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."



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