Saturday, September 29, 2012

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow ("Heck of a jobs," guns and hard rains)

(Photos:  Geese at Harlem Meer between September and October, 2010.  Today, there are no geese,  either at the Meer or Central Park in general.) 

"Bloomie, you're doing a heck of a job!"   (Yesterday)

"Yesterday," as the Beatles sang.....

Since Central Park has recently become a downer due to the untimely and unnatural death of my favorite duck (Brad) and the absence of any geese, I have been brousing through old memory cards in recollection of "what used to be."

Two years ago at this time, there were gaggles of many geese at Harlem Meer in Central Park.  The photos posted above were taken between September 11 and October 3 of 2010.

Exactly two years later, there are zero geese in the same location -- and indeed in all of Central Park.

This bizarre series of events reminds me of New Orleans post hurricane Katrina in 2007.

Then-President Bush traveled to the devastated area a couple of days later and praising the FEMA director for the "outstanding job" that was being done remarked, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job!"

Of course the joke then was that FEMA was not doing a "heck of a job" at all, but in fact, failing to provide relief and proper shelter for the thousands of people left stranded and homeless in New Orleans in the wake of floods and destruction.

Well, I look around a goose-empty park right now and think to myself, "Bloomie, you're doing a heck of a job!" 

And of course, USDA "Wildlife Services,"  The Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Environmental Conservation and less we forget, our "outstanding" New York Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand.

They have all done a "heck of a job" (without aid of a hurricane) of devastating the wildlife in our great city. --    So much so that some of us have to look back on old photos from "yesterday" to realize we once used to have safe haven for resident geese in New York City's premier park in the fall of the year.
 The Guns of Autumn  (Today)

If some of us believe the summer to be particularly brutal for Canada geese due to federal USDA goose roundups and slaughters, it is pale compared to the sheer carnage of autumn and its waves of bullets piercing blue skies and bringing down hundreds of thousands of geese and other birds.  

Thumbing through goose-related articles and columns these days, virtually all of them extol the "joys" of blasting geese out of the skies.

Below are just two recent examples:

The first is an article from the Sacramento Bee which provides in some detail how we deliberately created an artificial population of Canada geese to shoot at.

The second is an "outdoors column" by a hunter which, in some places is almost poetic.  But, then the last paragraph quite literally blows a hole through all the poetry and pretty images.  

But, I don't post this link due to the actual column, but because of a reader comment to it.

Writes one hunter: "The great thing about killing geese is that they mate for life.  If you kill the 'wife, ' the husband will land to see what is wrong and then you can blast him too."

Sometimes, one has to wonder what the world is really coming to?

"I Saw a Young Child Beside a Dead Pony"   (Tomorrow)

There are some in religious circles who believe the world is coming to an end in December of this year.

I don't personally believe this.  -- But,  I am hoping for some kind of sweeping and all-encompassing change. 

Something that would force us to look at the values we are using to shape the world around us and send it into precarious direction.

Those "values" and directions require serious change.

Nothing quite so compels one to this thought process than a recent article out of Great Britain:

Yes, we know about hunting and yes we know about goose "culling."

But, to carry out these massacres before the eyes of young and impressionable children in the light of day is something so sinister and monstrous as to shoot daggers through the heart of innocence itself.

It reminds one of a line from a song:

"I saw a young child beside a dead pony."

The line is from the Bob Dylan classic, "A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall."

Perhaps I just believe some hard rains are going to have to fall -- hopefully ones that ultimately serve to cleanse the buildup of grime and cruelty and renew all that was once innocent, pure and "yesterday."  -- PCA


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Surviving Ducks and Environmental (Non) Protection

(Photo:  Wiggly and Honker, surviving domestic ducks at Harlem Meer.) 

The Survivors

Since the loss of Brad last week, Harlem Meer has been strange.

It is not because of a lack of ducks as many of the migrant mallards have recently returned.  (The Meer is in fact, bustling with avian activity  these days.)

However, there are no geese and there is no Brad causing the Meer to appear like a painting missing its main subject.

Brad (a domestic, flightless duck) was a fixture at Harlem Meer for at least four years, his presence testimony to the resiliency of nature to survive and endure even the harshest of circumstances.

The irony of losing Brad at a time of year of plentiful food supply and mild temperatures cannot be lost.   It was truly the last thing expected.

Brad was as dear to me as one of my own pets.

His death is particularly distressing because it is difficult to believe it due to natural causes.

One cannot say exactly what caused the demise of Brad, but through process of elimination, it seems almost certainly due to some human activity.  

One suspects barbed hooks, fishing line or bait from the abundance of fishing at the Meer two weekends ago.   Its possible Brad might have been hit with a rock or injured in some other way, but I believe that to be less likely.   Brad was very smart about avoiding dogs and rowdy kids.

There is also the possibility of lead poisoning:

In any event, I worry now about Brad's two domestic and surviving flock mates.

"Honker" has only been at the Meer a few months and obviously not survived a winter there.  Wiggly has been at the Meer a year, but had the leadership, guidance and protection of Brad last winter to get her through.   Neither of these domestic (Khacki Campbell) ducks seemingly has the awareness, forethought and caution that Brad displayed.  Both are somewhat scatterbrained and risk taking.

It is interesting that now that Brad is gone, Honker and Wiggly don't hang out with each other or "flock together" even though they appear to be the same breed of Campbell duck.

Not only is Brad gone, but the "Bradley Brigade" as well. 

Brad kept Wiggly and Honker together and in line despite both bird's tendencies to wander.  Now, the two survivors appear to be drifting.  That may be OK for now, but could be deadly in winter.

Much will depend on what kind of winter we have in NYC this year.

A mild one would mean open water and many ducks (and geese) at the Meer, which should aid in Honker and Wiggly's survival.

But, a harsh winter (like 2010) would mean a frozen and bird empty lake in which, (if not organized and working together) Wiggly and Honker will surely perish.

Brad's death is significant, not only for actual loss of him, but what it possibly signifies for his two surviving (flightless) flock mates who so relied upon him.

I hope I am wrong about Wiggly and Honker's innate and individual survival skills.  

Hopefully, they surprise me.
 "It's Not Our Job"

Distraught over both the loss of Brad and fishing abuses (ignoring of fishing rules) observed in Central Park for more than three years, I called numerous city, park and state agencies last Friday to register complaint and suggest changes.

I suggested to the Director of Operations for Central Park Conservancy that since the park lacks staffing to sufficiently monitor and enforce fishing rules, it might consider allowing only the rented fishing equipment from the Dana Center to be used.  That way it could be insured that proper and non-injurious fishing tackle was used, while still allowing the activity.  

I also requested that Park Rangers be properly equipped for waterfowl rescue when needed, such as kayaks or dingoes when sick or injured birds are on the water. 
And I suggested the posting of signs near fishing sites informing people of the rules.

The reality is however, there are hundreds of people who fish in Central Park during nice weather.  There are only a few of "us" monitoring and reporting abuses or picking up discarded tackle left in water or on grass.  Its doubtful that suggestions will be considered, much less implemented.

Most frustrating however, among the calls made last week was one to the Department of Environmental Protection of New York State.

Although the official told me that he might "send a couple of agents" to check on the fishing situation at Harlem Meer, he added, "You need to understand though that even if my agents find any discarded fishing line, they do not pick it up."

"Excuse me, did I hear you correctly?" I asked.  "Did you just say that even if your agents find fishing line in the park, they will not pick it up?"

"Yes, that is correct.  It is not the job of my agents to pick up discarded lines or hooks.  It is the park's job to pick up garbage."

"But, fishing line does not degrade in the environment!  It is a threat to wildlife AND the ecosystem!   Maybe you don't care about the wildlife, but what if this stuff gets around a child?  Isn't it your job to protect the environment?"

The official became angry with that line of questioning and disconnected the phone call.

I simply could not believe I had just spoken with the Department of "Environmental Protection" who basically told me it is not their job to actually protect the environment.

Exactly what are these bureaucrats paid for? -- PCA


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Aftermath -- A Crippled Mallard and an Accidental Photo -- Hope?

(Photos: 1-- Duck in flight.  2-- Return of....?)

They say in life, one regrets the things not done, as opposed to things done.

For some strange reason, I end up regretting both.

I regret calling park rangers last week on what turned out to be a failed rescue attempt for an ailing (obstructed) Canada goose.

I regret not calling park rangers a few days later for what ultimately turned out to be a dying duck on the lake. 

I have gone over both events in my head a thousand times over the past week.

All the "what if's" and all the "maybes."

Maybe had I called rangers when first seeing Brad so listless and lethargic on the water, a ranger would have been able to respond immediately.  Maybe Brad would have eventually drifted to the shoreline and the ranger able to capture him with a fishing net. Maybe the Wild Bird Fund would have been able to take, treat and eventually cure or free Brad from whatever was causing life threatening condition. 

That is of course a lot of "maybes," the torment of which, I will never know the answers to.

Still, my mind keeps going back to that last, final image of Brad now etched into my brain.

Although for the roughly 45 minutes I stood in shock seeing Brad so motionless in the water and seemingly unnoticing of anything around him Wednesday night, that actually changed when I eventually turned to leave Harlem Meer. 

As I began to walk slowly away, I looked back to see that Brad had actually turned around in the water.  He made no motions towards coming to me or the shore.

However, he did look directly at me and maintained the gaze as I so helplessly and painfully departed.

As crazy as it sounds, I believe now that was Brad's "goodbye" to me.

Although I did not consciously think it at the time, I believe something in me realized then, that would be the last time I would ever see Brad again.

Perhaps the real reason I did not call rangers the next day is because I knew deep down, it was already too late.  

As written in this blog, I returned to the Meer Thursday night "expecting" that I would probably see Brad in either the same or similar condition.

But, I was apparently very much in denial -- at least consciously.

The truth is, I was not greatly surprised when not finding Brad despite a thorough search all around the lake.

Over the past few days, calls were made to the Dana Center, Animal Control and the Wild Bird Fund asking if a domestic duck had been recently rescued or brought in from Harlem Meer.

Not surprisingly the answer was "no" in all cases.

I was however informed from the Wild Bird Fund that two Canada geese were being treated for injuries due to fishing line and net entanglements. (Neither was Danny of course.)

The news about fishing line injuries to birds also did not surprise.

Unfortunately, wildlife injuries to birds and other wildlife due to fishing hooks, lines and "power bait"  is par for the course these days and served once again as basis for calls of complaint to various city, park and state agencies on Friday about "fishing abuses" at Harlem Meer specifically,  and Central Park in general.   

Others may disagree and offer other explanations for Brad's shocking and untimely death, but noting that the very first signs of Brad's distress occurred on one of the biggest fishing weekends of the year, I unfortunately have to draw my own conclusions.  

And they are not conclusions that will remain silent.

For even if Brad died due to some unrelated or "natural" cause, there are all the other animals who have suffered fishing line and hook injuries over the years, including geese, sea gulls, swans, turtles, cormorants, mallards and even a baby duckling.

Truly, enough is enough. Just how much suffering (and needless death) are we willing to inflict on wildlife for what some call, "recreational activity" or "fun?"  What is the point of having "rules" if those rules are neither followed nor enforced?

It was suggested to me from a dear friend that I not return to Harlem Meer for a while as it has been the source of so much recent personal pain and loss.

It is certainly very difficult to go to the Meer now knowing I will never see what was to me, the very heart and spirit of the location itself.  "Brad, the king and high ruler of Harlem Meer!"

Four days later and I still imagine Brad suddenly popping out of the water and waddling up to me confidently demanding, "Where's my treat?"

Last night, I went to the Meer long after the sun had gone down.

It was dark, quiet and peaceful with no humans around -- not even fisherman.

Only the ducks, including Brad's flock mates, Wiggly and Honker were before me, scrambling around for cracked corn on the ground and loudly quacking.

At one point I saw a brightly colored duck swimming in the water towards the embankment and thought for one second, he might be Brad.

But, he was simply a light colored mallard drake.

I suddenly lowered my head and cried for what seemed a long time.  I cried for Brad and all the other birds lost over the years of visiting Harlem Meer.

Whatever happened to the two white Pekin ducks who suddenly vanished two years ago?  What happened to the three swans who used to be here?   What happened to Angelina, Brad's long time companion?   What happened to Piggly this spring?  Whatever happened to Christy, the crippled mallard?  What happened to Danny, my obstructed goose?  What really happened to Brad? 

But, a strange thing happened when finally I raised my head again and wiped the still flowing tears from my eyes. 

Struggling on to the embankment and flopping down when walking was a crippled little female mallard.

Is it?  Could it be?......Christy?

The little brown mallard looked up at me the way Christy used to do last winter.

She hobbled around and tried to quickly grab treats tossed to her despite the bullying and harassment of other mallards. Numerous times the little mallard fell down.

Nevertheless, the little trooper held her own and bravely fought for what she could get --  just like Christy used to do.

I don't of course "know" if this little crippled female mallard is the same one I so worried over and strived to nourish over the long, tough winter.

But, she could be.

And if so, Christy is unexpectantly back. And back at seemingly serendipitous timing as if to signify that despite everything, faith and hope still spring eternal.  

I took out my camera and snapped some photos.

As I was trying to get photos of "Christy", a mallard suddenly took off flying and while doing so, accidentally popped into the picture frame.

Somehow, walking home from the Meer last night, I felt just a wee bit better.

I thought about Brad again, but this time there were no tears. 

Instead, I imagined him suddenly being able to use his clipped and flightless wings to fly.

Could it be that finally looking up at me when I left him last Wednesday night, Brad was not asking for "rescue," but instead telling me, "goodbye" and not to worry?

Was Brad telling me he would soon be able to fly?

In all the years I have been photographing ducks and geese, I have never gotten an "accidental" photo of one suddenly flying......

Call me crazy, but I think (and hope) that might mean something.  -- PCA


Friday, September 21, 2012

The Last Casualty of Fading Summer Days

(Photo:  A distressed Brad at Harlem Meer this past Wednesday.  The end of a brutal summer could apparently not come fast enough.)

The last days of summer.

And oh, such a terrible summer it was.

Almost 1,600 Canada geese rounded up from city parks, golf courses and a national wildlife "refuge" to be unceremoniously and ruthlessly massacred.

Death of a domestic duck ("Piggly") at Harlem Meer in Central Park several months ago. 

Disappearance and presumed death of an injured Canada goose (Danny) at Harlem Meer this past week.

And now, more bad news -- just at the time this dreaded summer was finally and nearly at an end......

For the past two years, I have been photographing and chronicling  the seemingly invincible spirit and survival skills of "Brad," the domestic (flightless) Rouen duck who has survived at Harlem Meer for at least 4 or 5 years.

I have watched this vivacious and extremely intelligent and calculating duck survive blizzards, hurricanes, loss of flock mates, an almost totally frozen lake and a myriad of other hazards and challenges over the years.

But, Brad was apparently unable to get through the last weekend of summer without incident.

The past few weeks have been beautiful in New York City.
Comfortable temperatures in the high 70's low humidity and mostly gorgeous sun-filled days.

For the ducks living in our urban parks, these are mostly the "good" and "easy" times.   Comfortable weather and plenty of duck weed on lakes and ponds for nourishment.  

But, the good weather also brings out something else in city parks:

Lots and lots of fishing people.

The last time I saw Brad healthy and normal was last Saturday morning. -- the same day I met up with a Park Ranger to try and rescue, Danny, the injured, lone goose who had been at the Meer for more than a month and was suffering some kind of obstruction.

It was also the same day I found about 12 feet of fishing line with a barbed hook dangling in the water, mere feet from where Brad was hanging out with his flock mates, Wiggly and Honker (also, domestic ducks).

I grabbed the fishing line and hook out of the water and angrily gave it to an employee of Central Park Conservancy who (apparently trying to lighten me up), said, "This is why we need volunteers like you to go around and pick this stuff up."

Unfortunately, the "appreciation" (if that is what the statement was meant to convey) did nothing to lighten my mood.

I was upset about the hurt goose and upset about the lack of proper equipment provided to Park Rangers for water bird rescue. (The ranger had told me that if the goose was on water, he would have no means for rescue.) I was also upset about once again finding discarded fishing line and hooks left around to maim wildlife and damage the environment.

Of course Danny was in the water when the Ranger arrived and although he was very close to the embankment, the ranger was unable to capture the injured goose with the small fishing net borrowed from the Dana Center.   After several failed attempts with the inadequate equipment, the ranger had to finally give up.

Although it was fairly early in the morning, there were already scores of people fishing around the Meer last Saturday.  The Park Ranger gently admonished some people throwing slices of white bread in the water as "bait" for fish.   The people pretended not to be aware of the fishing rules.

Upset about all that had transpired (especially the failure to rescue Danny), I could not wait to leave Harlem Meer last Saturday.

But, I had no idea then just how much more "upset" and distressed I would become as the week wore on.

I never saw Danny again after the failed rescue attempt.  Five visits to the Meer later and there has been so sign of the ailing goose who is now mostly presumed dead.

I would like to think of course that Danny miraculously recovered, joined up and flew off with two geese who happened by the Meer on Tuesday evening.  But, that is extremely unlikely considering that Danny made no attempts to join with any visiting geese previously.

But, I suppose I can try to make myself believe fairy tales.

Unfortunately, I cannot make myself believe similar fairy tales about Brad, the flightless, long time resident duck of Harlem Meer.

The first inkling that anything was wrong came on Sunday evening (after no doubt, a heavy weekend of fishing).

While both, Wiggly and Honker came running to me in recognition and begging of treat, (along with a bunch of lively, quacking mallards), Brad remained indifferently in the middle of the lake.

Hm, that is strange, I thought to myself at the time. But, I tried not to be over reactive and panicky. 

Although extremely rare that Brad does not immediately come running when I arrive to the Meer, I cannot say this has never happened.

There have been occasions (especially in spring) when Brad is kind of lackadaisical about the desire for treat.  
 I tried to tell myself  that it was perhaps due to all the duck weed on the lake that Brad was not particularly hungry. 

Still, I was mildly concerned as the sight of Brad just lazing on the lake is something rarely seen from such a normally active and vibrant duck.

The following day (Monday) that concern elevated to worry.

Almost a repeat of the previous night, but this time, Brad barely moved at all on the water -- nor was he with his flock mates when I arrived.

Extremely rare for Brad not to be corralling with and keeping tabs on his two "charges," Wiggly and Honker.

This time I suspected something was definately wrong with Brad, but I could not be sure what.

Was he just temporarily under the weather?  Would Brad recover and be back to his old self in a day or two?

The following day, there were rainstorms in NYC and 45 mph winds in Central Park.

I didn't go to Central Park on Tuesday for obvious reasons.

But, I returned to Harlem Meer just before dusk on Wednesday.

To my shock, I found Brad completely listless and motionless alone on the water near the Dana Center.

His eyes were closed and  his feathers puffed out.  I am not sure if he even noticed me.

Alarmed, I tried to toss a few sunflower seeds and cracked corn in Brad's direction.

Although he showed slight interest in the treats before him, Brad made no attempt to chase off the mallards who quickly swooped in to grab them.

I was beside myself with worry and stayed at the location a good 45 minutes observing Brad.

Brad barely moved from the one spot on the water about 30 or 40 feet from the embankment. Photos I took of him appear blurred because of having to zoom in so far.

Yesterday, I battled with myself over whether to call the Park Rangers again, this time to ask for help in rescuing a distressed duck.

But, the problem was that Brad was on the water all the times I had seen him since last Saturday (probably for "safety.")

"We are not able to get birds that are on the water," the ranger had told me just a few days before.

Did I want to call the rangers on a wild duck chase, as I had called the previous week on a "wild goose chase?"

I would likely be deemed a "cry wolfer" and that could impede rescue attempts for other injured wildlife in the future.

I made no calls yesterday as in balance, it seemed I might do more harm than good.

Once again, (perhaps due to "denial") I tried to tell myself that perhaps it was a good sign that Brad survived the rain storms the night before. Perhaps he would be able to rebound from whatever this challenge was, as he had survived so many challenges and hardships before.

Brad was after all, "invincible."   Nothing could destroy him.

Nevertheless, despite all the "reassurances" (or denials) to myself, I was very nervous when returning to the Meer last night.

I feared I would see Brad in the same unsettling condition as I had seen Danny, the injured goose in the same condition for so many days.

But, instead, I did not see Brad at all last night.

I walked all around the Meer, searching and peering into weeds and marshes. But, there was no sign of Brad anywhere.

Once again, all the other ducks were lively and alert, including Brad's flock mates, Wiggy and Honker.

And the family of 7 geese who had visited the week before had returned.

But, nowhere was Brad.

Oh my God!  Had after all this time, I failed Brad in the end?

Part of the reason for hand feeding Brad all these years was with the anticipation that were he ever injured or in trouble, he would still come to me out of trust.

But, that did not happen.

Always the independent, self-reliant and stoic duck, it seems Brad was that way up to the end.

Right up to the end of summer days -- which for Brad and almost 2,000 other NYC birds could not come soon enough.

Today, I spent a good part of the day making phone calls to Central Park Conservancy, the city, Parks and Recreation, the DEC and the DEP to file complaints about fishing abuses at Harlem Meer and the lack of monitoring and enforcement of fishing rules.  But, that is for another blog entry.

Right now I can only think about this hideous and exceedingly cruel summer whose last weekend was apparently not something that even the ever resilient Brad could survive.

"End of summer days" could not come soon or fast enough.  

Postscript --  Friday, 8 PM:  

I just returned from Harlem Meer. 

There was a point when a large duck came waddling towards me.   My eyes widened and a big smile dared its way across my face.

"Could it be?  Is it him?  Brad is alive and well!"

But, the duck turned out to be Honker, one of Brad's two companion ducks.

Wiggly showed up a few minutes later.

But, Brad was gone. Nowhere to be seen.

The spirit, the heart and indeed, the soul of Harlem Meer gone in what seemed this week, a flash.

Despite the flocks of lively, quacking and flying ducks and even the one somwhat embolden goose family,the Meer will never be the same without Brad.

Never in a million years could I ever imagine that of the many brutal bird casualties of this horrid summer, the last one would be Brad. -- PCA


Thursday, September 20, 2012

"From Wildlife Refuge to Table" -- Douse the Geese in Honey and Chomp Down on Lead Bird Shot

(Photos:  Geese rounded up from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge this July. "Individually crated?") 

Conflicting, mysterious and incorrect information continues ad infitum regarding what really happened to the 711 geese rounded up from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas by USDA in July of this year.

Apparently, 40 geese were rounded up from a nearby landfill on July 5th and sent to Parker's Poultry Processing in Dansville, NY -- a full 6 hours away from NYC.

But, within days, almost 500 geese from Westchester and 711 from Jamaica Bay were rounded up and sent to Kroll Farm Market in New Windsor, New York as reported in this article published yesterday:

It is a mystery why 40 geese rounded up from the same general area were sent 6 hours away to be slaughtered Kosher style (two vein cuts on conscious animals who then bleed out) and days later, remaining geese are sent elsewhere.

Considering that USDA had more than a year to find and determine what "processing plant" NYC geese would be sent, the sudden change in venue within days is bewildering. -- Almost as if USDA makes up plans as it goes along.

When asked what method was used to kill the more than 1,000 geese from NYC, the owner of Krall's Farm Market refuses to tell the reporter. --  Only that the geese were killed "humanely."

Lacking any actual description, the word, "humanely" is thus rendered completely  meaningless.

It is difficult to imagine how "7 or 8 workers" were able to kill more than 1,000 geese "humanely" within a few hours.

As far as the geese being rounded up "humanely" and put into "individual crates," that is simply another lie.

As shown many times in this blog, multiple geese are stuffed into crates and that was true from Jamaica Bay as elsewhere.  That is the MO for how USDA operates. (see photos above)

Perhaps the most interesting thing in the article however, is the "warning" about geese potentially containing bird shot -- along with mercury, lead and PCB's.

No matter how fancy the cooking equipment nor how long the breast meat is "marinated or cooked," it will not be long enough to remove lead bird shot.

Imagine chomping down on bird shot while one is supposedly "enjoying a meal?"

One food bank representative says its just a matter of "awareness" to avoid the bird shot.

Are people feeding this stuff to kids who have just grown in their adult teeth?  How do they make the children "aware" of how to avoid bird shot?

It is beyond words what to say about these mindless, brutal goose slaughters, the misleading articles and the sugar-coated euphemisms and "cooking instructions" used to dress them up.

They could douse these slaughtered (or gassed) geese in honey and it would not be enough to remove the putrid and overwhelming stench of what these actions truly represent. -- PCA


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

SOS for Two Geese to be Shot this Saturday at Huntingdon Park in Pennsylvania

For more than two years this blog has been dedicated to exposing our country's "war on geese" which has expanded from the cruel to the absurd.

Thousands of Canada geese have been rounded up from New York City parks (and even a national wildlife refuge) and been subjected to violent death either by slaughter or gassing.

At Honeymoon Lake in California, private citizens were compelled to organize this summer to rescue a family of five molting, flightless geese peacefully residing on the lake in order to save them from a planned USDA roundup and cull the following week.

One has to seriously wonder what our country is coming to in our relationships with other animals?  

It seems it is coming to this:

It appears that our tolerance for wildlife in a public park has descended to zero.

The above video was recently filmed at Indian Lake Park in Pennsylvania where this Saturday, a "managed hunt" is planned for the existing geese there.

The video-maker takes the viewer on a walk-through in the park were we finally find TWO geese peacefully standing on the edge of the lake.

Can this be real?  Can it be true?

Apparently, it is very real.

Despite what appears to be a predominantly goose-empty park, a handful of hunters will descend this Saturday in attempt to wipe out the two geese who are there or any other misfortunates who happen to fly over at the time.

We as citizens of this country may not be able to save the hundreds of thousands of Canada geese destined to be blown out of the skies by hunters this year in rural areas or the thousands of geese rounded up from urban parks and massacred by USDA. 

However, we should be able to save two geese trying to survive in an urban park in Pennsylvania.

Please take a couple of minutes out of the day to drop a short and polite note to the leadership of this park and urge them to immediately cancel the planned "hunt.":

"Management to extinction" cannot stand as the goal and "plan" for any civilized nation or park community. -- PCA


Monday, September 17, 2012

When to Call the Doctor (for a Canada Goose)?

(Photo:  Danny at Harlem Meer yesterday.  Hanging in there and adapting to difficult circumstances?)

Trying to get a better gage on the situation with Danny (the seemingly obstructed Canada goose at Harlem Meer) as well as the general waterfowl circumstances, I have been visiting the Meer at different times of the day (or night).

Yesterday, I went shortly before dusk.

It was a perfect late summer day and it was a Sunday, thereby resulting in much human activity around the lake.

There were kids riding bikes along the pedestrian paths, people walking dogs, fisherman and lovers strolling.

I immediately spotted Danny in the water near the south embankment.

As much as I tried to entice him on the bank, he remained cautiously in the water.

I normally don't like to toss food in water, but in this case, there was little choice.

Once again, Danny was interested, but unable to actually eat anything out of my hand.

However, when tossing some cracked corn in the water directly in front of him, Danny lowered his head and made sweeping motions towards it.

While I cannot be certain, it is hoped that Danny was able to swoop up some of the drifting corn in the water.

Somehow, despite whatever is causing the difficulties in eating, Danny is hanging in there.

Watching Danny yesterday, I wondered if I acted prematurely in trying to secure rescue and help for him the day before?

As previously noted, Park Rangers are not suitably equipped (such as with rocket nets) for rescue of Canada geese (and other large birds) while the birds are still capable of flying and/or have not "given up."

In June of 2010 for example,  there was a Canada goose who had been shot with an arrow at Prospect Park.  The arrow pierced the goose's neck, causing distress not only to the goose, but horror to park goers, resulting in coverage by the New York Times:

Naturally, Park Rangers were called to rescue the goose, (then named, "Target," ) but as was the experience this past Saturday with Danny, the Rangers were unable to capture Target as he was able to escape repeated rescue attempts.

Miraculously, Target was able to remove the arrow himself a short time later!

However, the real tragedy was that Target was then rounded up with 367 other geese at Prospect Park on July 8th of 2010 and gassed.

Even a "celebrity goose" was not safe from a USDA roundup and mass killing.

In July of this year, while going through the molt, Mama goose at the Boat Lake was a sorry sight to most park visitors.

Her wings drooped and literally dragged along the ground giving the appearance that both wings were broken.  Additionally, Mama's feathers were far more disheveled than most geese going through the molt.

Many people were concerned when seeing Mama.   But, both Lianna (another bird lover) and I assured others that Mama was going through the molt and was otherwise healthy and eating.   She did not require rescue -- at least at that point -- as she had her family and plenty of food available.

However, neither Lianna nor I expected that from her appearance, Mama would ever be able to fly again.  Her wings simply did not look normal -- even for a goose going through the molt.

However, as the weeks wore on and the geese began to grow in their flight feathers, Mama's wings improved in appearance.

To the utter shock of Lianna and I, Mama was able to fly out from the Boat Lake with the rest of her family following the end of the molting season.

So the question remains, "When to call for rescue help for a goose and when not?"

This is not an easy question to answer considering the amazing resiliency, adaptability and sheer survival instincts of Canada geese, (as well as lack of proper capture equipment supplied to Park Rangers). 

As someone who was in cat and dog rescue for more than 20 years, I always considered  lack of appetite and/or inability to eat the absolute "red flags" for a speedy trip to the vet.

I obviously thought the same when noting a goose who (for whatever reason), was and is unable to eat normally.

But, geese are not cats, dogs or humans.

They in fact, seem to exist in a world all their own -- a world with little need for human intervention and help.

One of the possible exceptions to this are geese with broken wings or the birth defect condition known as "Angel Wing" which renders them permanently flightless.

But, even with Angel Wing, geese can be amazingly resilient.

One of the goslings of Mama and Papa in 2010, had Angel Wing, an incurable condition where both wings stick out comically from the body and occasionally drag along the ground.

I (and others) were very concerned for "Binky" -- especially, when at only 3 months of age, Binky  was left at Turtle Pond to fend for himself when the rest of the family had to take natural flight.

Although Mama and Papa returned several times with the family to Turtle Pond to presumably "check" on their disabled youngster, they could not neglect the normal parental duties of teaching the other youngsters flight and migration patterns.

Incredibly,  Binky survived as a "lone" gosling on Turtle Pond for several months following the summer.   As long as there were ducks, open water and food available, even a "baby" flightless Canada goose was able to survive.  

However, Turtle Pond freezes over in winter and the mallards all leave.

That is when the Central Park Conservancy and Park Rangers (thankfully) were able to successfully rescue Binky and they reportedly sent him to an upstate farm to live out his life.

A flightless gosling cannot survive alone on a frozen lake or pond and under those circumstances requires human help.

But, after observing Canada geese for several years now, it doesn't seem there are too many other circumstances where they actually require human help (unless of course shot or attacked and wounded by a predator).

Canada geese are incredibly resilient creatures and most of all, they do not easily "give up" -- even when wounded and severely challenged.

Perhaps it is my imagination or wishful thinking, but it seems over these past few days, that even Danny is slowly figuring means of survival in his otherwise, difficult and challenging medical circumstances.  -- PCA

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hooks, Lines and Sinkers to a Goose?

(Photo:  Danny today at Harlem Meer. Is his distress due to wayward hooks, lines and sinkers?)

This morning I met with a Central Park Ranger in attempt to rescue Danny, the "loner" goose who has been at Harlem Meer more than a month.

I have been concerned about Danny for the past couple of weeks due to what seems some kind of blockage and/or inability to eat normally.

That concern escalated to near alarm when seeing Danny up close yesterday and noticing he had lost a significant amount of weight.   His sides appeared to be sunken in and his neck very thin.

Danny was so close to me yesterday that I was able to pet him and would have been able to grab him.  

In fact, Danny walked up to two other people and attempted to eat from their hands.  But inevitably, Danny dropped the offerings -- a pretty sure indicator that he is  suffering some kind of obstruction.

Unfortunately, with nothing to secure Danny in yesterday and two dogs with me, even had I been able to capture him, it would have been impossible to do anything beyond that.

Fast forward to today and the call to Park Rangers for help.

The "plan" was to meet, rescue Danny and bring him to the Wildbird Fund which serves as a small hospital for injured or sick wild birds.

But, of course, things don't always go according to plan or hope.

I arrived to the Meer before the park ranger.

Danny was in the water, but very close to the embankment.

I offered some food in effort to keep him close.  As usual, Danny was interested, but dropped most of it.

The "good news" is that Danny is still preening (good sign), doing some swimming on the water and is not totally debilitated. 

The "bad news" is that Danny is still preening, doing some swimming on the water and is not totally debilitated and helpless.  

These factors obviously make rescue difficult because when "threatened," Danny is capable of flight and escape on the water.

"Bob", (not his real name) the park ranger finally arrived with a pet carrier and a van.

But, he had to go to the Dana Center to request use of a fishing net.

When seeing the net, I thought it small for a Canada goose (or any large bird) as it seemed only adequate for a duck or pigeon.

But, Bob assured me he had used the same net successfully to capture geese with broken wings or who
were too weak to escape.

Danny was however, not at the point of actual death and was able to successfully maneuver out and away from the small net (although there were several very close attempts).

The ranger and I spent almost two hours trying to get Danny. But, each time the frightened goose would scramble away from the net at the last second and use his wings to get him out on the lake.  

We would wait for Danny to return to the embankment again, but it was inevitably the same scenario. 

The thing that most surprised me about this turn of events was not that Danny was able to escape (I didn't think him at the point of death, but did not want to wait around for that either), but that park rangers don't seem to be properly equipped for goose (or large bird) rescue -- unless the birds are severely debilitated or incapable of flight.

Certainly, park rangers are not equipped for goose rescue as USDA "Wildlife Services" are properly equipped for goose roundups and destruction any day or time of the year.

Just one more horrible irony to consider.

Still, the day was not a total loss or without any accomplishment.

While waiting for Bob to arrive, I found a wad of about 12 feet of fishing line in the water with a barbed hook on the end.

Grabbing the hook and line out of the lake, I then took it to an employee of Central Park Conservancy.

"THIS is the real menace to the wildlife on this lake as well as to the environment itself!" I said angrily. 

The young man took the line from me and answered, "Well, that is why we need volunteers like you to patrol the lakes and pick this stuff up."

I wanted to shout,  NO, that is why PARK RULES need to be ENFORCED AND THIS CRAP NOT LEFT AROUND TO CRIPPLE AND HARM WILDLIFE AND DAMAGE THE LAKE.!     But, I didn't answer.  They could tell from my body language what I thought about the "recreational fishing" at Harlem Meer.

Even at 11AM there were scores of kids and other people fishing all around the Meer, many of them throwing slices of white bread into the water which then attracted the ducks and even poor Danny.   

"Small wonder the birds and turtles wind up crippled with fishing line or embedded with hooks.  This is WHY the birds need rescue!" I said to the man from the Conservancy.

Meanwhile, the park ranger went to the people throwing bread on the water (to "attract fish") and advised them such was not allowed due to potential harm to water and birds.   The mother with two small kids pretended not to know the rules.

The ranger later told me privately that he agreed the fishing should not be allowed in Central Park as obviously it is not monitored properly and thus adds to the challenges of his job. -- A job that is apparently not easy unless the birds are moribund and have in his words, "given up."

I don't know and cannot prove what is the exact cause of Danny's obstruction and obvious distress.

But, it could certainly be fishing related -- which is my greatest concern for any geese who hang around Harlem Meer.

When a couple of years ago, many geese used to stay at the Meer during late summer and fall, at least three of them had been crippled by fishing line ensnared around the legs.  

But (as today), even a Park Ranger was unable to capture the maimed geese due to their ability to fly and escape.

(Last year a turtle was hooked at Harlem Meer. The turtle turned his head inside the shell and NO ONE knew how to remove the barbed hook and line.  This is the main reason I don't go to Harlem Meer during heavy fishing times. -- It is too upsetting and distressing.)

It seems geese have to be at the point of death to be successfully rescued. Something, once again, I personally did not want to wait for.

Was it a mistake calling the Rangers this soon?


But, we did get a big wad of fishing line and a barbed hook out of the water.

I just have to hope that this so-called "recreational fishing" in Central Park doesn't in fact represent the actual "hook, line and sinker" to Danny, the goose unable to eat for some sort of obstruction in his gullet.

Were I queen of the world, I would ban this crap yesterday for lack of enforcement of rules.

Park officials may request citizen enforcement and monitoring, but for one elderly woman this week in Central Park, such "citizen involvement" resulted in rape, assault and robbery.

Its not just geese and turtles who have to fear hooks, lines, sinkers -- and law breakers. 

It is humans, as well  --  PCA