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


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