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



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ingrid@thewildbeat said...

I came upon your blog in a search about wildlife harassment, and I am so sorry to read about the abusive practices you witness. I've been facing the same issues on a smaller scale in public parks here on the West Coast, and it's so very difficult to cope, emotionally, with the callousness and cruelty.

I don't understand when this public ethic of harassment took hold. It's so pervasive as to be almost unmanageable. I'm a wildlife photographer and former wildlife rehabilitator, and I spend a lot of time in urban parks in San Francisco and also Seattle. During nearly every photography excursion, I have to intervene with children chasing, kicking, throwing rocks at or otherwise disturbing and harming geese and other birds. At low tide, I see children mangling marine life. Often, the parents look on with amusement.

I've grown so weary of being the park police, informing these people that they are, in fact, breaking the law by harassing protected birds and so forth. There is no enforcement of these ethics, and it always falls upon those of us who care for the wild animals, sometimes putting ourselves in precarious situations with angry and violent people.

Although I'm deeply saddened by what you witness consistently, there is a lot of consolation in knowing what you are doing to help. I don't feel quite as alone with my perspectives. Thank you for doing what you do! And for bringing attention to these issues.