Friday, May 31, 2013

Arrivals of Heat, Crowds and New Challenges to City Parks and Wildlife

Geese pair at Jackie Onassis Reservoir.  Gander watches while his mate  peacefully eats.
Signs taped up around Reservoir last night.

Some Like it Hot

The heat is on in New York City. 

And as temperatures soar into the 90's over these three days, human activity in public parks has likewise soared off the charts.

Most surprising are the thousands of runners who seem to delight in running in hot, humid and generally miserable weather. Perhaps they enjoy drowning in sweat or perhaps they are just a bit masochistic.

The only time one would ever catch me running is when temperatures and wind chills hover near zero and I desperately need to generate some quick and cheap warmth.

But, I must be some kind of aberration -- in more ways than one.

Unlike Central Park and city leadership, I become a bit nervous, the more people that descend on city parks, most of whom are not regular visitors year around.

Last night for example:  Some tourists walking around the Jackie Onassis Reservoir and noting a couple of raccoons skimming along the water banks and munching at aquatic plants.

"They must have rabies!" a man announced to his companions.

"No," I answered in feeble attempt to educate.  "These raccoons have been here for years. You see them eating plants.  Rabid animals cannot eat."

Other brain challenged people walking around the Reservoir last night noticed the pair of geese resting along the rocky ridges near the water.

"I bet they would be good for dinner!  I wonder if they have eggs?"

This person I did not answer as I was not seeking confrontation. But, people like this test one's patience and generally make a "walk in the park" unpleasant.

One wants to say, "If you have that little respect for wildlife in a park, then stay home or go to McDonalds and munch on all the cadavers you want."   But, results of a statement like that wouldn't be good.

For these reasons and more, I am actually grateful for the runners who represent most of the human traffic around the Reservoir.  

They are in their own world and seem to notice or comment on nothing around them.

The fact is, were it not for the runners laying claim to the path around the Reservoir, it would otherwise be packed with fishermen.

The Reservoir is one of only two watercourses in Central Park that doesn't permit fishing (The other is Turtle Pond.)

The fishes, waterfowl and I have the runners to thank for that.

But, I will never understand why they so love running in the oppressive, unrelenting heat.  I get tired and sweaty just looking at them.

Social, Peaceful Geese, Respecting of Boundaries

There are currently 4 geese at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park in addition to a tiny number of mallards, cormorants and herons.

The two geese whose 3 eggs met an unkind fate last week and two other geese who stay at the west side of the watercourse.

The disappointed, would-be parent geese were in the middle of the water last night and surprisingly noticed me some good distance away.  (I say, "surprisingly" because I was amongst thousands of other people around the perimeter of the Reservoir.)   They immediately took off flying in my direction and landed with the precision of accomplished water skiers along the water in front of me.

I found this action very ingratiating as the geese not only remember and recognize humans (even from far away) but are immensely social animals who never miss an opportunity to say, "Hi" and engage in friendly interaction with humans they know.

The two pairs of geese also appear to have respect for the boundaries of the other with one couple staying on the east side of the Reservoir all the time and the other claiming the west side.

One cannot help but wonder if all four geese know each other and are possibly related?

Pesticide Spraying in Lieu of Geese and Other Insect-eating Animals?

It is still not clear why the eggs of the Reservoir geese failed to hatch and why the goslings failed to develop, though as noted previously, egg oiling ("addling") is highly suspected. That the eggs of three other nesting goose pairs at Central Park also failed to hatch lends credence to this suspicion. 

There is, however, another possibility that frequent "Pesticides" spraying in Central Park (and other parks) might be having negative impact, not only on geese, but other wildlife.

Many birds and other animals graze on the grasses and eat bugs that are routinely sprayed with chemical pesticides and one has to wonder about long range consequences on health and/or ability of natural wildife to reproduce? 

Last night, signs were taped along the Jackie Onassis Reservoir informing people of recent pesticide spraying in the area. 

The question is, can geese and the other animals of our parks read the signs?

One suspects if they could, they would avoid the areas and not try to reproduce and raise young in them.

Perhaps were there more geese and other insect eating animals at the Reservoir and other areas of Central Park, the pesticides would not be so "needed?"

The Greater the Crowds, the Greater Obligation to Be Aware

As noted at the top of this entry, the warm weather attracts millions of visitors to city parks, most of whom do not attend year round.

While the overwhelming majority of people are of good intent, that is unfortunately not true of all.

This statement is not only true of New York City, but other places around the country that similarly attract "outsiders" so to speak.

Out of San Antonio, Texas, comes this disturbing story today from the famous "River Walk" there:

This is the reason I so worry for the domestic ducks of Central Park, in addition to other wildlife in our parks during the spring and summer.

That a "loved" duck in a popular tourist spot was brutally tortured and killed by passing thugs is something to give us pause.

It only takes one or two sickos to wantonly destroy in our city parks. They wreak havoc and quickly move on.

The other night when at a very crowded Harlem Meer, a young boy picked up pebbles from the grass and was about to throw them at the four domestic ducks quietly resting on the "protected" grassy area near the Dana Center.

"Stop!" I called out to the boy who was about 10-years-old. "You can't throw stuff at the wildlife here.  You need to show respect."

The boy dropped the pebbles, but at that moment, a woman walking at least 20 feet in front of us turned around and yelled at me.

"You got something to say, you say it to me!" she hollered.

I did not even realize the woman was there, she was so far in front of me and the small group of kids she was supposedly monitoring.
I wanted to point out that the boy could have easily strayed from her or potentially even been kidnapped, but thought better of it and simply walked away.

Later in the evening I questioned my (actually gentle) admonition of this boy.  Am I getting too paranoid and reactive over the safety of wildlife -- particularly the domestic (flightless) ducks of our parks?  Is it better to turn a blind eye to everything and just "hope" that all the animals survive the spring and summer?

Unfortunately, judging from past experiences, that has not worked out very well.  All known ducks and geese who have vanished or perished in Central Park over the years have met their demise in spring or summer and presumably at the hands of humans.

But, it was only when seeing the above news video today that I believe I did the right thing when prompting the young boy to put down the pebbles.

As our city is so fond of telling its people, "When you see something, say something."

It may not make you popular or liked, but it can sometimes mean the difference between insuring safety for people and animals or just reacting in horror and despair when something bad happens (like the people in San Antonio today).   

Hopefully, when returning to the Meer tonight, everything will be OK and the animals safe.

Safety isn't something to be merely wished for. It needs to be work for as well.  -- PCA


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stumpy's Dilemma -- Memorial Day Weekend, Central Park

"Stumpy" -- One-legged goose at South Pond in Central Park. Stumpy likely lost half of her right leg due to fishing line injury. 
Stumpy (remaining in water) while protective gander stands watch.
Central Park clean-up crew at Harlem Meer this morning.
Hand-held vacuum useful to suck up debris along park paths and embankment, including discarded fishing lines.
A mama mallard and two ducklings at Harlem Meer this morning apparently breathing sigh of relief after holiday weekend clean-up. For now, these babies are safe.
 Post Memorial Day Peace and Clean-Up

In what might have been their first big challenge of the season, all six domestic ducks (and other waterfowl) made it safely through the long holiday weekend at Harlem Meer.

A light rain fell this morning as most people made their way back to work or school.

Things were quiet and peaceful in Central Park as contrasted to the heavily trafficked weekend.

I was not sure what I would find at Harlem Meer this morning.  When last there on Sunday, it was distressing to see kids and fishermen once again dunking loose fishing lines in the water without benefit of rods and other fishermen casting lines out from within supposedly "protected" areas of the Meer.

Surprisingly, there were several flocks of Canada geese at the Meer on Sunday feasting on all the excess moss and duck weed in the water.  I was sure the Dana Center and Central Park Conservancy would call out Geese Police, the National Guard, unmanned drones and Navy Seals to quickly send the geese packing.  

But, perhaps this time the park actually appreciated some geese helping to clean up the lake.

Surprisingly, most of the geese were still at the Meer this morning, dunking heads in water and busily scooping up excess plants and bugs.

But, the geese weren't the only one engaged in clean-up.

Several cleaning crews were out bright and early this morning, both scooping weeds from the lake and cleaning up lawns and lake embankments.   One worker even used a hand vacuum to suck up debris from the embankments, including presumably, discarded fishing line.

It is no small coincidence that since Central Park leadership embarked on serious clean-up at Harlem Meer, I have found no discarded fishing lines.  And that is a very positive development.

It is the difference between seeing waterfowl crippled and compromised by fishing line around legs or bills and seeing waterfowl healthy and thriving.

And on the way back from the Meer this morning, I even saw two squirrels romping through a quiet lawn at the North Meadow.

It was all sharp contrast to the holiday weekend......

Recovery from Loss -- Memorial Day, The Jackie Onassis Reservoir

It was hard to believe all the crowds on the running path that surrounds the Jackie Onassis Reservoir on Memorial Day.  And most of them were not running.

Runners looked piqued, trying to navigate around slow moving tourists, baby strollers and even a couple of cyclists.  (Normally, cyclists and strollers are not permitted on running path.)  

But, such did not bother me as I was neither running nor sight seeing.

I was on the Reservoir to check on the mated pair of geese whose three eggs were discovered broken and unviable a couple of days earlier.

The day following their loss, the two geese hovered around the failed nesting site as if holding a private memorial service. 

But, yesterday, it was good to see that they had moved about 60 or 70 yards from the location and appeared to be attempting to "move on."

That is the one significant way that animals and humans appear to differ.  Animal cannot afford to grieve their losses in the same ways human do. Life demands that wildlife quickly adapt and move forward.

Though critical of "egg addling" (oiling eggs so that they do not hatch, but female geese continue to sit on them) in situations like these, I do recognize the value of this questionable practice in areas that actually have a goose "overpopulation" and geese are threatened with destruction by gun, gas or slaughterhouse. 

But, personally seeing the results of egg addling up close and personal, it does give one another perspective. 

I will never forget the haunted, despaired look on the would-be mama goose's face when gazing up at me and seeming to ask, "What could have happened?"

Though brief out of necessity, there is no question that geese and other animals mourn the losses of their young and devote their very lives to trying to protect them.  Seeing the mama goose hovering over her tattered eggs a few days ago and trying to poke life back into them was one of the saddest sights I have personally ever seen.

Egg addling is something that should only be conducted in extreme situations of absolute necessity to prevent an all out goose slaughter.  It is not something to be practiced out of convenience or some warped desire to completely eradicate a species in a park.

The reality is we don't actually know what "adaptive" measures geese will ultimately resort to in order to prevent destruction of their eggs.  We are already seeing geese taking to nesting in strange places -- like rooftops, shopping malls and balconies.  That is likely adaptation to so much destruction of nests and eggs in more natural and appropriate settings.

Egg addling, like harassment and hazing are not things to fool around with and abuse.

And neither was truly "necessary" in Central Park this spring.

Once the migratory geese left in February and March, there were only a few dozen geese in an 838 acre park and only 4 pairs attempted nesting.

In my not so humble opinion, the hazing and egg addling in this case, represented abuse of an otherwise, effective and sometimes necessary "tool."

Time will only tell how the two would-be parent geese from the Reservoir will attempt to adapt to their situation of (still another?) failed egg hatching.

The one thing we do know is that the pair is still together. Geese do not easily abandon mates -- if indeed they ever do.  

Perhaps this is another way geese differ from humans -- as is also bourne out at the South Pond, another location of "failed nesting" in Central Park....

Stumpy's Dilemma -- Memorial Day, the South Pond.

I don't normally visit the South Pond in Central Park (located near 59th Street and Fifth Ave).

It is simply too far out of my way.

However, yesterday, I had special reason to go there.

A couple of months ago, I was told by my friend, Lianna, that there was a goose at the Boat Lake who was completely missing a foot.

"She has only a stump for leg!" Lianna cried.  "It is so sad to see this goose!  She has so much trouble walking. She tilts to one side and tries to balance herself as if putting a chair under the leg."

I could not imagine this scene, but by the time I had hoped to go to Boat Lake, the one-legged goose, along with her mate had vanished (about the time Geese Police was active in Central Park).

Then a few weeks ago, I was informed in email by other people, that the one-legged goose and her mate were staying at the South Pond.

The woman and her husband were particularly concerned about this goose "with a stump for a leg" and were looking out for her.

The couple also informed me about another pair of geese who attempted to nest at the South Pond, but several weeks ago, "abandoned the nest" for some mysterious reason. 

(Geese don't normally "abandon nests" unless it is determined there is something wrong with the eggs and they are unviable or the geese are unduly tormented and harassed and thus determine the area to be unsafe.)

Though the South Pond only had a reported "four geese all together" I felt it important yesterday to check the situation out personally.

It seemed there were a zillion people at the South Pond on the Memorial Day weekend. 

Scores of children and families, tourists and yes, even fishermen.   It was slow going along the narrow pedestrian paths.

But, I did see the two mated pairs of geese.

The would-be parent geese who mysteriously "abandoned their nest" two weeks ago were cheerfully situated in a small grassy, fenced-in area where they seemed to delight in posing for photographs and grabbing treats tossed to them by friendly people.  

Whatever reason the pair abandoned their nest, fear of the area being "unsafe" was obviously not one of them.

(I presumed these to be the failed nesting geese, because both had perfectly whole feet and legs.) 

Further to west and in a generally more quite area, I noted two other geese playfully frolicking in the water, seemingly taking turns splashing and dunking heads under the pond.

Apparently seeing me admiring and taking photos of them, the two geese curiously made their way over in my direction.

The gander walked confidently upon the marshy area and partook of a small amount of cracked corn I offered to him, but his mate remained cautiously in the water.  Though I tried to entice her to walk on the soft mud with a couple of treats, she declined.

But, the water was shallow enough for me to make out her feet and legs underneath.

And sure enough, she was missing the entire right foot and half of her right leg.

"Poor Stumpy!" I thought to myself.

It was very clear why this goose remained safely in the water as walking is serious challenge for her.  Had I offered red velvet cake, I doubt Stumpy would have thought it worth the trouble of trying to navigate on the one whole leg.

But, the "good news" in this otherwise troubling scene is that Stumpy is lucky to have a devoted mate who protects her and she has apparently learned to "adapt" to this rather severe disability.   She uses the one leg to swim proficiently and apparently can still fly.

The "bad news" is that one almost has to surmise that this type of injury could come from little else in Central Park, but fishing line ensnared around a leg.

As noted in Oliver, the mallard drake rescued last October with fishing line around leg, it is impossible for the birds to get this stuff off a limb themselves and over time, the fishing line cuts into the leg, stops circulation and eventually breaks bone.

Fortunately, we got to Oliver before the fishing line actually severed bone.  But, he still had to spend weeks at The Wild Bird Fund in treatment and recovering from the injury before being released back to Harlem Meer.  -- An injury that is so easily preventable by a little human responsibility.

Unfortunately, for "Stumpy," rescue and treatment never came and she eventually lost most of her leg.  But, she still has her lifelong goose mate -- geese who apparently don't leave their mates when the going gets tough.

Stumpy's dilemma is learning and having to live with a permanent injury that never should have occcurred in the first place.

That is why it was so good to see the clean-up crews at Harlem Meer this morning -- especially the guy with the vacuum sweeping up debris from lake embankments.

There should be no more "Stumpy's" in Central Park.

It is hoped that CP looks out for and appropriately protects the one goose still living who fell victim to this human (and park) neglect and irresponsibility.  It is hoped the park will remain vigilant in cleaning up all discarded fishing lines in those areas the activity is prevalent and promoted.

Stumpy's real dilemma is to wonder if those who caused her preventable pain and injury actually care about her future welfare and those of her brethren?

Only time, observation and willingness to speak out will tell.  -- PCA


Saturday, May 25, 2013

And Then There Was None (The Last Would-Be Goslings of Central Park)

Would-be Mother Goose peers over shattered, empty eggs on rock at Central Park Reservoir.
Her gander arrives to try and console bereaved mama goose. 
"What happened?"
This spring is fast becoming the season of my discontent.

First,  there was the observation of Geese Police ("Get the Flock Out!") in Central Park at the beginning of spring. Who would have ever thought that peaceful waterfowl on water needed arrest?

Then there was all the discarded fishing line found and picked up around Harlem Meer over the past month.

Then there was the news (and observance) that all the eggs of three nesting pairs of geese in Central Park had failed to hatch.

Then there was the goose with fishing line and tackle ensnared about her bill of the past couple of weeks.

Then, the dead squirrel at the base of a tree a couple of days ago.

And then there was this morning:

There was still remaining one pair of nesting geese at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir. The mated couple had begun nesting late and it was not expected that their three eggs would hatch until the next few days.

The mama goose had diligently sat on her eggs throughout the entire month, while her gander regularly patrolled and protected the east portion of the Reservoir from any possible threats.

But, the one "threat" nesting geese seem unable to protect against is that from humans.

This morning when arriving to the Reservoir, I found the mama goose standing up over her broken, empty eggs and looking confused.

"What could have happened? she appeared to ask both the ground and me when looking up.

My heart sank when noting this sad, discrumpled scene. 

The two geese at the Reservoir represented our last hope for any goslings at Central Park this spring and summer.

"That is sad." a voice to my left said. "What do you think happened?"

I turned to see a man gazing down at the same scene I was.

"I think the Geese Police addled; (destroyed) her eggs." I answered somberly.  "Three other nesting pairs of geese in the park also lost their eggs."

"Geese police?  Are you serious?" the man asked.  "Why would they do that?"

"They claim the geese are overpopulated."

"There are just two geese here!" the man said incredulously. That's insane!  Well, I am just visiting New York," the man added.   "Glad they don't do this where I'm from."

"Here in New York City, we don't just destroy eggs and harass geese, but also round them up and slaughter them.  That's why you don't see many." I answered.

The man shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, obviously not impressed with this ugly aspect of New York City.

I stayed for brief while after the man left,  but there was nothing I could do to save the broken eggs or console the distressed (would be) mother goose. She continued to peck at the shattered and empty shells, as if wishing she could somehow restore life to them.

Walking north to Harlem Meer, I passed through the North and East Meadows, keeping an eye out for any squirrels romping through the grass. 

But, there weren't any.

Strange that the only squirrel seen over the past week happened to be a dead one.

I wondered briefly if "Pesticide Spraying" warning signs posted recently around various lawns in Central Park had anything to do with the seemingly vanishing squirrels?  It was a thought I cared not to continue or contemplate.

Finally arriving to Harlem Meer, it was surprising to note how clean and pristine it was. There wasn't a plastic bag, bottle or tangled fishing line anywhere.

Perhaps recent rain over the past couple of days had something to do with the clean, fresh look of the water.  Or, perhaps the cleaning crew of a few days before had done a good job in cleaning up the murky debris that had given the lake a look of neglect over the past month. 

Or, perhaps it was the couple of flocks of new geese that apparently recently arrived that helped to consume some of the weeds, twigs and excess foliage in the water. 

The lake hadn't looked this good in many weeks.

But, what was truly surprising were the geese.

There were between 20 and 25 of them scattered along the eastern part of the Meer and dunking heads under the water to eat.  

(Apparently, the mated pair of geese whose eggs failed to hatch, still have claim to the western part of Harlem Meer.)

But, I thought cynically that as soon as the employees of the Dana Discovery Center would arrive for the day, they would probably put an "emergency" call into Geese Police to come, "get rid of the geese." 

There is virtually zero tolerance for resident geese at Harlem Meer -- especially from the folks at the Dana Center. "The geese don't belong here," they say.

But, isn't it funny that when geese are actually there, the lake looks a lot cleaner?

The geese don't "fowl" up the park and lake with bags, bottles, balls and discarded fishing line.  They actually eat bugs and other excesses that otherwise murk up the water.

Though I saw many geese at Harlem Meer this morning, I still did not see the goose with attached fishing line and fake fish.

At this point, one has to think that either this goose perished or perhaps a couple of good hearted and competent people were able to finally capture the compromised goose and cut the fishing tackle.

Heart wishes to believe the latter, but head skeptically suspects the former.

Walking back from Harlem Meer, I returned to the Reservoir to check again on the bereaved, would-be mother goose.

This time her gander had joined and appeared to try and console her.

For some minutes the distressed mama stayed looking over her tattered egg remains on the rock.

But, then having grieved and realized the irretrievability of her losses, she eventually and reluctantly joined her beaconing mate in the water.

Another sad, spring day in Central Park.

Perhaps I could tell myself that rain storms and temperature drops over the past couple of days had destructive impact upon the three eggs that this goose had protectively sat on since April 30th and would have been due to hatch momentarily.

But, the fact there were no dead, but formed goslings among the ruins suggest that the eggs were not viable even at this late date.

This appears to be the ugly face of egg addling in Central Park.

A circumstance that if continued over the next few years will eventually result in no resident geese in Central Park at all.

Little by little our wildlife is vanishing in Central Park.

To apparently be replaced by fishing, endless "events," concerts, fireworks and a "thon" a week.

All Central Park needs now is a giant roller coaster and perhaps a basketball team and we can call it the uptown Manhattan version of Madison Square Garden and Coney Island combined.

The one thing it won't be is any kind of nature reserve.

Yes, the season of my discontent while watching despaired, would-be parent geese slowing swim away from their banished and destroyed would-be young.

Now nothing more than tattered remains and shell remnants on a rock.  -- PCA


Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Glad, the Sad, the Phantom and the Funny

"Aren't you going to sit on it?" Harry asks Honker at Harlem Meer this morning.
Two geese enjoying a peaceful moment.
Dead squirrel at base of tree. Victim of accident or something else?
Central Park maintenance staff cleaning debris off lake this morning.
I am beginning to think that the fishing line goose at Harlem Meer takes off flying just moments before I arrive each day. 

The seemingly "phantom" goose with fake fish and fishing line wrapped tightly around bill is yet to be seen by me although known and photographed by others.  Perhaps, it is just as well because I am not sure how I would handle emotionally, seeing the injured goose in person. Perhaps she is simply attempting to spare my feelings by vanishing each time before I arrive.

There were a total of 7 geese at the Meer this morning.  The paired geese whose eggs failed to hatch were peacefully grazing at the western portion of the lake.  And a gaggle of 5 geese lazily swam in the water at the eastern part -- the last place the fishing line goose was reported to have been.

But, thankfully all the geese appeared perfectly healthy and fit.

Although it was barely 9 AM when I wandered around Harlem Meer this morning, park crews were already out cleaning up any trash on the lawns and even in the water. Two workers manned the raft, slowly and carefully skimming the lake for debris.

Once again, I did not find any discarded fishing lines along lake embankments -- something very positive to see in terms of prevention of wildlife injuries due to carelessly discarded tackle.

But, not all was well for the wildlife of Harlem Meer.

Sadly, a dead squirrel lay at the base of a tree.

I notified a maintenance worker for Central Park Conservancy of the dead squirrel and asked what he thought might have caused the little animal's demise?

"He might have fallen from a tree," was the guess.

But, considering the exact location of the squirrel (base of tree) and the fact squirrels are extremely adept at jumping through and climbing trees, I had doubts about the explanation.

Rather, it seemed the squirrel was trying to escape from something by running up a tree, but wasn't fast enough to get away.

One speculates that the "something" was probably an unleashed dog as there are no real predators in Central Park (other than perhaps people).

While the overwhelming number of dog owners are responsible and respectful of Central Park and its wildlife, there are unfortunately those few who are either lackadaisical and inattentive to what their dogs are doing or actually encourage their dogs to harass and potentially even kill wildlife.

As previously reported in this blog, "Joey," a Pekin, domestic duck was attacked on the ice at Harlem Meer in January, 2011 by a dog and sustained a deep bite wound on the back.  Fortunately, Joey was rescued, treated at the Wild Bird Fund and later adopted out.   Last year however, another duck was attacked by a dog in Central Park and was not so lucky:

"Off leash" hours in Central Park are a positive thing for dogs and their owners as socialization and play time are beneficial for all.

But, for those dog owners who abuse this privilege by allowing their dogs to jump into the water (or on ice in winter) and harass waterfowl or chase and potentially kill other wildlife, such irresponsibility could eventually result in off leash privileges being revoked for all dogs and their owners.  Such would again be a sad case of good people paying for the actions of the self-entitled and irresponsible. 

As with the fishing at Harlem Meer, too many people view privileges as entitlements and opportunity for abuse.  Such attitudes hurt all in the end, both animal and human alike.  

I don't of course know for sure, what killed the squirrel today in Central Park. But, based upon past observances and experiences, suspicion falls upon the usual suspects.

It was just a sad thing to see -- especially since natural wildlife is so quickly vanishing in our parks.  One would hate to see squirrels go the same way as wild rabbits who (according to park rangers) used to exist in Central Park but were presumably killed off by dogs decades ago.

Thankfully, all the domestic ducks and at least the few geese seen this morning were fine and healthy.

In fact, it seemed that Honker, (one of the two Khacki Campbell domestic ducks) dropped an egg.
But, while her mallard drake boyfriend, Harry appeared to ask, "Aren't you going to sit on it?" Honker just looked confused and walked away.

"What?  I don't know what that is!"

Apparently, the domestic ducks of Harlem Meer know nothing about nesting or sitting on and protecting eggs.

But, somewhere in Central Park, I suspect a raccoon might have been contemplating an easy breakfast this morning.  -- PCA


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Requiring Responsibility from Park Leaderships for Wildlife Protection

Still suffering.  Goose ensnared with fishing line at Harlem Meer, while Dana Discovery Center and park officials offer excuses and falsehoods to public.
"Mr. Mister."  Mallard with broken wing at Harlem Meer for more than a month amid endless excuses for "not finding."
An acquaintance (I will call her "Jane") called the Dana Discovery Center at Harlem Meer yesterday about the injured goose with fishing line and tackle around bill.  She spoke with a woman named, "Flo."  

Flo told Jane that the goose is at Harlem Meer "all the time" but she personally has never seen it.  She also told Jane that the goose "is eating."

But, if Flo has never seen the goose, how can she possibly know the goose is there "all the time" and is "eating?"

For point of fact, the fishing line goose is not at Harlem Meer "all the time."  I have been to the Meer eight days in a row at different times, searched the entire lake and have yet to see her.

This is what makes possible rescue coordination so difficult. One at least needs to start off with the premise of knowing the injured animal's exact location and at what times s/he is usually there.

If I have been critical of the Dana Discovery Center, this is why.

The Dana Center is on site to Harlem Meer.  Employees only have to look out their window to know when the injured goose is there.

While employees of the Dana Center rightfully argue it is "not our job" to rescue injured wildlife, (it is the job of Urban Park Rangers), they appear both, indifferent to this goose' suffering (as result of an activity they heavily promote) as well as resentful of the goose for even being there.

Imagine an immigrant walking into a hospital with an injury and then being told by doctors, "You shouldn't be here in the first place."

That is exactly the attitude of people at the Dana Center, but it is an ignorant attitude in more ways than one.

Canada geese are in fact, native to North America and they are waterfowl that naturally "belongs" on water.

One could easily and correctly argue that it is fishing line and tackle that "doesn't naturally belong" in the water.

But, it is the fact that the Dana Center rents out fishing equipment and endorses this activity to the community that makes their attitude so irresponsible and unfathomable.

When one throws a party, it is that person's (or entity's) job to clean up from the party or hire someone to do it.

When Central Park or NYC conducts marathons, concerts or street fairs, the sanitation trucks are immediately on the spot following the events to clean up.

But, when fishing line and tackle is discarded at Harlem Meer or wildlife is injured as result of fishing, the attitude of the entity promoting these events is, "It's not our job to clean up or coordinate rescue for fishing-injured wildlife."

That is totally unacceptable.

The Dana Discovery Center and Central Park is "holding the (fishing) parties" so to speak. 

It is their job to clean up any debris or mayhem left from those parties, not the public's or even Urban Park Rangers.

The reality is that this suffering goose will be difficult, if not impossible to rescue and free from fishing line without the cooperation and involvement of the Dana Discovery Center.

Not only is the Dana Center on site to the injured goose, but it also possesses fishing nets, one of which hopefully would be large enough for a goose.  (There is also a sizable raft at Harlem Meer, but it is not clear who exactly has ownership and possession of the raft.)

So far, the question of why Urban Park Rangers are not properly equipped for waterfowl rescue (such as possessing kayaks and rocket nets) has not been answered. Nor has it been answered why Rangers are doing children's "education classes" at a time wildlife is most in danger and more likely to need rescue.

I personally believe that the public for too long has accepted excuses, mendacity and deflection of responsibility as substitutes for productive and concrete action.

The fishing line goose at the Meer for more than a week and the mallard with broken wing at the same location for more than a month are clear proof of that.

It's past time to start requiring more and better from our park leaderships and from fishing promoting venues like the Dana Discovery Center.

Sadly, what we are "discovering" at Harlem Meer where the Dana Center is located is callous indifference to wildlife and shirking of their obligations to the "mess" the activity they most espouse creates. 

That is simply unacceptable. -- PCA


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

No Help for Fishing Line Goose at Harlem Meer

Fishing line and tackle ensnared around mouth and bill of suffering goose at Harlem Meer. Dana Center's response?  "The geese shouldn't be here in the first place!"
Fisherman yesterday in "off limits" area of Harlem Meer.
Wiggly and Romeo at Harlem Meer.  "Let them eat ice" was attitude of Dana Center last winter. 
 I should apologize for my naivete and "rose colored glasses" thinking when writing yesterday's blog entry.

At one point, I expressed "hope" that the goose at Harlem Meer suffering for more than a week with ensnared fishing line around bill was able to free him/herself from the potentially fatal obstruction.

But, that is not possible from the photo taken yesterday and posted in comment to this blog.

In a week's time the line has obviously tightened substantially around the goose's bill and the fake fish is now dangling very close to her mouth.

Alarmed and angry when seeing the latest photo, I again called the Park Rangers (and left a message), as well as the Dana Discovery Center.

The attitude of the people at the Dana Center is particularly disturbing.

"Why didn't the person taking the photo grab and bring the goose to us?" I was asked.   

Apparently, people visiting Central Park are not only expected to pick up discarded fishing lines around the lake, but also rescue injured wildlife as a result of the fishing.  This is like expecting anti-smokers to pick up cigarette butts in the streets or pedestrians to rescue accident victims of car wrecks.

I explained to the man from the Dana Center that I did not personally know the person taking the photographs and it would not be the job of an average citizen to attempt rescue of injured wildlife in Central Park.

"Well, the geese shouldn't be here in the first place." was the callous and smug reply. "It's people like you who feed them who are responsible for them being here!" 

"First of all, Sir, I have never even seen the maimed goose and secondly, the fishermen break rules all the time and you turn a blind eye.  Fishermen go over fences and fish in off limit areas.  They discard fishing tackle all over the Meer and cripple wildlife.  This is in fact, not the first animal injured from fishing line at the Meer and won't be the last.  Is the goal here to get rid of all the wildlife and turn the entire Meer over to fishermen?"

Considering there are pitifully few geese and ducks at Harlem Meer these days, the suggestion that I was somehow "responsible" for this injured goose from fishing line was appalling, insulting and downright false.  Talk about "passing the buck" and trying to shirk all responsibility for the dire conditions of wildlife at Harlem Meer on others!  (Including the mallard with broken wing who has been in that condition for more than a month at the Meer.)

Then again, I should not have been surprised with such defensive and ignorant response from the Dana Center.

Last January, when the lake was nearly entirely frozen over at the Meer and the six domestic ducks were stranded on a tiny pool of open water, I was admonished and yelled at by probably this same gentleman from the Dana Center for feeding the domestic ducks cracked corn.

"Don't you see the signs?" He sneered.  "You are not supposed to feed wildlife!"

"These are NOT wildlife!" I shot back.  "These are domestic ducks who cannot fly!  They are stranded on frozen lake!"

Then, pointing to Romeo, the mallard drake companion to Wiggly, the man shouted. "You see over there?  THAT is a wild mallard!"

Yes, it seems that the people at the Dana Center would like to see all the waterfowl, including the six domestic ducks perish at Harlem Meer.

It should only be a place for tormenting fish.

Finally, to the person who posted the two photos in comments to this blog: 

Thank you for caring, photographing and trying to get help for this suffering goose.

Unfortunately, I have not seen the goose at all, though I have been to the Meer everyday and at different times.

Please contact me the next time you see the goose and if you can, please let us know if this goose is able to eat:    Patty (212) 427-8273.

It seems that some of us are going to have to plan a rescue.

But, we have to know when the goose is there and if s/he is in same place consistently.

Thank you.  -- PCA


Monday, May 20, 2013

After the Rain -- A Brief Respite for the Wildlife of Central Park

No worse for the wear.  Mated pair of geese at Harlem Meer together again after eggs failed to hatch.
"Cochise," one of the domestic ducks enjoying rare romp in grass at South part of Meer this morning.
Connie and Connor adventuring away from protected area of Harlem Meer this morning.
Wiggly and her Romeo.  Two birds not of feather still together.
 There was an unusual air of peace and serenity around Central Park and Harlem Meer this Monday morning -- unusual that is, for this time of year.

Scores of turtles basked in the sunlight on rocks surrounding the Meer and a few brazen turtles even ventured happily upon the grass.

An elderly man sitting on a park bench tossed small bread pieces to a few grateful pigeons while a young girl snapped photos of a couple of mallards basking on a rock.  

The four domestic ducks (Cochise, Connor, Carol and Connie) abandoned to the Meer last November ventured to South part of the lake and frolicked in the grass this morning -- something not observed on any consistent basis since the end of winter.

And the two geese who attempted nesting (presumably on the tiny island at the west of the Meer) were once again together, apparently having given up all hope that their eggs would hatch after six weeks of failed nesting.

It is disappointing that the eggs of the Harlem Meer goose pair failed to hatch.  But, on the other hand, any goslings that would have hatched at the Meer would have had a tough time surviving considering all the fishing and carelessly discarded fishing tackle. The goslings would have been easy targets for mishap and injury.

The parent geese appeared to be no worse for the wear.  The gander watched out protectively while his mate grazed peacefully in the grass.

The reality is that no matter how disappointing it might have been for a failed nesting, wildlife (unlike humans) cannot afford to grieve their losses for long.  Life is, quite simply, a daily struggle to survive. It has to move on despite loss.

But, perhaps what was most surprising this morning about Harlem Meer was how cleaned up -- and nearly immaculate it was!

Perhaps all the rain of the weekend helped to wash everything clean as well as it kept human activity, including fishing to a minimum.

But, it was also apparent that in recent days cleaning crews had worked hard at the Meer and cleaned up virtually all of the debris, including fishing lines and other tackle carelessly discarded around the lake. 

For one of the few times all month, I was unable to find any fishing line on the grass or ensnared around plants at Harlem Meer.

And the wildlife there (apparently sensing heightened safety) appeared to be celebrating this morning and enjoying some rare moments of peace and serenity.

I have not enjoyed at all, the role of "bitchy pain in the ass" over these past few years whether it be with USDA, various locations entering into goose killing contracts with USDA "Wildlife Services" or the leadership of Central Park.  

But, walking around Harlem Meer this morning and noting healthy, contented wildlife,  I could not help but feel some sense of brief and small satisfaction.

Certainly, it is still very early in the season to proclaim any "victories" at all in terms of protecting park wildlife and specifically, Canada geese.

The early harassment of Central Park geese and possible destruction of eggs, as well as one goose entangled around the bill with fishing line (and discarded fishing line around the Meer) are all ominous signs of bad things already happening and further bad things to come.

But, there still remain a few glimmers of hope.

Other people beside myself are looking out for the geese.  The two nesting geese in Central Park continue to protect nest and sit on three eggs. And there appears to be (at least for the moment) greater vigilance in terms of clean up at Harlem Meer.

While we still don't know and have not found again, the goose with fishing line and fake fish around bill, a part of me is hoping that somehow, the goose was able to untangle him or herself from the line -- perhaps by rubbing up against plants or tree limbs. 

Miraculously, a goose shot through the neck with an arrow at Prospect Park in 2010 was able to remove the arrow himself a couple of weeks later:

Tragically and ironically, the goose named "Target" by the Prospect Park community was then rounded up and gassed by USDA less than two weeks after freeing himself from the arrow.

And it is precisely this that is the real reason why, as disheartening as it is to become a "squeaking wheel" so to speak, we have to.

Nothing in fact, can ever be taken for granted.  

But, at least for this morning, it was really nice to see the wildlife of Central Park and the Meer enjoying some brief moments of peace and respite. -- PCA


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Symbolic Geese and Lost Offspring

Nesting goose in Central Park.  But, are her and her gander's efforts in vain?
Although I have searched for the Canada goose with the fishing line and tackle around beak (photographed at Harlem Meer earlier this week) I have not seen him/her. 

Caroline Greenleaf of the Central Park Conservancy called me a couple of days ago and said the goose "flies in and out of Harlem Meer" and has been hard to capture.

The goose hasn't been at the Meer any of the times I've been there and nor is s/he at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir or Turtle Pond either.  

That is why it is so important to prevent these injuries in the first place.  The birds can be very hard to capture (especially this time of year) and Park Rangers are not properly equipped for wildlife rescue.   (Last year, when called to rescue an injured goose at Harlem Meer, one ranger showed up with a cat carrier.  He had to borrow a small fishing net from the Dana Center which was totally inadequate to catch a large goose.  The goose was never rescued and vanished a few days later.)

Though this type of injury (fishing line ensnared around the bill) can potentially be fatal, Ms. Greenleaf seemed not all that concerned. 

"The goose seems to be OK" she attempted to assure me.  "He has a mate."

"But, how can the goose eat with fishing line around the bill?" I asked.

"Well, park rangers have tried to capture him without success," (surprise, surprise) continued Ms. Greenleaf and then added, "Park rangers are very busy this time of year.  They also conduct child education classes now." 

"Child education classes?" I asked incredulously.  "Why would they do that now -- when these injuries are more likely to occur?  Shouldn't they do that in winter?"

The conversation continued downhill from that point.

I expressed displeasure with the numerous commercial and trivial "events" held almost constantly in Central Park while injured and maimed wildlife is left to suffer and Park Rangers lack proper equipment and do "education classes."

I wanted to ask sarcastically, "What exactly are they teaching the kids?  How to dunk fishing lines in the water and throw rocks at ducks?" -- but thought better of it.

Yes, totally frustrating.  

Meanwhile, I found more fishing line yesterday morning at Harlem Meer.   I guess its good there aren't many geese or ducks there these days as there would simply be more injured and suffering birds.  

In fact, the only goose regularly seen in the mornings at the Meer appears to be a gander "guarding" the western part of the lake.   This usually indicates a nesting female nearby (in this case, a tiny island of trees and foliage in the western part of the lake).

The problem is, this gander has been on "sentry duty" for more than a month.

Any eggs would have hatched by now.

Sadly, one has to suspect that if indeed there is a nesting female goose on the little island patch at Harlem Meer, her eggs were likely "addled" (oiled) by either park personnel or Geese Police rendering them incapable of hatching.

A sobering thought, considering there are so few geese anywhere in Central Park right now.

In recent years, a few pairs of nesting geese have managed to produce young in Central Park.

Last year, there were goslings at both, the South Pond (near 59th Street) and the Boat Lake.

But, this year, the nesting pair of geese at the South Pond apparently abandoned their eggs a couple of weeks ago.  People reporting this incident are not sure if this is because eggs were tampered with or the geese were disturbed by fishing and other human activities.

Meanwhile, at the Boat Lake, its been reported that the nest and 5 eggs of one pair of nesting geese were destroyed this past week. The rock the mama goose had been nesting on has been cleaned and wiped down with no trace of nesting material, eggs or feathers remaining.

In both cases, the people reporting these events also described the surviving geese as "distressed."

As of this point, there is still one pair of nesting geese (that we know of) in Central Park. (I am not naming exact location for obvious reasons, though the nesting pair are probably known already.)

In this case, the geese nested late and I don't expect the three eggs to hatch for about another week to ten days.

The question is, will they hatch at all?

It has been exciting for several people, including myself over the past three weeks to watch mama goose constantly and dutifully sitting on and protecting her eggs while her gander patrols the surrounding water and chases off any geese who dare to visit the area.

It is amazing that during nesting the mama goose appears to shut down her body, requiring very little food and activity.  The geese are totally devoted to the protection of their offspring.

So, why would geese abandon eggs at the South Pond and how would both the nest and eggs end up destroyed at the Boat Lake?

And why is the gander still "guarding" at Harlem Meer long after any potential eggs would have hatched?

These are disturbing questions that don't bode well for the one pair of geese still nesting.

If the eggs don't hatch we will not be able to blame it on "raccoons" or any other natural phenomenon.  

Rather, it would strongly suggest that not only were the few geese "harassed" this spring in Central Park (and injured with fishing tackle), but their potential offspring were destroyed.

One can only wonder what exactly was Central Park (and other city parks) created and intended for, if not places for people to appreciate and celebrate nature?

These days it is mostly the degradation of nature and wildlife we are seeing: 

It is only a matter of time before Central Park is transformed into some giant "Googa-mooga" like (the infamous) Prospect Park while geese and other wildlife are rounded up and gassed, endlessly harassed and/or their offspring destroyed.

So much for "respecting and appreciating nature" in the tranquility of our city parks -- the tranquility and peace long gone with the banished and forever tormented, symbolic geese.  -- PCA