 geese were rounded up and gassed from a New Jersey Park, despite the fact the geese could fly.
In that case, USDA used baited feed and rocket nets to capture the geese. (It must have been quite a scene.)
Nevertheless, this is a far more time-consuming and difficult operation than roundups when the geese are quite literally like "sitting ducks" due to the molt from June to mid or late July.  (Thus, these are the periods almost all USDA roundups occur.)  
It should be noted that those locations that do contract with USDA for goose roundups other times of the year are almost always obligated to give community notice.   One certainly needs to stay on top of community happenings and municipal hearings if worried or concerned about geese any time of the year -- and these days almost every nature lover should be both, concerned and alert.  
Any community with more than six geese cannot be considered "immune" from potential goose roundups.  The vitriol against these animals is truly off the charts these days.
Aside from the woman met a few nights ago who was afraid of becoming attached to geese for fear of what would happen to them, it has been refreshing over the past two nights to meet several young couples who were also aware of goose killings around the city and worried that the same could happen at CP.
I gave the people information from (27) GooseWatch NYC and urged them to be on the alert -- though at the same time, tried to assure that a roundup in Central Park, (though possible), is unlikely.
I try not to unduly upset people, but at the same time, alert them to possibility.
It is really hard to know what exactly is going to happen over the next few weeks or where.
It is virtually impossible to get anyone from USDA to "talk" these days, though that was always easy in the past.  And even my Councilperson apparently could not get information from Central Park Conservancy regarding whether a potential roundup might occur there or not.
Perhaps that explains why last night I had a nightmare (and I say this as one who never has nightmares -- or at least remembers them).
I dreamt I was in a smallish, kind of plain home with a large back yard, a small pond and some geese grazing on grass.
Suddenly a white van pulls up and a group of men get out.  I know it is USDA and start to scream for them to get out. But, no sound comes from my throat.
I then rush around the house seeking my camera and something to chase them away with.
But, by the time I find the camera and return to the yard, it is empty.   No van, no men and no geese.
I feel a monumental sense of dejection and failure - like the ground suddenly falling away from my feet.
Thankfully, I then woke up and realized it was only a dream.
But, was it really "just a dream?"
Like the woman met a few nights ago, I am in great fear for the geese I see every evening at the Boat Lake.   -- Buster, Bonnie and their now grown goslings as well as precious Mama, Papa and their now young adult offspring.
I want to say to myself it is just paranoia or a "bad dream," but I honestly don't know.
I just know I don't want to wake up or go to Central Park one of these coming days to discover the dream was real.  -- PCA

Monday, June 25, 2012

Conversation with a Woman -- Engagement, not depression the key to saving geese

There was another bird strike near LaGaurdia Airport over the weekend.
One wonders if this can be blamed on molting, non-flying geese?
Regardless, geese will take the fall for it.
Canada geese are the easy catch-all, scapegoats for seemingly any human created or perceived problem.   And their punishment and banishment by federal and city authority for alleged "crimes" is now imminent once again in New York City.
But, the goose roundups and slaughters have apparently not gone unnoticed by everyone in New York City and specifically those frequenting city parks.
Last night, I noticed a woman staring at Buster, Bonnie and their six now grown goslings for a long time near the Boat Lake.
"That is the Mother goose," I finally said, pointing to Bonnie. "And that is the Daddy," pointing to Buster.  "The other six are their babies hatched this past April."
"Oh yes, I know." the woman answered softly.  "I love watching the geese.  In fact, some years ago, I used to bring corn for them.  But, now I am afraid of becoming too attached....." Her voice then wandered off.
"What do you mean?" I asked, though could easily guess the answer.
"A few years ago, I followed the geese at the Reservoir.  But, then they disappeared one day.  A man told me they had been rounded up in the early morning and taken to be gassed.  I can't bear the pain of that!  Getting to know the geese and then realizing this is what happens to them."
"Well, it is true that geese are being rounded up in city parks around the city and these days sent for slaughter."  I replied.  "But, to my knowledge, that has not occurred in Central Park. The USDA which conducts the roundups puts out a report every year naming the parks that they culled geese from.  But, they have never cited Central Park -- though they have surveyed it.  Are you sure the man saw the geese being taken away from Central Park?  Perhaps they were harassed?  Central Park admits to using harassment against the geese."
"The man said he saw the geese being put into crates and driven away."
Obviously, this conversation was quite disturbing because if even only remotely true, it would mean potential goose roundups in Central Park have been completely hidden from the media, the public and even USDA Goose Removal Reports.
But, not being able to talk directly with the person the woman was referring to, I had to remain skeptical.  Its possible and likely after all, the man was talking about witnessing a goose roundup elsewhere or quoting newspaper articles on the subject or might have misinterpreted a harassment of geese which we know occur in Central Park.
"The geese were rounded up from Turtle Pond, too." the woman then added.
"If you are talking about the family of geese who were at Turtle Pond in 2010, they are here at the Boat Lake now.  Once the goslings are capable of flying and the adult geese grow in their flight feathers, they move. You see over there?  That is Mama goose from that family. And Papa and the grown kids are nearby on the rock."
"I don't know..." the woman answered not seeming to believe my assurances that the Turtle Pond geese had moved naturally and were OK.   "I've seen the news reports about the geese being rounded up and killed from all over the city. Its extremely upsetting. I am now afraid to get too close for fear of losing them."
Certainly the woman had a legitimate reason for being "afraid" for the geese she was actually seeing last night.  I too, share the same fear considering the roundups are likely less than a week away and certainly Central Park cannot be considered immune to them.
I then handed the woman a flier and told her about (27) GooseWatch NYC  and of the upcoming protest for the geese to take place in front of Bloomberg's townhouse at 17 E 79th Street this Wednesday at 6 PM.
"Oh, I work until 6 and then attend classes," the woman answered regretfully. "And I am not normally one for Facebook.  But, I am so pleased to learn there is a group actually working on this!  I greatly appreciate the flier and information!"
"Well, it would be good if you can go to the page and sign up. Its helpful to know that other people care and are working on a common goal.  Getting depressed and disengaging is unfortunately, probably what the authorities are hoping for."
And it was that which was the main thought coming away from last night's conversation with the woman. 
That it is too often the reality that the people who have come to know and love geese over time too often succumb to depression -- a sense of helplessness and powerless and ultimately, disengagement when learning of the terrible and brutal fates that too often have befelled and destroyed the geese.
That is, what most of all needs to change.
We are ultimately only as "helpless and powerless" as we choose to be.
We need to find our gumption to not only further engage, but to actually confront the forces that clamor for and carry out the destruction of the geese.   -- PCA

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Reservations for the Geese?

Just when you think matters cannot get any more irrational and insane, there are columns like the one below out of Birmingham today:
This "city" guy left the city and bought a home close to a lake. He then built some kind of big pond in his yard for kids to "fish in." 
And surprise, surprise!  Geese were already on the lake and some showed up to the artificial pond created in a yard!
And now a supposedly "reputable" newspaper allots this guy (and many others like him) the space to rant and rave ad infitum  about the "nuisance" of geese.
The oft repeated scenarios like this remind one of when the white man first came to and settled in America. 
In those days, it was the Indians who were considered "in the way" and an enemy that needed to be "gotten rid of."
Presently, the few Indians that survived our onslaughts against them are forced to live on reservations.
But, its doubtful that we will establish reservations for the geese.
Rather, the credo seems to be, "kill, kill kill -- or "get rid of" in any way possible.
As mentioned earlier in this blog, there haven't been Canada geese at Harlem Meer for anything more than a few days since last winter.
There is a reason for that.
A couple of months ago, when walking around the Meer, I heard what sounded like honks from a very sick or injured goose.
I searched all around the marshes and plants in the water, but could find or see nothing.
But, then I noted the same distress sounds coming from other parts around the lake.
It finally dawned on me that Central Park (or a hired company) had installed "Goose Distress Sound" effects around the lake.
The distress calls must work quite effectively as unlike last summer when 9 geese molted at Harlem Meer, there are none today.
I did not write of this previously because I personally have mixed feelings about it.
Since geese are still present in other areas of Central Park where so far, the sound effects are not being heavily used, I did not feel personal need for protest.
Moreover, due to the heavy fishing at Harlem Meer in the warm weather, it is actually not the safest or most ideal area for the geese to molt.   I am guessing that due to their longer legs, geese tend far more often than ducks to get ensnared in fishing line.  It therefore seems better for the geese to be at the Reservoir or Boat Lake because there are far fewer dangers and almost no fishing.
But, the other night when searching for the Boat Lake geese, I discovered that the Goose Distress Sounds are also being used in the area near Bethesda Fountain.
(Obviously, that explains why all the geese at the Boat Lake are typically around the northern side of the lake.)  
But, the sound effects used at the Boat Lake are disturbing because it is forcing all the geese (almost 20) to congregate in one fairly small area.
Moreover, this is obviously not for "safety considerations" of the geese, but rather and presumably due to some perceived "nuisance factor" to the large crowds of people that typically gather around Bethesda Fountain.
Why Central Park would think that the hoards of tourists and others around the Fountain are somehow "bothered" by geese, I have no idea.
The exact opposite is true for most of the tourists and others observed around the Boat Lake, virtually all of whom adore the geese and love photographing and even feeding them!
(Then again, there was probably some malcontent or "battle-ax" who whined about geese and of course, the complainers always seem to get their way as so many recent posted columns and articles have proved.)
Earlier this week when visiting "my" geese on the rock at the Boat Lake, a group of finely dressed tourists wandered by and stopped for at least a half hour to admire and take photos of the geese.  "Ah, so beautiful!" the women said in broken English. And two of the men, dressed in elegant business suits stopped to hand feed a couple of the geese.
None of the 8 or 9 tourists cared about any "goose poop" on the rock despite looking like they had all stepped out of fashion magazines.
So why is Central park seemingly worried about geese "offending" tourists around Bethesda Fountain?  If they paid any attention, they might actually plant geese there!
I am past the point of trying to "figure" what those who run our parks are actually thinking.
I just have to hope that Central Park Conservancy is not in cahoots with the USDA and city agencies to "limit" the geese to small areas in Central Park to make it easier for a potential roundup to occur.
Rather, I have to hope it is paranoia about those few whiners and complainers who, although going to a public park (or moving to a lakefront property), "hate geese" -- just like the early white man settling in America hated Indians.
Its ultimately not about who was here first or what naturally belongs. Its about who are the biggest bullies and who have the loudest mouths.
But, still the question remains: 
Will we eventually create reservations for the geese like we did the Indians we overpowered and displaced?  -- PCA

Saturday, June 23, 2012

So Battle-Axes Can Sing

(Photo:  Mama goose at the Boat Lake.  Safe for the moment.  But for how long?)
Absolutely sickening news video today from Virginia Beach, Virginia where on Friday, dozens of geese and their goslings were systematically rounded up by the USDA Wildlife (Extermination) Services,  crated and slated to be gassed.
According to the reporter and one eyewitness, workers for the USDA held hands over the mouths of captured geese and goslings in effort to stifle their terrified honks and squeals.
All of this due to the complains of a few ignorant battle-axes in the community who referred to the geese as "predators" that would soon "peck someone's eye out."
Well, why not say these things?
Certainly, we have heard everything else against the geese, so why not add more histrionics to the pile?
Truth and facts went out the window a long time ago when the subject became geese.
What always stuns one to see articles and videos like these is the vitriol against the geese by people who apparently bought homes situated on or near water who apparently have no tolerance for waterfowl.
Wouldn't waterfowl naturally come with the territory of water?
That is like me going to the Super Bowl and then complaining about noise and crowds.
One wonders too, why communities like these apparently never heard of egg addling?
It is quite literally, birth control for geese and is easy to find information on just my googling goose control.
But, regardless of all the information and proven methods for humane goose population control, it seems the easiest thing to do is call USDA Wildlife (Extermination) Services and invite them in with their gas chambers.
That so old battle-axes can be "happy" on their pristine lakefront properties that are completely devoid of waterfowl.
Speaking of "devoid of waterfowl," that is the way the Reservoir and Boat Lake initially appeared in Central Park last night shortly following a rain storm.
My heart raced and my head went into a kind of panic looking at the empty watercourses.
But, fortunately, after walking around the entire Boat Lake and the Reservoir, I eventually found Buster, Bonnie and their kids, as well as Mama and Papa and their family and the dozen or so geese safely at the Reservoir.
But, it makes me wonder how I would be able to "take it" should the USDA actually round up all "my" geese in a week or two?
I don't think I could take it at all.
Am feeling somewhat down and in dread today.  In dread of the future. One way or the other the geese will eventually be "gone" from Central Park and virtually everywhere else in New York City. 
It seems everything one loves or allows bond and connection with is transient, impermanent or taken away.
All so disgruntled, battle-axes can sing. -- PCA

Friday, June 22, 2012

Crunch Time

Crunch Time.
The Department of Environmental Protection will be issuing a press release sometime within the next week announcing the 2012 Canada goose roundups to be conducted by USDA Wildlife Services.  Please read this informative article published today from The Brooklyn Paper for more information.
Once the DEP press release is out, the actual roundups and exterminations can begin as soon as the following day (and in one case did a couple of years ago).  Thus, the goose roundups can begin as early as next week and likely will.
If you have not already signed on to the NYC GooseWatch Facebook page, please do so now.
There will be a rally in front of Mayor Bloomberg's mansion next Wednesday, the 27th of June at 6 PM to protest the goose slaughters. Location is 79th Street in Manhattan between Madison and Fifth Avenues. (near Central Park.)  We need as many people as possible to attend and stand up to defend the wildlife in our city parks from invasion and extermination by federal authority.  Mayor Bloomberg has signed onto and feverently  defends the goose slaughters.   Following the gassings of 368 geese and goslings from Prospect Park in 20010, our "wise" Mayor proclaimed, "They just go to sleep and have nice dreams."
For more on the latest campaigns and efforts from GooseWatch, please read their latest news alert: 
Please become part of the active efforts to document and bring the clandestine goose roundups and killings that have been plaguing New York City for almost a decade to the forefront of public and media attention.  
It is only an informed, enlightened and involved public that can eventually elicit enough pressure and protest to bring these archaic and brutal wildlife roundups and killings to an end and relegate them to the dark ages of shameful human history. -- PCA

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Journey Through the Light and Darkness -- Why I Advocate for Geese

Some people may wonder, when stumbling across this blog, how one person can devote almost two years of her life studying and writing about, of all things, "Canada geese?"   ("Is this woman some kind of nut?")
It seems there was kind of a "perfect storm" of various events that brought this mission and near obsession about.
I became interested in and mildly curious about geese and ducks some years back. 
One of my dogs, Tina (who I rescued and adopted in 1997) is mostly responsible for that.
Tina has always been fascinated by and drawn to ducks and geese swimming on the water.  Being a "herding" type dog (Corgi-Sheepdog mix?), Tina would love to give gentle chase when younger and on a few occasions, even jumped into the water. (I since conditioned Tina out of the chasing instincts long ago.)
But, it was the traumatic circumstances surrounding 9-11 that forged in me, the beginnings of a special connection and bond to geese and ducks.
I remember on that horrible and frightening night, watching for a long time, geese and ducks peacefully swimming on the water of the Jackie Onassis Reservoir as if nothing had happened.  It was the first time all day that I had a sense that everything was and would ultimately be OK.  The geese and ducks engendered in me a sense of calm in an otherwise chaotic world.
I was not able to derive that same sense of balance, calm and assurance from other people, most of whom around me were simply traumatized and numb at the time.
I think from that point on, I felt a kind of appreciation, value and even debt towards nature and particularly ducks and geese -- although it would not manifest itself until some years later.
Although this blog was initially devoted to the rescue and adoption stories of cats and dogs, I began to include more writings on nature, wildlife and geese and ducks in 2010.
At the time, I recall walking into a Barnes and Noble one day seeking books and information about Canada geese and ducks.
I could only find books about the hunting of these birds.
It began to dawn on me then that if I truly wanted to learn about these animals, I would have to do my own observations and perhaps even write my own "book."
In May of 2010, I discovered Mama, Papa and their then newly hatched goslings at Turtle Pond in Central Park.  Thrilled and excited, I took photographs, observed and began to write about the new family in this blog.   The experience of watching the babies grow and the intriguing relationship between the parent geese and their brood was engaging and absorbing.  It was about that time I slowly began to change focus. The opportunity for observance of wildlife was opening up new and mesmerizing doors. 
But, they were doors that would soon take one to dark and ominous places.
Enter Prospect Park Goose Gassings -- July 8, 2010.
Perhaps no event was more significant to changing my direction and focus in life from cats and dogs to geese, than the 2010 goose gassings that occurred at Prospect Park in Brooklyn.  
It had only been a week before that I personally and coincidently saw many of the geese later rounded up when visiting friends who live near Prospect Park.
It was a hot June day when Firouzeh, Michael and I walked through a very crowded and kind of chaotic Prospect Park.  Barbeques and debris everywhere, thick black smoke in the air and chicken bones in the grass.  I was not at all impressed with Prospect Park -- until we happened along the lake, where scores of children and parents cheerfully tossed out bread to extremely friendly and engaging Canada geese. Many of the geese gently took the bread from the hands of small children.
To me, the geese, ducks and people freely interacting with them, were the only things attractive and uplifting about Prospect Park.
But, little did I know then, that a week later, all the geese admired that day would be dead and most of the ducks vanished. One can only wonder what parents told their children when asked, "Mommy, where are all the geese and ducks?"
The roundups and gassings of the beautiful and gentle geese at Prospect Park indeed changed my life. -- And they made me appreciate my own special Central Park geese, Mama, Papa and their babies, all that much more.
Last night I received an email from a gentleman in Delafield, Wisconsin, who like us in New York City is distraught over the prospect of another USDA goose roundup in his community as was done last year:
"I really enjoy your blog. Your descriptions of the geese are always right on. I see the same in the geese one thousand miles to the west of you. All of you at Goosewatch have kept me going. Most people don't know about the killing program. People are taught to hate geese for hunting. You should hear what hunters say about animals. I blend into their circles and they love to spill their guts so to say. People are too busy with modern life. People are shy. People just stay quiet. As for the local news reporter, he must live with the common council so i don't expect any help. I am sure he was listening. Please feel free to forward the email to anyone who may be interested. I have been watching for the USDA just like you in NY".
I replied back to Jim:
"Here in NYC, most park goers are either running or cycling and really don't notice anything around them.  People seem to just want to shut the real world out.  Maybe that should not be surprising considering crap like this going on in the "real world."
You are correct too, that the geese get a bad rap.  It seems if we are going to justify shooting and killing, we need to "objectify" or vilify the victims. -- Just like serial killers don't see their victims as humans. Perhaps part of our job is to "animalize" the geese. -- Draw attention to all the characteristics that make them unique and in many ways similar to our own pets and even to us. 
It is only through separation and objectification that all this brutality and injustice can occur.
That is actually why I write the blog on geese. -- to take them out of "object" mode and give to them the individuality and character qualities they uniquely possess and deserve finally and rightly to be recognized for."
And that is ultimately what this struggle and journey is all about. -- Not just for geese but all animals.
They are not "objects, pests, nuisances, airline terrorists or targets." 
They are simply and rather, other entities in life caught up in the same web of creation, joie de vivre, struggle and survival that we are.
Indeed, the similarities between geese and humans are far more startling and revealing than any perceived and attributed differences will ever be.
The geese just want to live, provide for and protect their mates and families as we do.
Under what "law" of nature, universe or God are we granted the right to deny and rob them of that?
In so doing, do we not ultimately damage and rob ourselves of the value of connection with the living world around us?  -- PCA

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lifetime Relationships of Geese -- Buster and Bonnie

(Photos -- Bonnie, demure mate to Buster and new mother. Forever, the girly girl -- like a graceful ballerina.)
"Public notification."
Public notification was mentioned in the latest USDA EIS, but the duty for public notice regarding goose roundups (or other public matters) falls upon local jurisdictions, assuming they have rules for such.
But, apparently, none of the parks or other locations where previous goose roundups occurred have rules for public notice, since none have been issued in the past.
People just show up to their park one day and discover all their geese gone -- as recently occurred to a distraught citizen in Virginia who wrote a letter to his local newspaper:
Like the letter writer, I too am worried for the geese in my area -- though none have been rounded up from New York City yet. (Emphasis on "yet.")
I don't know each day that I still see my treasured geese at Central Park if it in fact, will be the last.
That is how we in New York City who value our park wildlife have to think these days as "public notification" does not seem a requirement for goose roundups and slaughters despite mention in the SEIS.
We know the roundups will occur.  We just don't know which parks and locations will be targeted and we don't know precisely when.
Certainly not a comfortable or secure feeling.
Still, for the moment at least, "my" geese continue to do well in Central Park as these recent photos and descriptions indicate:
I have recently figured out and am quite sure that the two parent geese to the six goslings at the Boat Lake are actually Buster and Bonnie whom I wrote much of this past winter while they were at Harlem Meer.
I originally thought the two were another pair ("Bozo and Bonnie") whom I remember from the Meer a couple of years ago as the gander has been so hissy with my dogs like Bozo was back then. (Lord only knows what happened to Bozo and Bonnie - as with so many other resident geese that used to be at Harlem Meer in the spring and summer. But, Bozo and that Bonnie were older geese than the two parent geese at the Boat Lake now). 
It has become abundantly clear in recent days that it is really my old pal, Buster and his very demure and "girly" wife, Bonnie who are the actual parents of the six goslings.  
Its Bonnie who provides the main tips of the identity of the couple.  
Bonnie is a fairly young goose by appearance, with a long, graceful and very slim neck.
Were she human, Bonnie would surely be a ballerina as everything about her denotes femininity and grace. .
Bonnie was always very shy and demure when with Buster this past winter.  And while Buster routinely ate from my hand and bullied other geese around (thus the reason for his name), the timid Bonnie only took food from my hand once -- and even then very hesitantly, as if she expected her gander to admonish her or she was breaking some unspoken goose rule.
This behavior is of course entirely opposite to that of Mama and Papa geese.  Mama always eats from my hand, while Papa watches over and protects. I am not sure of the reason for the vast differences in behavior of the mated pairs of geese.    Perhaps it is partially due to the fact that Mama is such an old and seemingly frail goose that her gander is more watchful, sacrificing and willing to give up meals for Mama's benefit.
But, Buster has always been a very different gander than Papa.  And Mama is a very different goose than Bonnie.
Extremely large and intimidating, Buster takes no challenges from other geese and when at Harlem Meer, Buster used to boss all the other geese around and call the shots.
He is exactly the same way at the Boat Lake -- only the behavior is a bit more intense now that Buster has become a "Daddy."  I don't for example, recall Buster being particularly nasty or hissy with my dogs when at the Meer over the winter. But, he usually watches them like a hawk now and hisses like a snake if they dare to so much breathe.
But, for some inexplicable reason, Buster was a bit more "mellow" last night.  The normally big, tough gander was actually in a good and relaxed mood!
Buster didn't hiss at my dogs and didn't seem particularly bothered that a few mallards hung out with the goslings on the rock. 
But, most indicative of Buster's "good mood" was the fact, his normally shy wife tiptoed over to me and actually took some sunflower seeds from my hand.
Surprised that the mother goose had such a soft mouth for a goose that never takes food from human hands, it then occurred to me who Bonnie really was as well as her gander.
I recall the one time Buster's mate took food from my hand last winter, she surprisingly had a very gentle mouth.
Seemingly encouraged by the lack of correction or protest from her gander, Bonnie continued to take seeds from my hand last night, though occasionally curving her graceful head as if having second thoughts. (I remember that gesture too from last winter.)
Though Bonnie is not without her own moxie when chasing away mallards or other geese from her brood, Bonnie is most of all, a "girly girl."
One would not need to do an inspection or see her with goslings, to easily know Bonnie's sex.   And yes, I do recall that about the female mate who was with Buster over the winter.She stood out in terms of her beauty and delicate, feminine ways.    
But, what was most startling and intriguing about last night was when Papa, Mama and their grown kids came swimming over to the rock when the "family" finally left.
As I began to feed Mama from my hand and toss some seeds to Papa and the "kids" on the rock, Buster, Bonnie and their now nearly grown goslings returned! 
As usual, Mama and Papa quickly retreated and their youngsters followed.
But, I felt at that point, that the family had their fill of treats and didn't need any more. I wanted particularly to get some to Mama goose.
As Buster and the clan began to gather around me for treat, I instead "shooed" them away and to my great astonishment, they actually listened!
A few gentle waves of my hand and words to "move on have had enough!" and the entire family descended the rock and returned to the water, including the usually stubborn and unyielding Buster.
I was stunned how seemingly easy geese are to "train."   One could argue they actually listen better than most dogs!
Perhaps this goes back to my theory that resident Canada geese are an entirely different "breed" than their wild migratory counterparts due to the fact their descendants were bred and raised by humans over the past 50 to 60 years and later released.  
It might not have been long enough to totally "domesticate" Canada geese, but it was obviously long enough to make resident geese quite responsive to and trusting of humans.
After Buster, Bonnie and their brood left last night, I was then free to spend a few moments with Mama, Papa and their clan though by that time most of the treats were gone.
Still, it has always been true that Mama and Papa come to me more for greeting than actual food.   I was thus happy that I got to spend that little bit of time with these two, especially treasured geese.
And yet, there is that persistent worry over what the coming days and weeks have in store for so many geese in NYC and possibly even these geese who I have come to know so well over the course of time -- as if they were my own pets.
I never did, after all, see Bozo and Bonnie again from that spring a couple of years ago, though I apparently wished it so when seeing the new goose family over the past two months.
Its good to recognize and find Buster and Bonnie again -- but it is not without sense of loss for the geese I will never see again. 
"Lifetime relationships of geese."  The question is, will we actually be able to see the relationships of our NYC geese over a lifetime?  -- PCA
(Note:  For scientific information on the mating behaviors of Canada and Brant geese and the impacts upon their survivability, please read this excellent article out today entitled,  "The Lifetime Relationships of Brant Geese Good for the Goose and the Gander":