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



Anonymous said...

Great post, Patty. You said it all and it makes me so very sad. Our relationship with wildlife is abysmal. I am currently on vacation in Lake Tahoe and what a difference in the way people view wildlife. I saw a guy cleaning up goose droppings near a beach and I told him that I love seeing geese back in NY and love seeing them in Tahoe. He laughed and said the flock is on the beach every morning and cleaning up the poop was his "job security." It took him 15 minutes to clean the beach with about $5 worth of equipment (plastic rake and bin). Right now I'm at a community center where there is this huge mural with ALL the wildlife prominently featured--raccoons, bears, deer, and Canada geese front and center. Everything we fear or think of as pests, they VALUE. What a different outlook they have. I've been biking and hiking all day and haven't seen so much as a gum wrapper on the ground. Ny is like a giant trash can. I don't know what is wrong with New Yorkers.---Kim

PCA said...

Thank you so much, Kim for a beautiful comment.

It really is about changing attitudes and it is an endless struggle.

But, not to give up.

This morning, there were cleaning crews all over Harlem Meer, including a guy with a vacuum, cleaning up debris around lake embankments.

No fishing line found in a more than a week. That is a very good thing for the wildlife there.

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