Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bearing Witness

One has to admire HLN show anchor, Jane Velez-Mitchell for many reasons, one of the primary ones being her willingness and guts to report on industrialized animal abuse on factory farms and proposed new "Ag Gag" laws. (Ms. Velez-Mitchell is also a strong goose advocate, by the way).

On her program Friday night, Mitchell ran this report.  (Warning: the video footage is extremely disturbing):

Personally, I know of no significant way to end the tyranny on factory farms aside from not partaking of and financially supporting the "products" from them.

However, there are also concrete actions to take, most notably, individual political lobbying.

Please take the time to let your Congressional and State representatives know that you vehemently oppose any "AG Gag" bills that are proposed either on the state or federal level.

To "criminalize" those who take great pains to bring us inside the establishments that are producing our so-called, "meat and dairy" is to nearly strangle the rights of the consumer to know how food is produced and thus, freedom itself.

To quote Dr. Phil McGraw:  "Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing."

Unfortunately, industrialized factory farms where 9 billion animals a year are raised and ultimately slaughtered "hide" a lot and want to keep on hiding.

It is hard to believe that anyone eating meat these days would want to consume an animal that has been, for all intensive purposes, nearly tortured or beaten to death.

If our bodies are "temples" exactly what are we putting into them?

These proposed bills and in some cases, actual law, don't want you to know or even think about.

That is unacceptable in a society that deems itself "civilized" and free.

It is truly hard to get out of one's head the images of the baby calf being savagely beaten among all the others which so sear the soul.

In some ways, I wish I had not seen these videos and yet, as Ms. Mitchell says, we have to be willing to "bear witness."

The question is, what do we then do about it? 

And that is up to individual consciousness and willingness to confront painful reality. -- PCA


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Some Hearts for Geese!

A gander on the watch?
Special thanks and appreciation to Mary Lou Simms for taking us yesterday on a vicarious journey to a special place with a heart for geese.

Fortunately, the little community in Alabama is not the only location in the US with a soft spot for our feathered friends.

From a suburb of San Francisco, California, comes this amazing video shot yesterday:

The wonderful people of this town placed a live web cam on the roof where the geese nested and five goslings hatched. This, so that many people could enjoy the happy and exciting event up close and personal -- without disturbing the geese.

Some of us were on pins and needles yesterday as "Mama goose" took her sweet time in deciding exactly when she and her husband would "take the leap" and lead the little ones to the pond.   Obviously, from the video above, the family eventually "flew the coop" and with some human help, found their way to the water.

Call me a total mooch, but these few web cam videos from places and people who love their geese make my heart sing!   (And judging from the commercial advertisements, one suspects the videographers are able to recoup some of what they spend.  Hats off to them!)

Unfortunately, all this eventually brings us back to New York -- and an entirely different attitude towards geese (especially any who dare to nest).

Certainly, we will not be seeing any "live web cams" here of hatching goslings and proud goose parents.  

Any nesting geese in NYC have to be very careful to "hide" and just hope no humans see them.

So far, I am only aware of one potentially nesting goose pair here -- and I have yet to actually see the female goose or her nest as they appear to be well hidden and away from public access.   The only reason I am guessing to a possible goose nest is the observation of what seems a "sentry" gander in the same location for the past couple of weeks. (Will not say where for obvious reasons.)

Ganders are extremely protective and watchful over their mates and developing offspring.

In fact, according to information read on one of the live cam sites, the ganders usually stake out the walking paths to nearby water ponds as soon as goslings hatch and lead the mom and babies to them shortly thereafter.

Yesterday, for example, the proud papa gander in California jumped on the roof and seemed to tell Mama goose that it was "OK to go!"

Canada geese are truly extraordinary animals and it is sad that in New York City, most of us are deprived of the chance of seeing a mated pair hatch and raise their offspring --despite still having resident geese here.

We have to search out the Internet to find such.

For those who missed the excitement of the new goose family in California, there is still this live web cam from Edmonton, Canada:

Apparently, since it is colder in Canada than here, these eggs were laid the first week in April and should presumably hatch the first week in May.  For now, Mama is constantly and dutifully keeping her eggs warm -- with an occasional visit and encouragement from her devoted hubby. 

Meanwhile, back here in NYC, my friend, Lianna who monitors the Boat Lake in Central Park just called to tell me that there was a dirty diaper left near the area the few ducks usually stay.

Blame the diaper on the ducks (or geese)!

Obviously (and sadly) we are not San Francisco or Edmonton, Canada.  -- PCA


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Learning to Live With and Appreciate Canada Geese -- Guest Editorial

Can we in the North East ever learn to accept and appreciate the peaceful Canada geese as other communities do?
Today, I am sharing as a special Guest Editorial, commentary to this blog from Mary Lou Simms who is a published, syndicated journalist and well respected expert in all things Canada geese.   Ms. Simms is currently working on a book about Canada geese and I and many others eagerly look forward to it.   Sadly, what is true in these particular communities in Alabama is not true in New York City and other locations throughout the North East. -- That only it was. -- PCA

Learning to Live With and Appreciate Canada Geese
                                         by, Mary Lou Simms

Here's another location where geese have been integrated into a community. Star Lake in Hoover, Al., a suburb of Birmingham, apparently experienced a turnaround regarding community geese. It went from trying to get rid of its geese to embracing them. On Sunday I noticed that a new waterfowl crossing sign has gone up, with an illustration of a goose at the top.
Some years back, the community purchased two swans to keep the geese away. Obviously it didn't work because the species, as far as I can tell, gets alone fine.
There are only about 20 geese there now because many geese are nesting. Normally there are from 50 to 75. Because of the physical conformation of the lake, the geese generally congregate in one area. The feces is no big deal so I'm guessing crews clean up after them as part of overall maintenance. It's not rocket science. If you're going to have geese, you're going to have to clean up after them. However, that's a small price to pay for the joy they bring to a community.
There are also unspoken rules of geese etiquette. People walk dogs around the lake but it would not be considered "acceptable" to allow them to chase the geese. I also suspect that anyone caught chasing the swans would be ostracized if not jailed. People leave corn for the geese and many seem to have favorite geese. They feed them for hours on end and it is nice to see. I think we're beginning to see widespread acceptance of geese, even though it is happening slowly, one community at a time.
Gandy and Olivia, "my" geese from another lake about 10 miles away, arrived Saturday without young, so there will be no babies this year. I don't know whether they're nesting in a dangerous location or what but it is another disappointing year in that respect. It must seem odd given the issues in the Northeast that we're upset that there are no goslings at our lake this year while your communities are just trying to keep the geese alive. If your communities only knew what they were missing.
There is also a pair of nesting geese at Star Lake. There is a tiny island in the lake set aside for nesting swans (who didn't nest this year) but a pair of geese has taken over one of the bales of hay. I left some corn for Nesting Dad the other day, who swam over and surprised me by taking bread from my hand. I'm a little concerned about the mate. Why can't he sit on the nest for 10 minutes so she can swim over and get some corn? (Or maybe he did and I wasn't aware of it.)
There is also a goose here that is missing a foot. People feed him separately so he can get some corn. (He is shunned by the other geese, but appears to thrive on human attention.) One resident said he flies onto her lawn every morning and waits until she comes out and shares toast with him. There are many such human-geese experiences.
Aside from these two locations, just down the road at the Aldridge Botanical Gardens, there are also Canada geese, although feeding is not allowed there. However, the vegetation is spectacular, which is the best food for geese. Also within a three-mile radius (of Star Lake and the Botanical Gardens) is Howard Lake, which has a small population of ducks and also attracts geese. The city leaves cracked corn here on a regular basis. Again, because of the physical configuration of the lake, the waterfowl congregate in one spot. A favorite goose here is named Whiteface, a hybrid whose siblings are Canada geese. The last time we saw him ((about six weeks ago), he was headed north, and he is sadly missed. It is funny how attached we get to geese when we start to think about them differently.
 We also try to feed them the right foods, especially in winter when grass is scarce. Corn and grains are wonderful. Bread is fine although I buy the higher grain breads for Gandy and Olivia. I have tried to break them of the bread habit but they seem to love it so I dole it out in small quantities. And I have to admit, I love the feel of those soft, leathery beaks against my fingers.   -- Mary Lou Simms


Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day! (Not at Central Park)

One of a pair of only two Canada geese at Jackie Onassis Reservoir yesterday. But, there were plenty of other "sights" -- unfortunately, not so pretty. (Other photos contained in album links in entry).
 Earth Day Weekend -- Harlem Meer

Ah, "Earth Day!"

But, it did not seem so on yesterday's visit to Central Park in New York City.

When first arriving to Harlem Meer at the south side of the park,  I could see what seemed a white figure on the water in the distance.

Did Hector, the swan suddenly return I wondered with excitement?

But, when moving closer, it became apparent that the white object was no bird at all.

Rather, It was a plastic, flat box, such as might contain a pizza.

The beautiful white swan was replaced by a floating white box on the water.

But, this was not where the surprises ended.

I was at the Meer only minutes before encountering a family with a small boy (about six) who was picking up and throwing small rocks at two mallards along the edge of the lake.  The mallards quickly scattered.

"Hey, have some respect!" I shouted to the parents of the boy. "Wildlife is not here to be tormented!"

The two adults looked at me, stunned, but did not reply.  They called the boy over to them.

I continued to look around the lake.

A gaggle of 7 geese were in the middle of the water, swimming.

They looked around and then started loudly honking to each other.

All of a sudden the geese took off flying from the lake and left Harlem Meer.

When hearing barking dogs and seeing many kids in the distance fishing, it was fairly easy to understand the fast departure of the geese.

At that point, the lake was almost entirely devoid of any waterfowl at all on it.

While it was tempting to leave Harlem Meer immediately, I continued to walk around the lake in order to check on the six familiar, domestic ducks who are incapable of any kind of escape like Hector or the geese.

But, before reaching them, I first picked up a plastic container containing fishing tackle left at the edge of the lake.  I put it in a trash can only 30 or so yards away.

By this time, my "mood" was taking a plunge.

But it only continued to dive.

On the north side of Harlem Meer, several kids had gone over the "off limits" fences meant to afford some protection to wildlife and were dropping loose fishing lines into the water.

There was no park personnel or patrols anywhere at the Meer to enforce so-called, "Fishing" or no tresspassing rules.

It seems "anything goes" at Harlem Meer on a spring, Sunday afternoon.

I eventually did find the six domestic (flightless) ducks miraculously still surviving in their familiar spots, although not all together.  

"Carol and Connie" had just been separated by a barking, chasing dog just prior to me arriving on the scene and were in the water. Their other two flock mates, Connor and Cochise remained in the fenced in grassy area by the Dana Center. 

It seems these ducks have not left that "protected" location for almost a month now.  

Meanwhile, Wiggly and Honker (the other two domestics) remained with their wild mallard companions somewhat hidden among the marshes to the east of the lake.  Most of the few remaining mallards were also huddled as if in "camouflage" amongst the marshes. 

Only two mallards were visible on the lake.

Assured for the moment of the domestic ducks' survival at the Meer, I could not nevertheless wait to get the hell out of there.

The entire air about it was depressive.

It was easy to understand why Hector the swan recently left the Meer and even easier to understand why the geese suddenly departed yesterday.

Those with working wings have options -- something the domestic ducks do not have.

(Photos from yesterday's "visit" to Harlem Meer are contained in this FB album -- along with descriptions:  
(96) Harlem Meer, 4-21-13)

Earth Day Weekend -- Jackie Onassis Reservoir and Turtle Pond.

Perhaps because I am a glutton for punishment or maybe because it was "Earth Day" weekend, I decided yesterday (following the dismal and disheartening visit to Harlem Meer) to walk around the Jackie Onassis Reservoir as it was on the way home and it was a nice day.

That was another mistake.

As there were only two geese at the Reservoir and a small scattering of mallards, I had ample opportunity to look around at the "new sights" (or sights previously missed for focus on waterfowl at Reservoir over the winter).

And the sights were not pretty.

Rather than go into descriptive detail of all the garbage and debris (mostly plastic bottles, bags and tennis balls) discarded along the eastern edges of the watercourse, I took an album of 23 photos and included captions and descriptions: 

Though the intent was to walk around the entire Reservoir, I was too disgusted and left the running path when finally arriving to the west side. (How dare they claim the geese "make a mess" I thought cynically. Jackie O must be rolling in her grave!")

From the Reservoir, I wondered if things were any better at Turtle Pond which was not far away?   Though the sun had just gone down, I decided to check the location out.  Surely, there had to be some good "earth" news somewhere!

Though there are many turtles at Turtle Pond, there were only two geese last night and I saw no mallards.

Turtle Pond seemed to contain a quiet kind of eeriness about it -- including a lonely plastic cup left on the dock bench.

I took a photo of the plastic cup, but for some strange reason, did not pick it up and deposit in trash as is usually done.

Perhaps I had simply "had enough" by that time.

"Earth Weekend" it was not, yesterday in Central Park.

Blame it on the geese, others might say.

I say, "No, blame it on ourselves."  -- PCA


Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Place in the Sun (Where Geese are Welcomed!)

A place in the sun
In these days of goose hazing, egg addling (destruction), hunting and "culling," it is refreshing to learn of one place in the world where geese are actually welcomed.  And nesting geese at that!

"Mr. and Mrs. Goose" have been returning to the same barn in Edmonton, Canada for the past six years to nest. 

Once the goslings hatch (usually in early May), the parents lead them to a nearby pond to spend the first few months of life.

But, the truly extraordinary thing about the Edmonton location is that a web cam is set up every year to monitor the actual nesting and hatching of the little ones!

And apparently the parents don't mind becoming the celebrity darlings of the goose world for oglers like me:

I only discovered the media link a few days ago, but have been checking in with Mrs. Goose every day.

So far, she has not been observed leaving the nest at all, so I am not sure how many eggs she is actually sitting on.

Undoubtedly, it is still very cold and windy in the location as the expectant mother's feathers are always rustling and her head is usually tucked in tightly to her body. One can in fact, hear the howling winds most of the time as the video also has sound.

Despite all the vitriol against them, Canada geese are extraordinary birds.

Though we usually cannot see him in the video, the gander, "Mr. Goose" is not far off from the nesting location and will diligently "guard" and defend the nest with his life for the entire 28 or so days that it takes the eggs to hatch.

This is one of the prime reasons why Canada geese have such high survival rates. Both parents vigorously participate in both, the nesting and raising of young. 

Canada geese mate for life. Should one lose a partner, s/he will actually grieve for some time and may or may not take on another. 

I have personally witnessed this "grieving" several times. 

"Widowed" geese often appear as "loners" from the flock and are usually seen swimming, searching alone and honking on the water as if trying to call the lost mate.  It is a sad sight to see.

It has been profoundly disappointing over the years to learn of the hostility and destruction generated against the magnificent and extraordinary Canada geese. -- Birds who are among the most peaceful animals on earth and represent not only exemplary parents and mates, but also the epitomes in cooperation and organization with their own kind.

Canada geese are among the rare species who willingly take on orphans who are not their own to raise as a post from Carolina Waterfowl Rescue attests to today.  (Apparently, they rescued an orphaned gosling and other Canada geese being treated for injury "adopted" the baby.)       (86) Carolina Waterfowl Rescue

Again, these are among the reasons why Canada geese survive so well even in a world of quickly dwindling wildlife populations as contrasted to an exploding human population (more than 7 billion today).  

These, and the fact that Canada geese are also extremely intelligent, adaptable and have the ability to live on land, water and even sky.  

It would not be surprising if "envy" was one of the reasons so many humans are hostile towards Canada geese. Our own species is not always so devoted and peaceful towards our own kind and nor are we natural to all three elements on earth as geese are.

Still, there are those rare places on earth were geese are actually welcomed by humans!

And this little farm in Edmonton is one of them.

Once again to be grateful and appreciative of those humans who actually "get it."

I eagerly await the hatchings of Mr. and Mrs. Goose's little ones with bated breath.   --- PCA


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Praise, Awe and Gratitude to the Heroes of Our World (For Humans and Animals)

Taking time to thank and appreciate our human heroes. 
Once again, our country has suffered the horrors of further terrorist attacks upon the innocent.

Last Monday, we watched in stunned disbelief on television, the images of exploding bombs at the Boston marathon and a seeming sea of crumbling bodies and spilled blood on the streets of a New England city.

Tragically, three young people, including an 8-year-old boy were killed in the carnage.

But, were it not for the literal heroics of courageous bystanders, first responders and medical personnel, the death count would have been so much higher.

As it is, hundreds have suffered serious physical injury, loss of limbs and trauma that will impact them for the rest of their lives -- all because of making a simple decision to enjoy a fun sporting event on a sunny April day.   

The attack on the marathon was not just assault on human life, but to the liberties and freedom we all cherish and hold dear in this country.

One cannot go anywhere these days without thinking, "what if......"

Still, we find solace and relief that the two perpetrators of this violent atrocity have been quickly caught by law enforcement and that justice will be served to the one survivor.

I am not normally a supporter of the death penalty, but believe it must be an option in cases of mass murder, terrorism and child killing.

Awe, gratitude, admiration and praises to all those who, in these hours of murder and mayhem responded so heroically to keep the human death count to a minimum, aid the suffering and who acted so expediently to get the killers off our streets.

While news of the horrifying attack in Boston understandably permeated airwaves and news headlines, there was also a brutal attack in Charlotte, North Carolina on both property and innocent life that garnered deserved attention.

In this case, five teenage boys vandalized a school bus, hurled rocks and beat nearly to death, a gaggle of nesting Canada geese (two of which have since died).

But, in this case too, heroes stepped up to the plate to both try to save the surviving geese and quickly catch and charge (to this point, two of) the perpetrators of such mindless cruelty and destruction.

Gratitude and praise once again to those in law enforcement and to the wonderful people at the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue who are working so tirelessly to save the remaining geese.

It is easy during times like this to find ourselves awash in despair, anxiety and to question what has gone wrong in our world that there are those who would seek to perpetrate such harm and destruction upon innocent life.

But, let us think about all the good people too -- the true heroes who so often dedicate their lives to the alleviation of suffering as well as removing from society, those who seek violence and destruction upon the living.

I realize I don't say it enough, but there are times I feel very grateful to be an American.

We can always find things of which to feel grave disappointment or to critique. We must always seek ways to improve and humanize our world and our country.

But, in our quests to bring about positive change and true evolvement, let us also take the time to appreciate and express gratitude for all the blessings and human heroes we truly have.

This is one of those special and unique times in America.   -- PCA


Friday, April 19, 2013

Goose (and Swan) Reprieves and Hazings

"Hector" -- Gone from Harlem Meer.  Was he "hazed" out by Geese Police or simply fed up with both, harassment and fishing?
Connor, Connie, Carol and Cochise.  Four of the domestic ducks at the Meer who cannot go anywhere even if harassed.
Romeo and Wiggly. Not of feather, but "in love" anyway.
Kelly (half blind goose) and her mate stubbornly hanging in at the Meer.
 The good, the bad and the forever in between.

This has been an eventful week with lots of goose (and other wildlife) news. 

Perhaps we will start first with the mixed or "in between" news, concerning salt marshes at Jamaica Bay and charges of geese "taking over" nests from raptors.

"Nitrogen Loading" at Jamaica Bay and Geese "Displacing" Nesting Raptors

The above article from the Daily News informs us of money being spent to restore salt marshes at Jamaica Bay.  The marshes have been lost "mostly" due to "nitrogen loading" from a nearby sewage treatment plant.

This is fascinating because last year in its Environmental Impact Statement, the USDA primarily blamed Canada geese for destruction of salt marshes at Jamaica Bay. Subsequently, 751 geese were rounded up by USDA from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge last July 9th and slaughtered.

This is still one more example of geese being conveniently blamed for problems not of their creation. 

Another example? 

How about geese "displacing" raptors and taking over their nests?

The above article intimates that a pair of Canada geese chased out nesting ospreys and took over their nest.

But, it is extremely unlikely that geese would take on "sea eagles" which would normally be viewed as predators. Osprey have talons and extremely sharp beaks.   More probable is that the osprey (for whatever reason) abandoned the nest and the geese (being the adaptable opportunists they are), simply took over.  

Such was the case recently in Mission, BC where enterprising Canada geese took over an old nest used by bald Eagles.

As we know, eagles are a natural predator of Canada geese.

Nevertheless, geese are constantly accused of "chasing out other birds" when the reality is they are simply more adaptable than most other birds -- and they are opportunistic.  

Mamaroneck Geese get Reprieve!

It's official.  The geese get a reprieve in Mamaroneck!

The good news arrived this week in the form of an official letter from the Village Manager to the USDA to eliminate goose "removal" and killing from the contract.  The amendment was agreed to and signed by Martin Lowney who is the state director for USDA Wildlife Services.  The USDA will move forward with the egg addling called for in the contract:

I am both pleased and surprised with this development.  It is the first time I am aware of when USDA agreed to eliminate the mandated killing from a goose management contract.

But, it did not happen without pressure and opposition from the public, animal advocates, at least two BOT members -- and much exposure from the media.

Praise and congratulations to all who worked so hard to save the Mamaroneck geese from intended slaughter.  Persistence and dedication pays off!

Finally, it should be noted that while Mamaroneck geese will be spared a ruthless cull this summer, they will have to face "hazing" starting as soon as the geese complete the molt:

I hope bird lovers in Mamaroneck realize it is not just the geese who will be chased out with hazing, but most other waterfowl as well -- as my last post of the day illustrates.

"Swan Lake" No More....

As somewhat predicted last week in this journal, "Hector" the swan who had been a fixture at Harlem Meer in Central Park since last November has left the location that had been so welcoming and healing for him over these past five months.

Although walking around the entire lake these past few nights, there has been no sign of Hector.

I am not sure if it was the increased fishing activity or the "goose hazing" occurring recently at Central Park that ultimately forced Hector to take flight. -- Probably, it was a combination of both.

But,  I personally miss Hector as I am sure other regular visitors to Harlem Meer do.  Hector was a crowd favorite at the Meer, forever inspiring "oohs," "ahhs" and hundreds of photographs.

Hector always came to greet me most nights and particularly during the winter, he often followed me in the water when I left the Meer like a romantic and protective escort.

I can only wonder where Hector is now.  Hopefully, not whatever location he was before returning to Harlem Meer last November, filthy, skinny and lame.

Meanwhile, I walk around Harlem Meer these days and find more garbage than I do waterfowl.  Last night, for example, I picked up and carried to garbage cans:

Three plastic bags

Two plastic bottles. 

One plastic cup.

One small plastic container with either salsa or tomato sauce left on a park bench.

Although Central Park is extremely diligent in attempts to keep the lake area clean, it seems nearly hopeless this time of year.   One of the plastic water bottles picked up last night was only about 20 yards from a recycle bin.

The other night when at the Meer, there were two plastic bags in the water -- about five feet from a fisherman.

Perhaps I am judgmental in "blaming" most of the garbage around the lake on the fishermen.

Perhaps the garbage simply follows them to the park.

Meanwhile, there are few ducks and geese these days at Harlem Meer as most have been effectively "chased out" by either the fishing or harassment.

The six "barnyard" (flightless) ducks are still at the Meer because they cannot fly anywhere.  

The two wild mallards with Wiggly and Honker (domestic ducks) still remain because the "love bug" is apparently stronger than harassment.  

And a few other resilient mallards and geese remain, including Kelly (the half blind goose) and her seemingly fearless mate.  

But, each night it seems the goose and duck numbers are slowly dwindling throughout Central Park.

While I personally feel dismayed at the disappearances and harassment of many treasured geese, ducks and one swan, "goose hazing" in Central Park gets a rave review in this (to me) loathsome "Opinion" piece from another state:

I would like Mr. Allen (the writer) to tell me exactly what the appeal is of nearly waterfowl empty lakes -- especially when they are laden with human discarded garbage?

I never thought I would spend more time in a park picking up trash than ogling over my beloved waterfowl.

But, that is the situation now.

And its enough to make one not even want to go to Central Park.   

But, still there are the few resistant or flightless ducks and geese I personally know and am willing to put aside (literally) all the crap in order to spend a little time with and hopefully help to protect over the foreboding spring and summer. 

To quote a famous Bette Davis line, "Fasten your seat belts. Its going to be a bumpy ride."


Friday, April 12, 2013

Rainy Day Love Ducks and Being a Voice for Wildlife

"Carol and Cochise" -- Two of the six domestic ducks at Harlem Meer. But, did I have their sexes wrong?
Geese at the Boat Lake in Central Park. Taking a breather for now.
  Rainy Day Love Ducks

Those balmy 80 temperatures earlier in the week suddenly dipped to chilly 40's over the past couple of days with bouts of intermittent rain.

And with the weather changes, came other changes, almost as if to step back in time.....

All was quiet, serene and utterly beautiful last night in Central Park.

A couple of cyclists and joggers along the East Park Drive.  Cherry Blossoms in bloom along the Bridal Path.

And two mallards taking a "romantic stroll" in the grass at the North Meadow.

The latter is particularly notable because there is no watercourse at the North Meadow. The two ducks must have flown there from either the Reservoir or Harlem Meer.  Talk about "getting away from it all!"  Ducks, like humans, apparently enjoy the occasional quick romantic getaway.  Especially, on damp or chilly spring evenings.

It is in fact, common to see pairs of mallards "strolling" in the grasses in the spring time. But, I have not figured out if that is entirely due to "spring in the air" romantic stirrings or just the fact new budding grass tastes good.

But, if it was pleasantly surprising to see two ducks at the North Meadow, I was practically bowled over when arriving to Harlem Meer!

Gone were all the plastic food and drink containers/ bags of Tuesday night. The grass, lake embankments and pedestrian paths were completely pristine and immaculate -- almost as if gone over with a powerful vacuum cleaner!  Not so much as a shred of debris anywhere.

Also, notably absent were all the fishermen who had been at the Meer two nights before.  In fact, except for a woman walking her dog, there were no people at all.

And boy, were the waterfowl taking full advantage of the tranquility and almost fairy tale  environment!

A number of mallard pairs enjoyed walks along the grassy lawns all around the lake. Others had returned to the southern area of the Meer, swimming freely and gaily in the water.

And then there was Hector, the swan who was once again himself.

Staking claim to and swimming proundly in the water, Hector, came to greet me and then moved on like the "King" that he is in his own mind.

Hector did not appear to have any thoughts of flying anywhere last night.  He was definitely at the Meer to stay (at least for the time being).  It was good to see Hector happy and confident again.

But, if the wild mallards and swan seemed to be enjoying a sense of adventure and freedom in all the serenity, the six domestic ducks still remained at the north east side of the lake.

I now believe the domestics have staked out that part of the lake as their "territory."  Parts of it are fenced in and generally safe from human activity (including fishing) and there are many water plants in the area creating new food sources. 

Wiggly and Honker are still with their devoted, "love sick" mallard drake companions. It appears those are not just fleeting romances.  Indeed, Romeo has been tagging behind his lady love, Wiggly, and protecting her from all "evil" (i.e, mostly other mallards) since January.

But, what is surprising about the domestic ducks is that the four domestic ducks abandoned to the Meer last fall and previously "always together" have recently divided into two pairs. -- And not the pairs one would have guessed!

I think now I have been wrong about their sexes. I had assumed all along that the two black ducks were males and the two blondes, females.

But, since the two black ducks are usually together now (as are the two blondes) it appears these birds are actually opposite sex. -- In other words, "Cochise" the black duck with wing feather sticking up is probably a girl (I guess that because the other black duck has green on his head and is slightly larger) and one of the blonde ducks is probably a boy.

Nevertheless, though now realizing their sexes to be likely different from initially speculated, I am keeping their names (Cochise, Conner, Carol and Connie.")  There are, after all, worse things in life than having a unisex name.

As for the 6 geese at Harlem Meer, they were still around last night.  Four of them rested in the water.   But, "Kelly" (the female goose, blind in one eye) and her mate did come to briefly greet me. Kelly's gander is quite the social butterfly.   He likes people and though she is far more cautious than he, Kelly generally follows his lead.

All in all, it was extraordinarily peaceful, pristine and serene last night at Harlem Meer with waterfowl romance and adventure the primary aura in the air, the water and the

Don't let anyone ever tell you that there are not advantages to chilly and rainy weather. 

Perhaps that is why some people say, "It's for the ducks!" 

The ducks -- and geese and swan -- would probably agree.

Voices for Wildlife

"Duck love in the air," cool weather and a cleaned up Harlem Meer were not the only pleasantries from yesterday.

There was also good news about the "Spring fireworks" that surprisingly went forward this past Wednesday night near Bethesda Terrace in Central Park.  (I say, "surprisingly" because there were intermittent thunderstorms at the time.)

According to my friend, Liana, the park fireworks were mild compared to those that occur on July 4th and New Year's Eve. And they only continued for ten minutes.   Perhaps inclement  weather had something to do with the short duration, but in any case, the few geese and ducks on the Boat Lake were not unduly disturbed.

Then again, any ducks and geese still remaining on the Boat Lake this time of year are probably used to everything by now, including harassment, fishing, crowds, dogs, boats, music and even bongo drums.  

I guess a few exploding fireworks is a drop in the pond compared to all that.  

I also received a telephone call yesterday from an official with the Central Park Conservancy in response to the complaints I had left on Wednesday.

It was gracious of the gentleman to call back and it was all in all, a generally gracious conversation.  He assured me that the fireworks did not greatly disrupt the wildlife in the area (which apparently it didn't -- the waterfowl, at least.) and he assured me that Harlem Meer was being cleaned up (which it obviously was, big time).

I got a chance to express my concerns with these matters, as well as the importance of balancing out the desires of people with the needs of wildlife.  I also requested that the few remaining geese in the park (especially, the half blind goose at Harlem Meer and one-legged goose at the South Pond) not be further harassed as of this point, there are few geese in Central Park.  

Finally, I requested that "Fishing Rules" signs be posted at the Boat Lake as they are finally at Harlem Meer.  

I don't know that all the requests will be met.  Admittedly, it is a delicate balancing act indeed, as Central Park was created mostly for human enjoyment, but at the same time, a place for nature, tranquility and some forms of wildlife. Some times these things conflict -- especially during warm weather.

I believe it is possible to have a park that during the warm (heavy human activity) months is as hospitable and safe for wildlife as it is during the winter -- without compromising reasonable human pleasures.

Am I dreaming on that?

I don't know.  Only time will tell.

It took a long time to get the Fishing Rules signs posted at Harlem Meer.

It will probably take a while for other requests to be fully met.

The main thing is to request them and not give up.

We have to be the voices for the wildlife in our parks. 

But, for the moment at least -- on this chilly and rainy April day -- all is well again. -- PCA


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spring -- The (Mostly) Ugly Season

(Photos: 1-- Hector, the Harlem Meer Swan. Ponderings of leaving?  2--Romeo and Wiggly, keeping a watch out.  3-- "Kelly," the half blind goose at Harlem Meer.  Will she and her mate be left in peace?  Unlikely. )

"Swan Lake," No More?

Flowers and cherry blossoms may be in bloom and temperatures suddenly ignite memories of warm summer days and glistening beaches.

But, despite all the botanical beauty and renewal, inspiration to write in this journal has recently fallen short as we are now into what I unfortunately experience as, "The (Mostly) Ugly Season."

Most of the geese have been unceremoniously harassed and chased out of Central Park. From all appearances, most of the ducks have gone with them. 

A few days ago, I was shocked to find only two mallards at Turtle Pond and no geese.

A walk around the Reservoir found only two geese and a small number of mallards (though there were other types of ducks and some cormorants).

At Harlem Meer, most of the geese have been replaced by fishermen and lots of garbage (plastic bottles, bags, food containers and foil wrappers) discarded along the lake embankments.   If I didn't know better, I might have guessed that a sanitation truck went by the Meer and dropped most of its load.

I was worried for a couple of nights when I didn't see Hector, the swan at Harlem Meer.

But, I finally saw him Tuesday night.

But, he was not the same "Hector" I have come to know over the past four months. -- The proud, confident, outgoing swan who routinely came to greet and say "hello" to me each night (as he did, most people). 

This "Hector" stayed cautiously in the middle of the water, barely moving.  But, then something seemed to startle him and suddenly Hector took off flying high into the air.

I was shocked to see Hector actually fly.  Although I always presumed he could, I had not seen it before.

It appeared at first that Hector was going to fly out of the Meer, but towards the far west corner of the lake, he suddenly dipped and landed in the only area of the lake there were no fishermen.

He then quickly swam back towards the middle of the lake and stayed there like a statue.

Although Harlem Meer has been a God-send for Hector since he returned there last November (dirty, skinny and lame), I am not so sure it represents the same healing and peaceful force it did over the winter.

From his behavior Tuesday night, I am guessing Hector may not stay at the Meer despite his high status among other waterfowl and plentiful food sources.

It appears there is just too much stress at the Meer now as represented by increased human activity (most notably, fishing), goose harassment and many more free-roaming dogs.

Hector will either have to "adapt" very quickly or leave.

The other night, it definitely appeared Hector was fixing to leave -- though changing his mind at the very last second.

Ducks, Duck!

If the behavior of Hector, the swan seemed strange Tuesday night, the behavior of the ducks and few remaining geese at Harlem Meer is downright bizarre.

Like Hector, most of the remaining ducks and 4 to 6 geese mostly stay in the middle of the water and some huddle in the fenced in ("safe") grassy areas at the north end of the Meer.   They almost never venture now to the south side of the lake (as they did during the winter) perhaps because that is where most of the fishermen usually are.

I am impressed that the four domestic (flightless) ducks abandoned to the Meer last November appear to be able to read the, "No Fishing in this Area" signs near the Dana Center.   Cochise and Conner particularly are usually in that small grassy area, though Connie and Carol have tendency to wander to the eastern part of the lake (also fenced).

Wiggly, Honker and their two mallard drake lovers, also stay to the far south east portion of the lake now.  Its been several weeks since I have seen them venture anywhere near the south of the lake.

It is very difficult to know if these behavioral changes are due to natural territorial stakings in the spring or reactions to the stresses of goose harassment, fishing and dogs.   They could in fact, be a combination of all of the above and probably are.  

But, certainly the watchwords among the remaining ducks at Harlem Meer these days seem to be, "duck, cover and caution."   And for those ducks who don't feel like being on guard most of the time, they have simply left.  The duck population at the Meer now is less than half of what it was over the winter.

The Blind Side

Among the few geese now at Harlem Meer is a female who is blind in the right eye (the eye is totally white). This might explain why "Kelly" and her mate have been reluctant to leave the Meer despite regular goose harassment.  Since the eyes of geese are to their sides, blindness in one eye means no vision at all on the affected side -- something that substantially hinders flying ability.

Kelly is lucky to have a mate -- and apparently one who is both used to and comfortable with people and probably even used to various forms of harassment.

Despite all the caution of the other birds at Harlem Meer to venture to the south embankment, these two geese actually came to me the other night, though Kelly was far more cautious and shy than her brazen and outgoing mate who does not appear to be frightened of anything.

God, I hope with all the (damned) goose harassment, "Geese Poice" doesn't harass these two.  Then again, they probably don't notice -- or care that this particular goose is half blind.

Blindness is not just a physical disability.

Fire and Rain

Those who run the Central Park Conservancy obviously don't know me very well.

In the same week that I received a snail mail solicitation for donating to Central Park Conservancy, I also received an email from them announcing a "Spring Fireworks!" celebration that was to take place at Bethesda Terrace last night (Wednesday).  

The fireworks boasting touched off "fireworks" in me, but not the kind they might anticipate.

Instead of sending in a donation, I registered complaint yesterday with the Conservancy and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

I don't know who came up with the brainstorm to hold a fireworks display in a part of the park that is adjacent to the Boat Lake, the Rambles and the Central Park Zoo at a time that many birds are nesting and other animals are raising young.  But it seems both the brainstormer and those who went along with this crack pot idea completely forgot what Central Park was originally created FOR.

Certainly not to be simply a greener version of Times Square.

Central Park was originally created as a tranquil place for New Yorkers to "get away" from the stresses, noise and crowds of the city and enjoy nature.

"Enjoying nature" should not mean terrorizing it. And "tranquility" doesn't usually include blasting fireworks in the night skies -- when most wildlife typically sleeps.

But, if my views appear rigid and extreme, it seems nature itself went along with them -- at least last night.

There were flashing lights in the skies and loud booms.

But, they were the lights from lightening and the booms of thunder -- followed by a drenching rain.

Sure, the storm probably spooked some of the animals in the park, but they are used to those kinds of natural phenomenon (and a lot worse, quite frankly).

They're not used to the manufactured kind.

I am obviously glad this ill-timed and ill placed idea got rained out.

And though I fully expect the "spring fireworks" will be rescheduled, I am hoping that next year, sanity will prevail and that nature doesn't have to step in at the last minute to rain on the parade.

Unfortunately, we always find a way to "outsmart" nature, don't we?  (Or at least, we think we do.)

That is why I call and experience spring as, "The (Mostly) Ugly Season."  -- PCA


Friday, April 5, 2013

Wild Goose Chases in Mamaroneck -- and Lots of Smoke and Mirrors

Duck goose duck! USDA is coming to Mamaroneck!
 Much has been in the media of late about the goose situation in Mamaroneck, New York. 

The Village Manager (with support of the mayor) signed a contract with the USDA this past winter mandating that the geese in Mamaroneck be rounded up and killed this summer.

This was done without approval from the Board of Trustees (BOT) which has since expressed opposition to the kill portion of the contract (which also includes egg addling). 

Unfortunately, most of the press coverage on this issue has been misleading, murky or just plain wrong.

For example, CBS reported several weeks ago that there were "250,000 geese" in Mamaroneck.  That figure is actually for the entire state of New York. 

So far, neither politicians nor media has offered a documented figure on how many resident geese are actually in Mamaroneck. (One would think the first and most important, basic question to be researched and reported.)

Several media sources also quoted the mayor of Mamaroneck, Normal Rosenblum claiming that several years ago, geese were "relocated to one of the Carolinas, but flew back (to Marmaroneck) before the trucks."

No one in the press bothered to check the fact that molting geese are incapable of flight anywhere.  The mayor was either lying or is completely misinformed about geese, as is, apparently, the press.

But, these are not where the errant and deceptive coverage ends on this issue.  In fact, it continues to this day.

Most recent headlines (this week) have announced that Mamaroneck geese are getting a "stay of execution" or (as noted below) are "inching closer to freedom" because a couple of board members put forth a motion to cancel the contract with USDA.

But, there is little in actual evidence to support these inflated headlines and lofty, well intentioned promises.

On the contrary, according the actual goose kill contract between Mamaroneck and USDA any "termination" of contract would not take effect for "120 days."

By my math (which admittedly isn't very good) that means any cancellation of contract now would not take effect until some time in August -- long after the planned goose cull, which usually occur in late June or early July when geese are molting and flightless.

Of course, the contract could be amended and changed anytime before taking effect and that is what was ultimately promised at the last meeting on April 1st between USDA and BOT -- and what the media latched on to.

But, there are two mandates in the contract.  One to oil eggs to prevent them from hatching and the other to "remove" (i.e. kill) the geese, with the latter being the main one.

So, how is a contract "amended" to take out its primary objective (other than perhaps limiting the number of geese to be "removed" to two)?

The drama continues in Mamaroneck -- punctuated by wild goose chases and lots of smoke and mirrors.

Stay tuned.  -- PCA