Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Adaptations -- The Ducks, Geese and Us

Canada goose.  In our zeal to "manage" their numbers through endless predation, do we alter their behavior and create a super adaptable bird?
"Slip, sliding away."  Domestic ducks quickly learn to adapt and navigate challenges of walking on ice.
Return of the Fair Weather Mallards

If one wasn't paying attention to weather reports or noticing temperature changes, one would know conditions are becoming more comfortable and favorable in NYC by the fact most of the mallards have returned to their familiar and regular haunts.

According to Liliana who monitors the Boat Lake in Central Park, many of the regular mallards returned during the past 24 hours and the same occurred at Harlem Mere in Central Park.

There is a reason I call them, "Fair weather mallards." 

When the going gets tough at park ponds and lakes with freezing ice, hurricanes or blizzards, the mallards leave.  As soon as conditions improve, they return.

Mallards (and geese) of course have the power of wing to take them to places more compatible with making it through the challenges of winter or severe storms. (Such as the Reservoir in Central Park.)

On the other hand, domestic ducks abandoned to city parks don't have either option or wing power to leave when conditions quickly go to hell.

They have to make up in smarts and fast adaptability what they lack in wing.

I was not sure that the four domestic ducks abandoned to Harlem Mere this past November would, in fact, be able to make it through a week of sub-freezing temperatures and a lake that literally froze over within 48 hours, quickly converting to a solid block of ice. 

But, as noted previously, one of the two other domestic ducks at the Mere (Wiggly) had survived there last winter and apparently remembered all she had learned and been taught.

Wiggly quickly assumed a leadership position, diligently working a tiny pool of open water without even taking breaks to eat and apparently showed the others what to do and how to survive.

Though initially appearing shocked and disoriented when slipping and sliding on the newly created ice, the four new domestic ducks were expertly navigating the ice like accomplished pro ice skaters within two days.

The "crash course" in learning was accomplished fully and seemingly within hours.

And now that these six domestic ducks who worked so hard to both maintain and create a large pool of open water have succeeded (and temperatures rise) the mallards again return to enjoy the fruits of others hard work.

They, and Hector the swan can now leisurely enjoy the safety and nourishment of the large pool of open water as temperatures (at least for the moment) rise in New York City.

What nature doesn't provide in brawn, she apparently provides in brain and quick adaptability.

Adaptability -- The Geese and Us

Speaking of "adaptability," it plays not only in the challenges of nature and weather, but also predation -- especially human predation.

In torpedoing various non-lethal methods of goose control in its latest contract with the city of New York, USDA Wildlife Services contends that egg addling causes resident geese to flee the states and nest in the sub-arctic, thus interfering with food supplies of migratory geese.  USDA even claimed some "200,000 resident Canada geese may be spending summer in the sub-arctic."  

Putting aside the virtual meaningless of the term "may" (I "may" have a mansion in the Bahamas, but the fact is, I don't),  this allegation contradicts almost everything else we know about "resident" geese, including other USDA claims of resident geese rarely moving more than 3 miles from original banding and homing location. 

True, resident geese might move if eggs are destroyed, but (A) isn't that what we supposedly want? and (B), why would they fly thousands of miles away and to a location they have never been?  This claim makes zero sense and appears to be a matter of USDA Wildlife Services throwing crap at the wall to see what sticks.

Nevertheless, If the above allegation is even remotely true, should we not consider that all the hunting, hazing, egg destruction and culling "pressure" we are putting on Canada geese might actually alter normal behavior and create an unusually smart, resilient and adaptable bird? 

The USDA contract further claims resident geese "breed younger than migratory geese." It cites tougher breeding conditions in the arctic responsible for that. 

But, it is more likely resident geese breed younger, simply because they HAVE to in order to "compensate" for all the human predation on them. 

This actually makes more sense in terms of what we know about other wildlife (example: coyotes) who breed more often and produce larger litters in areas they are endlessly hunted and culled.  It is the animals' response to heavy predation.  (As side note, I am not sure if the USDA claim about resident geese breeding younger is even true from what I have personally observed.  If true, it is likely in areas the geese are heavily hunted or culled and thus represents the geese's response and "compensation" to heavy predation.)

To put it mildly, the latest USDA Goose Removal Report and contract with the city of New York is highly disturbing on multiple levels, not the least of which is self-contradiction for the purposes of promoting a kill agenda.

And yet, there is one positive note in these otherwise dismal, misleading and self-promoting documents.

That is, that the contract for goose killings in NYC could be modified or canceled anytime with 90 day notice.

That is something we need to "adapt" our actions to and work to achieve. -- PCA


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Canada Geese: Poster Bird for Wildlife Mismanagement and Killing for Convenience

Canada goose:  Hapless victim of constant human error and lust to kill.
Thanks to David Karopkin of (27) GooseWatch NYC, we have obtained the goose kill contract between New York City and USDA Wildlife Services that runs through 2014.:

Many interesting things in this document.

In the "background" section for example, it is stated that thousands of live decoy and "semi domesticated" (emphasis supplied) Canada geese were released in the north east, starting in the early 1900's and continuing to the 1980's -- mostly for the benefit of hunters. 

Did it never occur to these biologists and other governmental entities that semi tame birds would have little fear of people and congregate in human populated areas (especially to avoid being hunted)?    Did it never occur to them that birds hatched and raised in the US would have no instinct to "migrate" to Canada or the Arctic?

Now, of course these same biologists and governmental entities say we have "too many" geese.  The goal is to "reduce" an estimated 257,000 geese in NY state to 85,000.

The funding for this mostly comes from Congressional appropriations which in just over a few years has run into hundreds of thousands of tax dollars.   Its costs roughly $230.00 PER GOOSE for these heinous and lethal roundups.

(Show a way for government to blow tax payer money down the drain -- in this case, trying to "correct" past errors -- and for sure, our legislators will vote for and fund it.)

Under "effectiveness," the contract states that the resident goose population in NYC has already been dramatically "reduced."   And yet the plan is to kill even more geese.

And although this contract states WS will not round up "less than 10 geese" in a site within 5 miles of airport, this past summer, USDA rounded up 6 geese from Clearview Park Golf Course:   13-00259 WS Records Review  

Although we cannot be certain, the evidence suggests the roundup of 6 hapless geese at the golf course on June 25th (bending and stretching USDA's own protocols) was conducted for purposes of sheer convenience.

On the exact same day (6-25-12), USDA rounded up 88 geese from nearby College Point Old Flushing Airport.  

Since the golf course was only five minutes away, USDA (and others) obviously decided to "kill 94 birds with one stone," so to speak.

The six pitiful geese at Clearview Park Golf Course represented absolutely zero "threat" to anyone or anything.  They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Their lives valued at less than zero (as all the other geese wrongfully destroyed over these past few years to try and undo a mistake.) 

Although USDA WS takes great pains to explain and document their claims and justifications for wildlife destruction, they cannot equate the roundup of six geese in a park with any kind of respect for anything -- even their own rules, statements and determinations.  The destruction of six geese from Clearview Park Golf Course this past summer, was in fact, "overkill" and a killing for convenience.

It seems strange that we would look to the same "experts" who were largely responsible for creating the so-called goose "overpopulation" problem in the first place for any "solutions" to it.

Just as government entities, hunters and so-called, biologists were wrong in nearly hunting Canada geese to extinction in the last century, they were also wrong in  "stocking" the north east with thousands of semi-domesticated birds who bore little behavior resemblance to their wild migrating cousins.

They are also wrong now in targeting for destruction these same geese who are nothing more than the offspring of what they created and planted for purposes of saving the species in the first place.

One screw-up should not justify and create room for more.  You make a mistake, learn to live with and adjust to it.

The tragic irony to all this is that none of the, "killing, repopulation, stocking and killing" cycle would have occurred in the first place had we simply created and nurtured tolerance, peace and understanding of wildlife (instead of regarding Canada geese and other wildlife as nothing more than targets for hunters' guns and arrows).

Perhaps no animal is more symbolic of almost constant wildlife mismanagement and overkill  than are Canada geese.

One suspects that were we finally to leave these highly intelligent and innocent birds alone, they would eventually regulate their own population to what the environment can support.

We as a species need to learn that sometimes less is more in terms of our interference and attempts to "manage" wildlife.

The geese and other animals had it figured out long before humans ever came upon the scene. -- PCA


Saturday, January 26, 2013

When the Going Gets Tough, One "Scatterbrain" Duck Emerges as Leader

Wiggly, the once "scatterbrain" Khacki Campbell domestic duck, now a bonified leader.
Working together, the ducks expanded the open pool of water, despite frigid temperatures.
Time to fuel up and take short break.
Wiggly remaining dutifully in water, while others eat.
Hector the swan, taking it easy while the others work.
"The coldest week in New York City since 1996."

Its nearly a week since temperatures in New York City plummeted to the low teens and virtually all of Central Park lakes and ponds froze over.

When last I left the six domestic ducks and one mallard at an iced over Harlem Mere on Thursday morning, they were reduced to confinement on a tiny pool of shrinking water not more than 5 or 6 feet in diameter.

I was convinced that the rapidly vanishing pool would not remain liquid through the night.

But, never discount the sheer determination of waterfowl when the going gets tough and the chips are down. 

Apparently, the "tough get going" and the chips fall where they will.

Wiggly, the one duck who survived last winter at the Mere and who I have long deemed a kind of "scatterbrain" apparently recognized the quandary all six ducks were in and remembered well the lessons she had been taught by her mentor, Brad (now deceased).

I am not exactly sure how Wiggly did it (other than showing by example), but somehow, she and the other six ducks managed, not only to maintain the tiny pool of water, but actually expand it! 

I fully expected yesterday to find all six ducks stranded on a frozen block of ice.

But, instead, they were all cheerfully and energetically swimming on a pool of water that was at least 20 feet in diameter!

How in the world? I thought when remembering the temperature the night before had plunged to 12 degrees, causing running water fountains in New York City to actually freeze.  It seemed impossible that with everything else in the city freezing over, this one pool of water would not only remain, but actually expand!  

The rest of the lake at Harlem Mere was so frozen solid, that one man foolishly ran across the ice, bouncing a basketball on it!

And yet, there were the ducks swimming in the pool, like it was a glorious spring day. I truly could not believe my eyes -- though was grateful for what I was seeing.

Similar to the previous day, the other ducks left the water to come and grab treats that I tossed on ice, while Wiggly remained determinedly swimming in the water.

The domestic ducks were much more confident and adept at "skating" on the ice than the previous day and even sauntered up to the embankment.

After about ten minutes, Wiggly, finally decided to take a short break and leave the grueling task at hand.   She left the water and walked a few steps on the ice to quickly scoop up some cracked corn.

But, after no more than a few mouth fulls, Wiggly let out a loud honk to the others and then dutifully returned to the water.

"It's time to get back to business, guys!  Now!!"

And like good soldiers just given marching orders, the other ducks slowly returned and joined Wiggly "working" the pool.

Though they are only six, the domestic ducks received additional help from one mallard, one coot and even some passing sea gulls yesterday.

The one bird they seemingly did not get any help from was Hector, the swan, who yesterday, casually sauntered around on grass begging treats from passersby.

Hector is apparently still unwilling to "lower dignity" for the sake of maintaining open water with the lowly ducks. If the pool freezes over, so be it.  He has other options.

Perhaps it shouldn't have been so shocking yesterday that the domestic, flightless ducks were able to maintain and actually create open water -- especially with the sheer determination and apparent "leadership" of the duck I once thought of as a total flake.

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

And though she may at other times be a "scatterbrain," when the chips are down, Wiggly steps up to the ice and becomes a bonified leader.

"Brad's legacy," one might say.

Wiggly was taught well last winter.  -- PCA


Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Iceman Cometh -- Ducks and Geese Work the Winter

Geese and assortment of ducks working the still open water at Central Park Reservoir.
Swim, swim, swim!!  1/3 of Reservoir now frozen, the birds work in concert to prevent further freezing.
Domestic ducks and one mallard on frozen ice at Harlem Mere.
Hector, the swan at Harlem Mere. "What, me worry? Not my problem!"
"The Iceman Cometh."

I cannot say what was seen this morning was not anticipated, but it was not expected quite so soon.

Harlem Mere was entirely frozen over.

A solid block of ice in all directions with nary a bird on it. 

The one family of geese and approximately 80 mallards who had been steadily at the Mere in recent weeks had apparently bailed in the middle of the night.

I could imagine the conversation among the mallards just before vacating:

"Look guys, its time to jump this ship!  Its too much work to try and keep this popsicle open.  We need to get to the Reservoir and hook up with the other ducks and geese. With no geese here now, this place is a doomed iceberg!"

And zoom!  Off they went!   Fair weather, opportunistic mallards.  Even my food bribes could not make them stay.

But, of course, not all of the ducks were gone from the Mere.

The six domestic ducks at the Mere had no choice but to stay on their frozen prison as they don't have the luxury of flying.

I finally found "Cochise, Conner, Connie, Carol, Wiggly and Honker" huddled together in a tiny, bath-tub sized pool of water near the Dana Center.  There was one mallard with them who I am quite sure is Oliver, the drake rescued a couple of months ago with a fishing line injury and released back to the Mere upon recovery.

But, only Wiggly seemed to understand the plight these seven birds are actually in.

While the others pulled themselves out of the tiny pool to skid across the ice and grab at cracked corn offered to them, Wiggly stoically remained swimming vigorous circles in the water in frantic effort to try and keep it open.

Wiggly is of course the only duck to have survived last winter at the Mere.  She was taught well by her mentor and taskmaster, Brad, that winter is not the time for breaks or slouching around. It is the time for 24-7 swimming, dunking and diving.  If the ducks are to maintain any open water at all, they have to work for it. -- Constantly.

But, Wiggly must be near panic now, as last winter, there were at least 100 Canada geese at the Mere along with an equal number of ducks. Moreover, with a mild winter, the Mere never entirely froze over.  The large waterfowl population and mild temperatures resulted in at least 1/4 of the lake staying open even during the depth of the season.

But, what can poor Wiggly be thinking now?

Brad died this past September. The lake is entirely frozen. All the mallards and geese have gone.  And Wiggly is left with 5 inexperienced domestic ducks who have never seen an outdoor winter or dealt with a frozen lake.

Yes, it was understandable why Wiggly remained swimming in the tiny pool of water like her tail was on fire.  She has her work cut out for her. Not only for the 24/7 swimming, but also to take on the role of crash course mentor and teacher.

Upon filling their bellies, the other six ducks casually wandered back to the tiny pool. But, it seemed more to relax on the edge of the ice, than to "work the water" as Wiggly kept doing.  (Only, Oliver, the mallard joined Wiggly working the pool.)

No, I don't think the other domestics quite "get" the urgency of the situation they are actually in. -- Yet.

Wiggly is going to have to become taskmaster and rule enforcer.There are at least 3 more days of sub-freezing temperatures ahead.  Unless all seven ducks quickly get their act together, even the tiny pool of open water will soon be converted to a solid block of ice.

Walking around the entire lake, I was surprised to find Hector, the swan casually sun bathing in the grass at the other side of the Mere.

I wanted to scream at him, "Why aren't you on the other side helping the ducks to maintain open water?"

But, Hector looked at me as if to say, "Why should I help THEM?  They are just a nuisance!  I don't need to worry about maintaining open water for some daffy ducks. I have my dignity to maintain. If it all goes to hell here, I can just leave!"

And so, I tried to bribe Hector to stay by offering him his favorite treat -- cracked corn.

"Please, please Hector, reconsider!  The ducks need your help and this is your home.  You don't really want to have to put up with hundreds of ducks and geese at the Reservoir, do you?"

I don't know that my bribes will work with Hector. He has been a "widower" for some years now (after losing his mate in 2010) and is used to surviving on his own.  Hector doesn't seem to need ducks, geese or anything else for that matter. -- Even my "bribes."

Walking back from Harlem Mere, I passed by the Reservoir.

Although at least 1/3 of the Reservoir is now frozen, there are at least 200-300 geese, mallards, wigeons, wood ducks, shovelers  and coots on it.  That is a big enough waterfowl population to guarantee a substantial pool of open water.

All the birds appeared to be earnestly working in concert with each other, swimming in wide circles to prevent a concentrated body of water from freezing over.

The wild birds know what they have to do. And between the larger, heavier birds like Canada geese and the smaller, quicker ones, such as the variety of ducks, there is little doubt they will succeed.

The Reservoir never freezes entirely over.

The geese and ducks won't let it.

"The Iceman Cometh!"  

"We all need to cooperate and work together now."  --PCA


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Different but the Same

A mallard squats down last night to conserve heat on a zero wind chill night.
Only a dozen ducks and two geese showed up last night at Harlem Mere to greet and partake of treat.

The temperature was 14 degrees with wind chills making it feel like zero.

Feeling the bitter cold, all the birds squatted down in seeming effort to conserve heat. I tossed cracked corn directly in front of them as they stretched their necks to eat.

But, I did not stay long.

Like the ducks and geese, hands briefly out of pockets quickly froze.

Today, I came across a fascinating article questioning whether animals feel as humans do?

Can there really be any question?

Human babies don't have power of language.  Should we then assume they do not feel?  Many adult humans have limited vocabulary skills.  Should we then assume they cannot think?

Animals do not share our particular language.  But, that doesn't mean they do not communicate.  Whether a bark, honk, quack, meow or moo, all animal communications are representative of language and "thought" to themselves and each other.

Additionally, like humans, animals communicate and express emotion through body language.

Those who deny these realities are looking at the world through closed or blinded eyes.

Or, in the brilliant words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr:

"All I'm saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we're caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Perhaps it is difficult for us to acknowledge certain truths as to do so would compel us to revise our moral and ethical consciousness to include and consider the so-called, "lesser" among us.

Animals are not "lesser" than us, they are simply different. 

But, all of us, regardless of sex, color, age or species are part of the same web of life and as such, what affects and is felt by one, eventually impacts and is experienced by all either directly or indirectly.

As the ducks and geese huddled tightly together and tucked legs beneath them to conserve heat, I stuffed freezing hands in pockets and quickly rushed away.

I am different, but the same.  -- PCA


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

SOS for Scarsdale Canada Geese Targeted for Ruthless Slaughter

Dark days ahead for Canada geese, unless....
As reported in this journal, the town of Scarsdale, New York has contracted with USDA Wildlife Services for extermination of their small goose population at the Library Pond starting this summer.

This story has been widely reported by the media, including NBC and CBS news. To see some of the coverage, please go to  (25) Call of the Canada Geese

There is truly no excuse for such barbarity and ruthlessness. 

In Defense of Animals has prepared a well written letter of protest to easily send to the public officials of Scarsdale with the just the click of the mouse and a signature:

Please take a few minutes of your time to fill out and widely share and post this link.  You can either send the already written formatted letter or erase and write your own.

I personally chose to write my own:

"Kill first and ask questions later."  Is that the cave man policy operating in Scarsdale?

Scarsdale's announed plan to have Wildlife Services come in and round up the few hapless geese at the Library pond for slaughter is ill advised, ineffective, malicious and barbaric.

I live close to Central Park in NYC which, for years, has successfully managed its goose population through effective means such as habitat modification, Border Collie hazing and egg addling.

Central Pak is one of the few parks in NYC that did not sign on to a USDA "cull" because there were not enough geese to round up and kill.

Scarsdale's contention that it used non-lethal means to control geese, but they failed does not hold water with regard to successes in other areas like Central Park.

Either Scarsdale did not use the methods consistently and properly.  Or, officials are lying.  Which is it?

Though Central Park serves as the model for humane goose management, Prospect Park in Brooklyn serves as the model for what should NOT be done.

Prospect Park will forever be associated with a barbaric USDA goose massacre that occurred in 2010 and wound up as a national news story, including numerous NY Times articles.  The incident spawned community outrage, protests and sparked the organization of Goosewatch, NYC.  (27) GooseWatch NYC

Is that what Scarsdale wants?  To be forever associated with wildlife massacres and intolerance of nature?

You are well on the way to already garnering that reputation, but there is still time to change and stop the irrational slaughter.

Please wake up and do the right thing before it is too late.

Patty Adjamine

Unless the public stands up to protest vicious and senseless carnage like this then more will only occur elsewhere, like falling dominos.

The relentless persecution and slaughter of Canada geese is like a fast spreading cancer upon our nation's parks, lakes, golf courses and ponds.

Although Canada geese have proven themselves to be a very resilient, intelligent and courageous bird who seemingly "compensate" for predation, one wonders how long they can continue to successfully adapt to widespread hunting, roundups, slaughter, egg destruction and endless harassment?

We have witnessed USDA culls occurring against as few as 7 geese in some areas. 

It seems no number is too low for a plan of extermination.

Perhaps this is how the Passenger Pigeon -- a bird that once existed in the hundreds of millions was killed to extinction in the last century.

By the time we realize a species is tottering on the brink, it is often too late to save them.  

But, it is not too late to save the few goose families in Scarsdale.

If enough people are willing to take a few minutes out of their day to sign and share the posted link above, we can hopefully excise this cancer of wanton killing before it spreads even further.

I hope and trust everyone reading this blog and caring about protection of wildlife will do that. 

We cannot afford not to.  -- PCA

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Deep Freeze on for the Ducks and Geese of Central Park

"The Bad Four" --Cochise (front black/white) Connie, Connor, and Carol. Four flightless ducks who now face daunting challenge.
"Sentry" gander of peaceful seven, posing for photo last night.
 The deep freeze is on in New York City.

All those large waves of migratory Canada geese who suddenly bee-lined to the Central Park Reservoir over the past couple of weeks were apparently flying ahead of an arctic cold blast that had already frozen Canada and was slowly making its way to the states.

It officially arrives today in New York City and temperatures will struggle to the upper 20's.

Bad news is that the bitter cold is supposed to hang around for at least a week, plunging the city into the lowest temperatures it has experienced in at least two years.

The question is, will the people and the wildlife here be prepared for it?

One could say we all got a little "spoiled" and complacent between last winter and the winter so far this year as both have been exceptionally mild.

During this recent period, New York City has experienced almost no snow at all, higher than normal temperatures and all Central Park watercourses remaining open and unfrozen.

But, in a matter of days that will all change.

I am of course most concerned for the six domestic (flightless) ducks at Harlem Mere, none of whom have previously experienced a bitter winter outdoors or a completely frozen lake.

Will they know what to do when the mallards and geese inevitably leave?  Will they realize the importance of non-stop swimming, dunking and diving in the water in order to keep a tiny pool open?

Since Brad's death last September, the fact is, domestic
ducks at the Mere lost their mentor. 

Brad was a flightless Rouen duck who had survived several brutal winters at the Mere. He was the "alpha" duck who embraced and organized newcomer domestics, trained and mentored them enough to even survive blizzards. (Granted, Brad never did these things until the advance of fall, but he did them nonetheless for his own calculated survival.)

Just prior to his death, "taskmaster" Brad had organized Wiggly and Honker and took great pains to constantly keep these two "scatterbrain" domestic ducks together.

Since Brad's passing however, Wiggly and Honker are rarely seen together.  It seems the two girls don't take the threat of a severe winter even half as seriously as Brad did.

But, will the next week change all that?

I don't know.

Nor, do I know how the "bad four" will do over this frigid spell (so named because of their greediness for food and tendency to sometimes dominate mallards.)

The "bad four" are Cochise, Conner, Connie and Carol who suddenly were dropped on the Harlem Mere scene this past November by some human (Like Wiggly and Honker, they cannot fly).

The good news is that the "bad four" are highly organized and always together. The bad news is that I have not seen even one of them practicing "dunking and diving" skills -- Skills they will need to keep open a small pool of water if and when all the other ducks leave.

Of course, never having experienced a bird-empty, frozen lake before and having no "mentor" or taskmaster to teach them, the four new domestics have no way of anticipating the coming week.

I have to hope they are very fast learners with a strong sense of organization and survival. 

And I have to hope that at least Wiggly remembers some of what Brad showed her last winter and can "mentor" the others when necessity calls for it.

As for the geese, last night, the "peaceful family of seven" had returned to the Mere, while Jessie had apparently left again with the more dominant, taskmastering family -- probably to the Reservoir .

At least 100 to 200 migratory geese are currently huddled tightly together at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir with probably a comparable number of ducks of different kinds, mostly mallards.

They have obviously decided to "hunker down" through whatever winter has to dish out at the Reservoir.  The Reservoir is the one watercourse in Central Park that rarely, if ever freezes entirely over.

It was interesting that when migratory geese first started to arrive at the Reservoir in mid November, I wondered why they did not go to Harlem Mere as they did last year?

I speculated then that we might have a colder winter than last year.

But, then the first third of this winter seemed exceptionally mild, calling up worries over global warming.

Putting aside the fact that climate change is real and happening, that doesn't eliminate the possibility of at least a temporary deep freeze.

And the deep freeze is now very real in New York City.

It seems the migratory geese knew something the rest of us didn't.

I have to hope that the domestic ducks of Central Park somehow got the message.  -- PCA


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Jessie's Choice

Jessie, the loner goose at Harlem Mere for more than a month, returned last night with her finally chosen family. A long, tough road for acceptance, but apparently, the practical decision for this goose who understands the wisdom of patience and choice for survival. 
The last time I saw Jessie, the "loner" Canada goose from Harlem Mere, she was tagging along with one of two goose families who were bouncing back and forth between the Mere and another location (probably the Central Park Reservoir).

That was about two weeks ago. 

At the time, it seemed a bit strange that of the two families, Jessie chose to hang with the one whose alpha gander appeared to be far more cantankerous and "rule enforcing" than the more peaceful, passive and laid back goose family. 

But, imagine my surprise when returning to the Mere the following night, not to find either Jessie or the butt-pecking, "cantankerous" family and their domineering leader?

Did Jessie leave with them? I wondered.

Since I did not witness Jessie actually leaving, I could not be sure of any answers.

But, I saw neither Jessie nor the loud and "dominant" family for the next two weeks.

I did not write about this for the obvious reasons of not knowing.  I figured at some point I would probably see Jessie again as neither of the families appeared to be migratory geese that might take off for far distance, but rather resident geese bouncing around Central Park.

That speculation turned out to be correct.

Over the past two weeks, I have of course been looking for Jessie each night.

But, she was not among the gaggle of seven geese who appeared on fairly regular basis.

The peaceful, passive geese, that is.

I am not sure if these seven geese are actually a family.  They appear to be fairly young with no "taskmaster" leader, though one gander does act as a lookout sentry.  Most nights they quietly arrive and partake of some treats. A couple of them gently take treats from my hand and all get along with each other, the swan and the ducks. 

But, last night was different, though it did not initially appear that way.

As usual, while tossing cracked corn to the domestic ducks and some mallards, I noticed a gaggle of seven geese swimming towards the embankment.

I figured it was the usual peaceful seven.

But, no sooner were the geese on the grass when one of them started back pecking, pushing and loudly honking at the others.

Hm, that is odd, I thought.

I checked the sky to see if there was a full moon, but there wasn't.  I couldn't figure why the peaceful seven were suddenly so, well, "cantankerous."

Then I noticed an eighth goose hesitantly swimming in the water and lately arriving on the scene.

The "tagger along" was Jessie!

Suddenly, everything made sense.

I realized this gaggle was not the peaceful seven I was used to seeing over the past two weeks, but rather, the boisterous family with the "rule stickling Papa" or alpha gander.

And boy, was he "stickling the rules" last night. So much so, he actually chased a couple of the young geese back in the water and flew them off to the other end of the lake!

I am not sure what that charade was all about. The only time I have seen that behavior before was when Papa goose (of Turtle Pond) used to chase off his yearling offsping when he wanted "alone time" with Mama again.

The banished youngsters eventually made their way back to the fold again and there was more back-pecking, honking and rule enforcing.

Meanwhile, Jessie respectfully kept to the perimeters of the group, seeming to accept her lowly status and being careful not to garner the scorn and correction of the alpha gander who last night seemed to be on the war path with his own "kids."

But, as crazy as this scene was to witness, what gave me a sense of relief and comfort was that Jessie had finally found and apparently been accepted (though mainly as a tag along) into a new goose family.

But, what I could not figure was why Jessie chose to join up with a family whose lead gander appears to be tough and impossible to please?

Why would she not go with the peaceful seven?  -- The geese who seem not to be sticklers for rules and hierarchy? 

Perhaps this is still just another way geese are a little like humans.

When it comes down to it, the gals always seem to go with the ones they feel are best prepared and will best protect them when the going gets tough.

And the going is soon to get very tough for geese, ducks and other city wildlife as this coming week, temperatures are projected to plunge to the low teens in New York City.

Virtually all the lakes in Central Park will soon become solid blocks of ice.

Jessie probably made the wise choice -- and none too soon.  --PCA


Friday, January 18, 2013

USDA "Making a Killing" of Canada Geese

Migratory Canada geese in Central Park Reservoir.
Migratory geese resting in Reservoir at Central Park. Although nearly 200 at location now, these numbers will drop to less than a dozen by summer.
 "I hate the geese with a capital "H!"

So says a woman from Scarsdale, New York referring to the couple of dozen geese in a local pond that have now become the subject of controversy and various news articles and videos:

The leadership of Scarsdale plans to hire USDA this summer to round up the geese, send them to slaughter and serve them up as so-called "donations" to food banks.

Who could ever imagine we would be looking at migratory wildlife in our local parks as "dinner" on our plates?

Putting aside however, the disturbing image and questionable "hate" for wildlife by some seemingly disturbed humans, one is struck by the timing of these articles and propaganda.

It is of course, the middle of winter -- a time (as noted in this blog and elsewhere) when thousands of migratory geese fly from the frozen reaches in the Arctic and Canada in search of open water spaces in the US.

As covered substantially here, hundreds of geese have recently been arriving to the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park.  Although most only stay a day or two before moving on to presumably more southern locations, a substantial number of geese (and mallards, gulls, and other waterfowl) have elected (for the time being) to stay and winter at the Reservoir.

Currently, there are nearly 200 Canada geese at the Central Park Reservoir (see photos above.)

However, in the spring and summer, that number can be expected to naturally drop to less than one dozen geese.

Most migratory geese leave temporary wintering locations as early as February.

But, for those humans who "hate geese with a capital H" what better time to make a fuss over their numbers than the middle of winter?

And yet, even if believing the number of geese pictured in the NBC new video above are the same "resident" geese who would be in Scarsdale over the summer, how is this number considered an "overpopulation" that needs to be rounded up and killed?

Have we lost any and all tolerance for wildlife in local parks?

As another woman interviewed for the NBC piece says, "We don't have enough wildlife."

Another disturbing piece out today is from New Jersey.

The mayor of this town apparently hates geese so much, he jumps out of his car in winter to chase one gaggle of migratory geese from a park lake.

Any geese still remaining in the location in summer are to be rounded up and killed by USDA.

"Kill first and ask questions later" seemingly the motto for too many towns and communities these days.

It makes one realize how hundreds of millions of passenger pigeons that one time used to exist were hunted and killed to actual extinction in the last century -- to my knowledge, without even being considered, "nuisance."

While at the present time extinction doesn't seem immediately likely for Canada geese (who are apparently able to "compensate for predation" for now) one wonders about long range implications of our actions?

One thing is however certain for the moment:

USDA Wildlife Services literally "making a killing" of Canada geese.

In terms of money and "cash cows," the geese lay the golden eggs. 

Call them the "cash geese" for a highly questionable rogue government agency. -- PCA


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Late Migrating Canada Geese -- The New "Canaries in Coal Mines?"

Late arriving migratory geese.
"Thunderbirds" and Roll Calls

Like fleets of precision Blue Angels or military thunderbirds, they descend from over the skies and land gracefully on the water with all the focus and direction of an arrow hitting its target.

They are not planes, but rather skeins of migratory Canada geese arriving late to New York City's Central Park from some mysterious location, hundreds or even thousands of miles from Manhattan.

From the beginning of the new year, I have experienced the thrill of hearing and seeing countless waves of migrating Canada geese either arriving to or departing from the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park -- particularly under the cover of darkness.

Perhaps the geese feel safer flying at night (from hunters in rural areas) or perhaps they use stars and night skies for navigation.

But, it is apparent that the birds know exactly where they are going and land with the precision and organization that would make a military fleet on a mission envious.

A few nights ago, while walking the path surrounding the Reservoir, I heard the excited honks from what sounded like dozens of barking dogs loudly approaching from the north.

But, of course, they were not dogs.

I looked in the skies above me and could suddenly see the perfect "V" of at least 30 Canada geese quickly descending just over the trees and zeroing over and on the water.  They landed and zoomed across the water in perfectly timed small groups, until all 30 geese were safely on the Reservoir. 

But, they continued to call out, presumably to other geese arriving behind them.

Within minutes, other smaller gaggles of geese continued to arrive and landed on the water, not far from the initial group.

When about 60 geese were finally settled and moving about slowly in the water, various, singular "calls" went out, seemingly from one group to the other.

It reminded me of roll calls that are conducted in schools to get a count of all the students in class.

"Mary Smith?"  "Present!"  "John Brown?"  "Present!"

Do geese actually do roll calls of their members after completing a long migratory flight?

It sure sounded that way.

I stood for at least 15 minutes listening to the seemingly questioning and replying honks.

But, even when finally walking away, it seemed the geese were still accounting for their numbers, locations and presence.

It was very different from the loud, excitable honks done in unison when the geese are flying and arriving to or departing from a location.

These were instead, lower and singular honks coming from different directions and seemingly in question and reply form.

It really took me back to the days of roll calls in grammar school.

The New Canaries in Coal Mines?

Apparently, the Reservoir in Central Park is a "gathering or resting point" for many flocks of migrating geese stopping by for brief periods (while on their way elsewhere) as it is an actual wintering location for other flocks of geese and ducks who decide to stay.

I am not sure what exactly prompts the geese to stay or go or when. 

Weather in New York City has been abnormally mild for January while apparently in Canada and parts of the western US, it is frigid with near or actual blizzard conditions.

This probably explains the sudden flurry of goose flying activity over NYC these past two weeks.

Apparently the geese were able to stay in more northern and western locations far longer than normal and are only making necessary migrations now.

I personally believe this signals much in terms of global warming and climate change.  But, to the geese, they simply pack up and go when absolutely forced to. The geese are extremely organized and adaptable either way and are probably less impacted by climate change than many other
species, including our own.

This brings us unfortunately, to more "whining" articles about Canada geese.

The media piece above doesn't actually provide any numbers of Canada geese in Scarsdale although it reports that the geese are to be "euthanized" by USDA later this year.

Nor, does it differentiate between so-called, "resident geese" and migratory geese who presumably might be there now, but who would leave no later than next month.

One doesn't know where to begin in addressing misinformed media pieces like this whose reporters don't even bother to research the meaning of the word, "euthanize" or question USDA roundup and slaughtering methods.

I left comment to the article and video and hope others do. 

But, it is really the people of Scarsdale who need to vigorously oppose such barbaric and ruthless slaughter -- especially in light of actual facts and non-lethal means of goose population "control."

Then again, it could be said that large goose numbers in certain unusual locations this time of year are more  symbolic of rapidly changing climate conditions and that should concern us far more than any inconvenient "goose poop" on the ground.

It is, after all, not "normal" for geese to be migrating this late in the wintering season nor staying in locations that usually this time of year would be covered in snow and ice.

One might venture to say that late migrating geese might actually be the "canary in the coal mine" for us humans who apparently prefer to complain about trivial result than to actually address critical cause. -- PCA