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At Harlem Meer, most of the geese have been replaced by fishermen and lots of garbage (plastic bottles, bags, food containers and foil wrappers) discarded along the lake embankments.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



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