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


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