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


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