Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Aftermath of Monster Storm -- Did Our Wildlife Survive?

I and the residents of the Upper East Side of Manhattan are extremely fortunate, considering the hit our city has taken over the past day from hurricane Sandy. 

At least 10 people dead, the lower part of Manhattan without power. Subways flooded and God only knows how many people lost their homes.  The devastation is unimaginable.

Virtually, everything is shut down.  Stores, bridges, tunnels, businesses and schools closed.  No transit running. All city parks closed until further notice.

Almost a million people are without power in New York City.

I am of course praying Wiggly, Honker, Little Brad and all the other birds and wildlife of Central Park survived.  But I won't know anything until I can get to Harlem Mere and the Boat Lake again. 

For sure, it had to be a very rough couple of days for the wildlife of our city parks.

If I am optimistic about anything, it is that the neighborhoods surrounding Central Park did not suffer the crushing damages of other locations throughout New York.   Hurricane Sandy did not produce that much rain in this area.   However the winds sometime gusted more than 60 MPH.

Sidewalks and streets are covered in leaves, fallen tree branches, debris and twigs.  But, surprisingly, all the trees in this neighborhood, (including newly planted small trees) remain standing.

I am cautiously optimistic, (but again, not sure) that most, if not all of the ducks and geese in Central Park made it through -- as it appears, almost all of the trees did.

It was wise that Central Park took the precaution of lowering water levels in most of the park's watercourses.

Apparently, the East River overflowed on parts of the FDR drive and water gushed as far inland as York Avenue.

Hopefully, the lower water levels in Central Park helped to prevent ponds and lakes from overflowing banks and causing destruction to plant and animal life. 

The reason parks are closed today is so that workers can assess any damages, conduct clean-ups and assure park safety.

I am reasonably confident (but again not sure) that Central Park will reopen tomorrow.

I cannot wait to get back to seek out and hopefully find our precious little animal friends again.

Wiggly, Honker, Little Brad and pals, we have not forgotten about you.  -- PCA


Monday, October 29, 2012

Approaching Storm, Frolicking Geese and "Proficient Egg Layers"

(Photos: 1-- Wiggly, top duck at Harlem Mere..  2 -- "Frolicking" goose at Boat Lake yesterday. 3--  "Jack and Jill" -- Khaki Campbell (domestic) ducks at Boat Lake yesterday.)

Before the Storm -- Alarm Sounding

Central Park closed yesterday at 5 PM due to the major storm that is projected to hit NYC today.  High winds are expected to knock down trees and therefore the park could become dangerous even before the rain actually arrives.

The birds at Harlem Mere seemed to sense something in the air, even though the past few nights have been more representative of the "calm before the storm."  

Temperatures have been mild with barely a breeze to stir the water.

Nevertheless, the migratory geese left Harlem Mere a couple of nights ago, along with a number of mallards.

Friday night, Wiggly (one of the two domestic ducks at the Mere) swam around in the water constantly honking.  At first, I thought the loud shrieking was due to her gal pal, Honker having wandered away. But, even when Honker answered her calls and returned to her side from across the lake, Wiggly continued "alarm"  honking and quacking incessantly. 

It was very strange as to be almost eerie.

Since the death of her protege, Brad, last month, Wiggly has appeared to become the "top duck" at Harlem Mere in terms of status.  She has taken on many of the vigilance and dominace behaviors and postures of her former mentor and companion.

I am guessing the kind of "hyper-alertness" and alarm-sounding behavior displayed Friday night by Wiggly is example of her willingness to accept top reign at Harlem Mere -- along with the responsibility that goes along with it.

I am reasonably confident that both Wiggly and Honker will survive the "super storm" that hurricane Sandy is predicted to be.  I am hoping that "Little Brad" (the injured and recovering mallard) will be smart enough to hang with and follow the lead of the two now formidable and (thanks to the original Brad) well schooled and educated ducks.  

So far, Little Brad has been doing exactly that and I trust he will continue so during the actual storm.

Frolicking Geese -- Play Hard while the Going is Good?

Yesterday morning (Saturday) I went to the Boat Lake to check on the waterfowl situation there.

Unlike Harlem Mere (and specifically, Wiggly) the night before, none of the ducks or geese at the Boat Lake seemed in any way perturbed or alarmed.  On the contrary, they appeared to simply enjoy to the hilt, a peaceful October morning on the still and quiet water.

There were several families of Canada geese at the Boat Lake.

I don't think I have ever seen geese quite so frolicking and playful as the 20 or so geese observed yesterday.

Indeed, a number of them appeared like acrobats in a circus!  The geese performed somersaults in the water, literally going upside down, turning on their sides and practically doing back flips.  Others dunked and dived in the water, while still others were content to flap their wings and busily preen their feathers.

Was all of this almost frenetic activity an attempt to have fun and party hard while the going was good?


Because for sure, once the storm actually starts with up to 80 MPH wind gusts and driving rains, all the birds will have to hunker down, protect themselves and potentially even go a day or two without food.

"Proficient Egg Layers?"

In apparent anticipation of heavy rains and potential flooding, Central Park appears to have recently drained and lowered the levels of its manmade lakes and other watercourses.

While not especially noticeable at the fairly large Reservoir and Boat Lake, it was almost shocking to observe the water level at Harlem Mere lowered by almost two feet these past few days.

This makes it difficult for the domestic (flightless) ducks, Wiggly and Honker to easily hop up on embankments and grass, though the two are pretty creative in figuring other means.

Personally, I will be happy when the storm passes and water levels are restored back to normal.   The domestic water birds especially have enough challenges just bracing for and surviving the actual storm, as well as generally learning to live in the wild.

Speaking of "domestic ducks," I finally saw yesterday the two Khaki Campbell ducks who, according to witnesses were left at the Boat Lake in August, (supposedly to save them from slaughter).  I have taken the liberty of naming the romantic pair, "Jack and Jill" after the popular nursery rhyme.

(Khaki Campbell is also the seeming breed of both Wiggly and Honker at Harlem Mere who presumably were rescued from some waterfowl slaughtering plant and released to Central Park.)

Unlike Wiggly and Honker who are both girls, Jack and Jill at the Boat Lake are obviously a boy and girl (the males have a darker head and more striking color.)

The male and female Campbells at the Boat Lake appear to be inseparable and devoted to each other.  Wiggly and Honker, by contrast are not quite so attached at the hip and though mostly together have greater tendency to wander.

One wonders in noting a number of domestic ducks released to Central Park (and other parks) over the years, why they don't successfully breed and we end up with entire flocks of domestic ducks?

I am not sure of the answer to that, but suspect that although these domestic ducks appear more than capable of surviving in the wild, they apparently do not know how to nest in the outdoors or protect their eggs from predation.

This past spring for example, Wiggly appeared to have dropped an egg in the grass at Harlem Mere. At the time, she, Piggly and Brad walked around the egg, but Wiggly did not sit on it nor did she lay the egg in a safe and protected location.  She simply appeared confused and didn't know what to do.

So, while their wild instincts may kick in when forced to survive in the outside world, I don't believe the domestic ducks abandoned to city parks have quite figured out the art of laying and protecting their eggs yet, much less mastering the challenges of raising young in the outdoors. 

If and when that ever happens we could one day be dealing with the "invasive species" in  city parks known as Khaki Campbell ducks.

From the information available on Khaki Campbell ducks, they are supposed to be very "proficient egg layers."

Hm, stay tuned.....   --- PCA


Friday, October 26, 2012

Connections of Consciousness and Becoming One -- Survival of Ducks and Geese

(Photos:  "Little Brad" and visiting migratory geese.) 

Bracing for a "Frankenstorm"

A "Frankenstorm" is supposed to hit New York City on Monday.

One has to hope the predictions for severe and unusual storm are overly inflated.

But, if not, I worry for the ducks I see each night. Particularly, the flightless ones, Wiggly and Honker at Harlem Meer, as well as "Little Brad" the mallard who is recovering from some attack or injury from a couple of weeks ago.

Although Little Brad is doing amazingly well, (particularly over the past few days), I am not sure he is yet strong enough to survive a potentially devastating storm. 

Wiggly and Honker, though healthy and hearty domestic ducks, have never faced severe and extreme weather challenges.   Wiggly did survive last winter with the guidance and protection of Brad (who died last month), but it was in fact, a mild winter in New York City.

One imagines the mallards and occasional migratory geese stopping over at the Meer will find suitable cover from the storm.

But, for those without the power of flight, the upcoming week could represent significant challenge and stress.

Keeping my fingers crossed and saying a prayer for my special duckies.
Connection of Consciousness

Despite the similarities in birds of the same species, when there is injury, human attention is drawn.

And so my attention was drawn to "Little Brad" early last week when noticing the crippled mallard struggling to hop around on one leg and constantly falling over.

Because special efforts have been made on my part to get extra nourishment to Little Brad, it seems a kind of "bond" has been created between the compromised drake and myself.

Little Brad is the first duck to greet me each night at Harlem Meer, as well as he is the first duck to "escort" me out when I leave, usually by following me in the water.

Little Brad and I have in fact, established a special kind connection and routine.

As soon as I arrive, Little Brad hobbles out of the water and comes to greet.  I bend down and offer seeds from my hand to him, while trying to ward off the other ducks (including Wiggly and Honker) who quickly move in. 

Lately, Little Brad has been holding his own, despite some very nasty attacks from other mallards.  Moreover, he is gaining strength in the injured leg which is apparently not broken.  

Little Brad has been putting weight on the battered leg in the past few days and is now able to walk albeit painfully.

After some time of warding off attacks and quickly scooping up as much cracked corn and sunflower seeds as he can get, Little Brad eventually hobbles back to the water.   He then watches me from the edge of the lake until I gather my dogs to leave.

And then like a drum major in the front of the parade, Little Brad swiftly follows, as I leave the Meer with my two dogs.   He follows all the way to the southern most tip of the Meer, with the other ducks swimming behind him.

It is the most remarkable and fascinating thing to observe -- and in fact, completely reminiscent of the other duck, Little Brad is named after.  

Original Brad was of course, my most beloved duck at Harlem Meer for the past several years.

Tragically, Brad mysteriously died last month.

But, how strange and almost eerie to see his name-sake exemplifying the exact same behaviors.

I can only attribute it to a special kind of connection of consciousness.
"Becoming One"

Over the past week, several flocks of migratory Canada geese have stopped over at Harlem Mere, presumably, on their way to their winter habitats.

The geese typically only stay one day and then quickly move on.

One cannot describe the thrill of seeing once again, these gorgeous and forever majestic, proud and often funny angels of the skies.

Stopping to feast on grass and rest for an evening, the geese are not without their antics.

The gander from one family the other night, chased another gander in the water with gusto and other flock members following in support.

A few minutes later, all the geese returned back to their families, though with more "respectful" distance between the two flocks when on the grass.

Last night, there was numerous "pecking order" behavior displayed with what appeared sibling rivalries.  One youngster pushes another and sometimes the parents have to play referees.

But, one knows that in the end, the geese will get their act together when the serious time comes for them to move on.

Loyalty, courage and organization in the animal kingdom are nowhere better displayed than in the life patterns and migratory habits of Canada geese.

Anyone who doubts that need only watch the two videos

When danger lurks, gaggles of Canada geese indeed become one. --  Perhaps one of the prime reasons for their very high and deeply admirable survival rates.   -- PCA


Saturday, October 20, 2012

No Walk in the Park for NYC Wildlife -- Assemblymember Pushes Vital Bill

(Photos:  "Lil' Brad." -  Crippled drake at Harlem Mere.  Suspected victim of dog attack.)

Animals Shot with Blow Gun at Pelham Bay Park and Vital State Legislation to Address Wildlife Cruelty:

Anyone following this blog is already familiar with New York City's "war on geese" which has resulted in the needless and exceedingly cruel deaths of more than 4,000 Canada geese living in city parks and a wildlife refuge in just the past three years.  (Such massacre was wildly accelerated this year by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D) NY who is up for reelection and virtually guaranteed to win.)

But, animal cruelty in city parks is not limited to Canada geese.

Over the past several weeks, geese, gulls and at least one squirrel were shot with a blow gun at Pelham Bay Park and four of the animals have since died.   The incidents were reported in the "A Walk in the Park" blog by Geoffrey Croft and numerous local media outlets, including CBS and ABC news:

In response to these heinous attacks on innocent wildlife, NY state Assemblymember, Linda Rosenthal (D)has urged swift passage of her bill A-1843-D which would make aggravated cruelty to wildlife for no justifiable purpose a felony offense.   

It is urged that everyone who cares about the protection of wildlife in our city parks  contact their state legislators to support this vital and necessary bill. If you don't know who your state representatives are, you can call the League of Women Voters at (212) 725-3541 during regular business hours to find out or contact them online. 

The repeated cruelties to wildlife in city and state parks should not be tolerated.

Prospect Park Swan Continues to Suffer Distress:

In response to my recent blog posting regarding the long sordid history of animal cruelty at Prospect Park in Brooklyn, a reader submitted the following comment:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Prospect Park, New York: A Sordid History and Hotb...":

"I saw the swan with the embedded line today. The line is all frayed and I could see a dark metal object attached to the breast of the swan. I don't think it is a fishing line - it looks more like a rope that frayed.The swan was pulling at it but could not remove it. The object is attached to the breast, about 10 inches above the left leg toward the neck. It can only be seen when the swan is standing. There is also something hanging from the right side.

I would not be surprised if this injury resulted from an attempt to catch the swan or other wildlife for food. All around the south and east shore of the lake people have been camping since spring. There are all kinds of tents made with plastic sheeting, disguised with branches. The shore and water is full of litter.

I have no expectations of the park rangers. They rarely leave their vehicles. They usually drive around the main roads or park their cars in secluded spots and work their phones. Also, physical fitness does not seem to be a requirement to be a park ranger. I can't see them trying to catch anything."

Although I don't live near Prospect Park and have not personally seen the inured swan, I believe every word in the above comment to be true.

As noted numerous times in this journal, Urban Park Rangers are not properly equipped to do any serious animal rescue and the leadership of Prospect Park is particularly indifferent to animal cruelty.

Obviously, the swan is suffering and in "distress" despite all the PP claims to the contrary.   

"Lame Ducks"

Most of us are familiar with the phrase, "Lame Duck" usually to refer to a second term Presidency.

However, actual lame ducks (and geese) can also be a fairly familiar sight in city parks.

Over the years, I have seen a number of lame waterfowl, usually due to fishing line entanglements.  

But, ducks and geese can be victims to other types of cruelty as well. One of the most common is attacks by off-leash dogs.

Almost two years ago, "Joey" a white Pekin duck was attacked by a dog on the icy lake at Harlem Mere (in Central Park) in the middle of winter. Joey suffered a gaping bite wound on the top of his back. 

Fortunately, because the domestic duck was incapable of flying, he was able to be rescued by park rangers and was subsequently treated and adopted out.

Other ducks are apparently not so lucky.

Last week, I observed an owned, off-leash dog in the water at Harlem Meer, chasing mallards.

I began to approach the owners of the smallish, terrier-type dog to say something, but they quickly called their dog back and moved away.

A few nights later, I noticed a severely crippled mallard at the Mere.

The drake, (whom I have since named, "Lil' Brad") is unable to use his left leg at all and appears to have missing tail and back feathers. Though one cannot be certain how such injury occurred, it is easy to speculate the duck might have been grabbed by a dog and managed to escape.

Lil' Brad is unable to walk without holding the crippled leg up and falling over. He is unable to use the damaged leg when swimming.

What is particularly pitiful is that other ducks, when noticing the disabilities of Lil Brad, harass and go after him. (Ducks are not as kindly to their injured as geese are.)  This is particularly true if Lil Brad is hobbling around on land. Fortunately, Lil Brad is still able to fly -- at least enough to get him quickly back to the water and away from danger.

I found Lil Brad last night roosting about 10 to 15 feet away from the other ducks on the grass.   If he previously had a flock, he is somewhat separated or "shunned" now presumably due to the injury.

I am not sure if Lil Brad will be able to survive the upcoming winter. For the moment the weather is good, there is sufficient food and there are about 30 ducks remaining at the Mere since the visiting flocks flew out after feasting on duck weed for more than a month.

Winter can be a very different story however.  Unless large gaggles of migratory geese fly in to help maintain open water through the winter, Harlem Mere is likely to freeze over.

I have a feeling that Lil Brad, (like the domestic ducks, Wiggly and Honker) will be forced to remain at the Mere regardless of conditions due to his injury.  Should the three ducks be the only waterfowl there over the winter, survival could be very precarious and uncertain.

Those people thinking it "cute" that their dogs go into water to harass and sometimes injure or even kill wildlife don't deserve to have a "pet" as they have little real respect or understanding for any animal life.

Let us hope that Assemblymember, Linda Rosenthal gets support on her very needed proposed legislation.

Until there is meaningful penalty and consequence, cruelty towards wildlife in city parks will shamefully continue.  

It is indeed, no "walk in the park" for our city's remaining wildlife. -- PCA


Monday, October 15, 2012

October Movements (Geese Migrations and Prospect Park Update)

(Photo:  One of the geese at the Boat Lake in Central Park yesterday.)

Safe Sanctuary

A pleasant and informative report today from a wildlife refuge in Maryland:

Thousands of migratory geese on the move these days. 

For those arriving to the particular Maryland refuge, it is a wise choice as the refuge is free from the guns of autumn. Apparently, the only "shooting" that occurs in this location is that done with cameras. The quest for beautiful photos can be every bit as challenging and exciting as what hunters claim hunting to be.

What is somewhat mystifying is the fact that most migratory geese travel this time of year, however, those migratory geese wintering in New York City don't usually arrive until later.

Last year, migratory geese staying in Central Park for winter did not arrive until the first week in December (Exactly on my birthday to be precise.  I was very excited with the special present last year.)

One wonders if those geese wintering further north wait until a later time to migrate? Are they more comfortable with cold?  Or, are they just smarter about avoidance of hunters? 

The hunting season is over in most locations by December.

There are a few new geese in Central Park over the past couple of weeks. But, I am reasonably certain those are NYC "resident" geese simply doing their local migrations.

Buster and his "bad family" returned back to the Boat Lake almost two weeks ago.  And since then another flock of resident geese was observed at Harlem Meer for a couple of days and approximately ten other geese have arrived to the Boat Lake over the past week.

I cannot be absolutely certain, but it seems that Mama and Papa geese might have returned back to the Boat Lake with three of their adult kids as of yesterday.

The five geese were in the water near the Oak Bridge. 

One of them appeared smaller and darker than the others and looked up at me when I called out, "Mama?  Is that you?" 

But, since I could not see their feet or observe them walking, I could not be certain of identity.   (Mama has missing webbing on one foot and her mate, Papa walks with a pronounced limp.)

I shared this speculation with Lianna who regularly monitors the Boat Lake.  She is on special alert to let me know if in fact, Mama and Papa return to the Boat Lake.

Mama and Papa are of course very special and cherished geese who usually return to Central Park in October.  

It is sure sign of "fall migrations" when these two resident geese return to their familiar wintering spot.

Both, Lianna and I are keeping our fingers crossed.

Prospect Park Dalliances

This morning, a top official of the Prospect Park Alliance finally returned my phone message of almost two weeks ago, regarding fishing abuses and/or wildlife neglect at PP.

The conversation was not pleasant.

I attempted to discuss several matters with the official from the gassing of 368 Prospect Park geese in 2010 to current harassment of geese in winter to fishing injuries to wildlife to the swan currently in distress at Prospect Park due to an attached cord (and hook?) of some kind. 

The official's answers?

"USDA rounded up the geese in 2010."  "Volunteers talk to the fishermen and pick up debris."   "Experts determine goose control measures."   "Rangers could not get swan and determined the swan to be OK."

The man talked a mile a minute and it was difficult to get a word in edgewise. I had to become somewhat like Joe Biden in the debate last week (i.e. interrupting) -- though without the derisive laughter.

There were responses to all of the excuses and explanations, some of which have been previously covered in this blog.

Yes, it was USDA that rounded up and gassed all of Prospect Park's resident geese in 2010.  But, the park was complicit in that decision and signed off on it.

Yes, volunteers try to talk to fishermen and prevent fishing injuries to wildlife, but they do not have power of law enforcement.

Any "expert" who recommends harassing migratory geese in winter is lacking  knowledge on goose migratory patterns (migratory geese leave on their own accord in February) as well as responsible for wastes of money and cruelty to birds trying to survive in winter.  

Finally, I told the gentleman that Urban Park Rangers are not properly equipped for water bird rescue until such time the birds are almost dying.   That is simply not acceptable.

It was surprising that the gentleman could not tell me how many geese are currently in PP. 

Apparently, the PP Alliance signs contracts with a goose harassment company without actually knowing how many geese are in the park.

This past year no harassment measures of any kind were conducted on the geese at Central Park because according to Conservancy officials, "The geese's numbers are too low."

This was a correct and responsible assessment.

It is important for park leaderships to be aware of actual goose numbers in the park -- especially when harassment or "culling" operations are considered or undertaken.

"Harassing" a handful of birds in a park is unnecessary, cruel and a waste of tax or donation funds. Harassment of migratory birds in winter is completely senseless and pointless.

In essence, the leadership of Prospect Park remains questionable and not at all on par with that of Central Park.

I am proud and thankful to live near a park that maintains a sense of care and responsibility towards its wildlife.  

Sadly, we simply cannot say the same for Prospect Park.  -- PCA


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Birds and Voters on the Move

The days are growing short, temperatures cooling and the birds are on the move.

Now that almost all of the duckweed at Harlem Mere is gone, it appears that the large flocks of mallards who had been recently feasting on it have moved on to presumably greener pastures

It was surprising last night to find only the familiar resident ducks at the Mere. -- The 30 or 40 who are there most of the year. (This number includes the two domestic flightless ducks, Wiggly and Honker for whom the Mere represents their home regardless of weather or food supplies.)

The number of mallards had been almost as high as couple of hundred over the past six weeks at Harlem Mere.

But, still there are no Canada geese -- a situation that would be utterly shocking in past years during the early fall.

But, in light of recent goose massacres that have especially escalated throughout New York City in the past three years, the sight of few or no geese in Central Park is no longer a surprise. 

It has rather become the "new normal."

(Though it cannot be stated with proof or certainty, based on simple, personal observances, I would guess the resident goose population in NYC to have been wiped out by nearly 90% over the past three years.)

This year we have Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D) NY to particularly "thank" for our much depleted goose population in the five boroughs.


Gillibrand's personal crusade to round up and slaughter more than 700 geese from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and other areas this summer resulted in a resounding "success" whose impact is now felt around the city.

Oddly enough, the Senator humbly fails to brag about this "accomplishment" either in her TV commercials or on her FB page.

But, I for one will not forget Gillibrand's lofty crusade and its ultimate success this Election Day.  It is one of the prime reasons for turning against both Gillibrand and her party this November even though still being a registered democrat.

(The only democrat still supported is personal city councilman, Dan Garodnick because a goose cull has not occured in Central Park and his office was responsive and supportive to  requests for their protection.)

It is one way to demonstrate extreme dissatisfaction with what has occurred over the past 4 years (though there are other reasons for the decision).

It has been a depressing experience watching geese slowly vanish in Central Park over the past 3 years even though the park itself had nothing to do with goose massacres.

The hand of the federal government reaches far beyond the halls or buildings of DC.  It in fact reaches into the ponds and lakes of our urban parks much to the dismay of many of us attending those parks or surrounding areas. 

And then they send us a tax bill for goose massacres at a time our national debt is 16 trillion dollars.

Change is desperately needed in Washington. 

The question is, can it come in time to save either the few surviving geese in NYC and a fiscal economy going over a cliff?

Perhaps those 100+ mallards had good reason to leave New York City over the past few days that had nothing to do with duck weed.

It is, simply put, no longer a bird friendly town. -- PCA


Friday, October 12, 2012

Reality Bites (wildlife and political)

(Photo:  Wiggly and flock mate, Honker at Harlem Meer.)

Prospect Park, Fishing Hook Swan

The Prospect Park Alliance is claiming they are "trying" to rescue the swan with the imbedded fishing hook, but we need to take that with a huge grain of salt. PP Alliance has failed to return a simple phone message on the matter and that requires far less effort than rescue and removal of fishing tackle from a water bird.  

It's utterly fascinating that 368 Canada geese were rounded up tor gassing two years ago at PP, but leadership claim they "can't capture" one swan.

Perhaps the PP Alliance should call USDA "Wildlife Services" to capture the swan as USDA was so efficient two years ago in "teamwork" and bird capture. 

But, the Alliance would have to request that USDA leave its mobile gas chambers at home. 

Removal of fishing tackle is one matter. "Removal" of the birds, something else.
Seeing Double

As reported in this blog, Wiggly, one of the two surviving domestic ducks at Harlem Mere has taken on many of the behaviors of Brad, her former mentor and companion who perished more than two weeks ago.

I am now used to Wiggly being the first duck to greet me when arriving to at the Mere as Brad always did.

However, what has seemed downright eerie is the way Wiggly now follows me when leaving the Mere -- and leads a small flock of ducks with her.

This particular image and new behavior is so reminiscent of Brad, it prompted me to tears the other night.

It was as if suddenly seeing double.
Political Bites

Most Americans are these days caught up in the political debates and run for the White House.

Last night, there was the debate between to the two Vice Presidential candidates, current Vice President Joe Biden and challenger Rep. Paul Ryan.

Martha Raddatz did an exceptional job as moderator, Ryan was respectful and on top of his game and Biden seemingly overdosed on laughing gas or Red Bull.

Admittedly, I am not a fan of the current administration due mostly  to massive federal goose (and other wildlife) slaughters over the past 4 years, as well as perceived dishonesty in foreign and domestic affairs.  Perhaps I am now biased.

But, I personally found Biden's smirks, laughs and interruptions annoying, condescending and unbefitting a VP of United States

Biden's attempts at emotional manipulation for sympathy or votes were even more troubling and offensive.

Especially the mention of his former wife and daughter dying in car accident.  Were Biden using the tragedy to propose legislation on automobile safety, one might have understood.  But, it was just thrown in there (as in previous debates) as seeming emotional ploy. 

Ditto on the issue of abortion which is not an over-riding and pressing issue these days.

Though Biden would seemingly want us to believe that appointed Supreme Court justices make up or write their own laws from the bench, the fact is they rule on legal issues brought before them.   Scare tactics are really not helpful in political discord.

But, not to worry.

Romney received endorsement today from actress Lindsay Lohan. 

That surely provides ticket to the White House despite whatever happens in debates or the millions spent by both parties on political campaigns.  -- PCA


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Prospect Park, New York: A Sordid History and Hotbed for Animal Cruelty

(Photo:  Injured swan at Prospect Park, Brooklyn with what appears to be fishing hook and line dangling from underside.) 

During the 1960's and 70's Prospect Park in Brooklyn was known as one of the most dangerous areas in New York City due to various crimes against humans such as muggings, robberies and even murder.

These days, Prospect Park has become the poster child for animal cruelty.

At the break of dawn on July 8th, 2010, agents for the USDA descended upon Prospect Park and rounded up 368 flightless Canada geese and their babies and hauled them off for gassing.

Among the 368 geese sent to their deaths from Prospect Park were "Target" and "Beaky." 

Target and Beaky had previously garnished media attention due to their survival of human caused injury. 

Target had survived an arrow through his neck which he miraculously pulled out himself a week or two after the incident.  Goose With Arrow in Its Neck Gets Free - NYTimes.com   Beaky had survived a twisted beak due to a fishing hook injury.

But, despite their courage, celebrity, and adaptability, neither goose was spared his/her life by either USDA "Wildlife Services" or the Prospect Park Alliance.  

The goose massacre was conducted with full knowledge and permission from the leadership of the Prospect Park Alliance.  

Although Prospect Park officials initially lied to concerned park goers when questioned where all the geese had gone that fateful July morning ("They flew away") two bird knowledgeable individuals knew the geese were flightless during the molt and reported the sudden disappearance to the New York Times which then broke the story and wrote several follow-ups:   .   

But, the extermination of all its park geese is not where cruelty to animals ends in Prospect Park.

In fact, since the horrific 2010 goose massacre at Prospect Park, numerous other incidents of animal cruelty have persistently occurred, most of which garner neither media attention nor any semblance of care on the part of Prospect Park.

These include, but are not limited to numerous fishing hook and line injuries to swans, cormorants, turtles and at least one mallard.  The disposal of slaughtered chicken corpses in the park. And most recently, fishing hook and line injuries to a swan and reportedly a Great Horned Owl.

The photo above of the injured swan (with what appears a hook and dangling fishing line on its underside) was posted on several Facebook sites over the past few days, along with a plea for help for the suffering swan.

This is the response from the Prospect Park Alliance which claims to be "monitoring" the situation:

"Our Natural Resources Crew went out today to take a look, saw the swan swimming and eating and believes it is ok. We will continue to monitor it, but will not try to intervene unless it shows itself to be in a lot more distress. We also notified the Urban Park Rangers and they sent a team out but were unable to catch it. Thank you for letting us know about the swan."

It is no surprise that Urban Park Rangers were unable to rescue the suffering swan. As previously noted, NYC urban rangers are unequipped to rescue any sick or injured bird that is in water.  Rangers are provided with no kayaks or dingys to go on water.  Indeed, they are not even provided with nets suitable for a large bird rescue. 

Apparently, rangers have to wait until a water bird is quite literally dying and "lost its fight" -- and also happens to be swept to land before they are able to secure a rescue.

The Prospect Park Alliance stating it will "not intervene unless the swan shows itself to be in a lot more distress" is undeniable proof of this, as well as it seems to demonstrate an almost callous disregard for animal suffering.

If one's dog was walking around with an imbedded fishing hook and line, the owner would be reported to the SPCA for animal cruelty and neglect (even if not personally causing the injury) and would likely be held criminally responsible.  

Prospect Park is the technical "owner" of the injured swan. For it to claim the swan is not in sufficient "distress" to warrant attention is the height of denial, but seemingly  representative and reflective of the Alliance's long disregard for wildlife and animals in its park.

Even two years following the brutal resident goose extermination from Prospect Park, visiting geese continue to be maligned and harassed in this location.  

This past January,  Prospect Park employed "Goosebusters" to haze visiting migratory geese in the middle of winter. The hazing and harassment continued to the point of visiting NYC geese starting to molt in mid June.  Only a tiny handful of geese remained in Prospect Park through this summer's molting period.   Any number more than a dozen would likely have been subjected to another USDA "cull."

Unlike Central Park which has a fluctuating population of about 25 -30  "resident" geese (who have never been rounded up and killed)  Prospect Park has zero resident geese as they were all exterminated in 2010.   But, even those geese briefly passing through the location are endlessly and needlessly harassed as it is apparent Prospect Park's "tolerance" for resident geese is zero.

But, for those swans, cormorants, turtles and mallards who magically survive at Prospect Park, there is always the danger and threat from illegal barbed hooks, arrows and discarded fishing lines.

Prospect Park's attitude is, they (the animals) are not "distressed" enough to warrant attention or protection.

Barbarity, denial and "murder" never actually left Prospect Park.

They simply changed species. -- PCA


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wiggly's Playground (and other Duck and Goose Updates)

(Photos:  1--  Buster and his gang of seven.  Back now from whatever "goose spa" they were at for the past three months.  2--  Whiteface: The mystery of his flock's "goose spa" seemingly solved. 3-- Wiggly and Honker last night at Harlem Mere.  Adapting to change and loss. Together again.)

The Buster is Back (and his gaggle of brats)

I was apparently wrong the other day when speculating that the family of 8 geese who arrived to the Boat Lake this past week were not Buster and his "bad family."

The geese looked so spiffy, youthful and robust, I apparently did not recognize Buster who over the spring and summer sported tufts of missing feathers along his chest (souvenirs of past goose battles, no doubt).  

But, according to Lianna who regularly monitors the Boat Lake, the new family is in fact, the old family -- or "bad family" as she calls Buster and his gang of seven (comprised of"wife," Bonnie and six kids hatched this past spring). 

Apparently, Buster ran out the 5 geese from Turtle Pond who made the mistake of hopping to the Boat Lake yesterday.

"All of a sudden, Buster came flying across the lake with his neck stretched out and honking!" reported Lianna yesterday.  "He went right towards the 5 geese and they had to immediately take off!  Oh, Buster is so bad!  And now, he has his army of grown kids behind him!"

Both Lianna and I are worried for Mama and Papa goose should they happen to return to the Boat Lake shortly as they are expected to.

Unless Papa shows up with his own "army" of adult kids from 2010, the older gander is not going to be able to take on Buster and his now fully grown gaggle of brats.

Buster's feathers may have changed, but not his behavior.

The Mystery of Whiteface

Whiteface and his flock of seven geese were not at Harlem Mere last night.  Apparently, the mere was just a brief stopover for them as it has been for other geese over the spring and summer.

However, part of this flock's mystery may have been solved.  Specifically, where the Reservoir geese spent the last 12 weeks after leaving the Reservoir at the completion of the summer molt in late July.

Apparently, they'd been feasting and loafing at Morningside Park which is a little further north than Central Park.  

Another wildlife observer sent me a photo today of what she thought another white faced goose who had been at Morningside Park for some weeks.  

But, I am quite sure they are the same goose, right down to the black spot under Whiteface's eye.

And here I thought they had been at some luxury goose spa over the past 12 weeks -- or avian Botox clinic!

It is simply incredible, the differences in goose appearances from the times they go through the summer molt and the time barely three months later.

They are unrecognizable -- unless one ponders major plastic surgery.

Wiggly's Playground

It has been pleasing to see that Wiggly and Honker are back together again at Harlem Mere. 

The two domestic ducks had separated briefly following the tragic death and loss of their leader, Brad a few weeks ago.

I am not sure if it was some kind of grief or disorientation that caused the two ducks to wander from each other and be observed in different areas of the mere for almost two weeks.  But, thankfully, they have found each other again and established reconnection.

I believe it important for these two flightless ducks to be together and organized to face the challenges of the upcoming winter.

Fortunately, Wiggly has the advantage of having survived last winter under the protective and mentoring wing of Brad.

The Khaki Campbell duck has in fact taken on some of the behaviors of Brad over the past week or two, including being now the first duck to recognize and greet me when I arrive to the mere (something that was previously Brad's role).  Wiggly also seems to be establishing herself as the now "top duck" of Harlem Meer, though unlike Brad, she still has some tendencies towards flights of fancy and wandering.

Nevertheless, I am reasonably confident that Wiggly learned enough last winter from Brad to be able to settle down to seriousness and leadership over the next few months.

Harlem Mere seems to becoming fast, "Wiggly's Playground."  -- PCA