Saturday, May 10, 2014

Jackie Onassis Reservoir -- A Not-So-Peaceful Place for Birds to Die




The body of funny little Floozie this morning as turtles chew on her remains. Though "assured" by Park Ranger that Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park is "peaceful place for water birds to die" (when harassed or banished from everyplace else), this death appeared anything but "peaceful." 

 A few days ago, I attempted to make light of and even joke about the otherwise grim situation for the water birds of Central Park -- especially the forever maligned and harassed Canada geese.

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It was puzzling to note one particular goose pair at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir seeming not to take their nesting duties too seriously.
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I named the couple, "Floozie and Bozo" because the female frequently left her week-old eggs to graze or even aid her gander in chasing off another goose couple.
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It was speculated that perhaps the pair was very young and inexperienced in nesting.  --Perhaps Floozie and Bozo simply weren't quite ready for the rigors and stressors that nesting and raising young required?   Floozie, after all, had already lost three eggs previously laid during or immediately following a severe rain storm.
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All of these may have been true to small degree, but there was far more than immediately met the eye.
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Two evenings ago, I returned to the Reservoir and was surprised that both, Floozie and her gander were together in the water some distance away from the nest.
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Look at that! I thought.  Off on a romantic jaunt while leaving their four eggs totally exposed!
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But, as I walked closer to the goose pair, I could almost immediately tell something was very wrong.
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When looking at Floozie, it was deja vu. -- like seeing Camille,  just prior to the formerly nesting goose dying.
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Like Camille, Floozie was listless and nearly immobile on the water seeming to drift with the currents.
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Feeling sense of alarm, I tossed a small handful of cracked corn on the rocks, but only Bozo, the gander, came to eat.  It was clear Floozie had no interest in or capability to eat -- something very unusual for her as "calorie loading" was important for goose hens just prior to or during early phases of nesting.
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Oh my God.  Could this be happening again?  And only one week after losing Camille?
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I tried hard not to panic, drumming up explanations to myself for why this was happening.
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But, there was no laughing nor jokes.  And all the rationalizations seemed more wishful thinking than anything with real merit.
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I decided to walk around, check on the other few geese at north side of the park (who were all OK) and return later to Floozie and Bozo.
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But, more than a hour later, the scene was no different.
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Floozie had obviously abandoned her nest entirely, while her gander, simply appeared confused, but stayed by her.
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It is (as previously noted), a very grave sign when a nesting goose completely abandons her eggs not to return at all.
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Yesterday morning, I returned again to the Reservoir to find the situation virtually unchanged from the night before.  Only this time, the four eggs were gone from the nest as Bozo patrolled helplessly nearby.  Floozie was a short distance away, bobbing weakly on short waves and drifting almost lifelessly on water.
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Unable to lie to myself any longer, I immediately returned home and called the Urban Park Rangers -- though I knew such call would virtually be fruitless in getting help for Floozie.
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It was surprising to actually get a live person on the phone.
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"Hi, this is Sunny," the lilting, cheerful voice answered.
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Explaining to Sunny, the reason for my distress call, I begged immediate rescue assistance for Floozie as I was certain she would be dead within a day or two.
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As fully expected, Sunny explained that Park Rangers "do not have access" to the Reservoir for rescue.  (Nor do they have boats to retrieve sick or injured birds from any watercourse.)
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The Reservoir is entirely surrounded by iron gating, as well as rocky inclines.
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Frustrated, I questioned how this was possible considering that the Reservoir is the one watercourse in the entire park where both migratory and resident water birds seek safety as they are harassed everywhere else.
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Sunny was very aware that water birds (including thousands of migratory geese, ducks and other birds) seek out the Jackie Onassis Reservoir because it is the safest place in park for them.   (No dogs, no Geese Police and no fishing.)
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"But, it is a Catch 22," she said. "If they are sick or injured, we have no access.  At least they have a peaceful place to die."
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"Peaceful place to die."
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The words stunned me.
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I emphatically told Sunny this was "not acceptable" for one of the most prestigious parks in the world. The birds have a hospital to go for treatment (Wild Bird Fund) only a few blocks from Central Park. "There needs to be protocol for rescue and to get them there!" I said with firmness in my voice.
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That Central Park has Geese Police (with a boat) to harass geese year round and oil eggs, but nothing to rescue these and other birds when dying on Reservoir (and other watercourses) is utterly disgraceful and certainly not what one would expect from a so-called, "Conservancy."
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It cannot be known why two nesting geese seemingly die within a week of each other in Central Park and why so many eggs are already lost. (That is also frustrating because it is important to know why certain wildlife is suddenly dying in a public park.)
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One can only guess the stresses of a particularly bad winter which took out thousands of water birds and probably left many others malnourished (especially if and for nesting). -- That in combination with and in addition to the stresses of hunting, "culling" and constant harassment of geese almost everywhere else.  But it is impossible to actually know.
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Late last night, I returned to Reservoir not to find Floozie at all on the east side where she had been.
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But, her gander (now called, "Bozi") was standing silent vigil on rocky site where their nest had previously been.  He peered out onto the dark water seemingly waiting for Floozie's return.
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This morning, I returned again to search for Floozie.
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This time, I found her lifeless body at the north west side of Reservoir, (where Camille had drifted the week before) turtles slowly devouring it.
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The bloody image stunned and gave the impression of anything but a "peaceful" death. 
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Rather, it appeared Floozie had partially been eaten alive.
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Returning to the east side of Reservoir, Bozi, her devoted gander, was still standing hopeless vigil in the same place, his potential offspring now gone forever and his mate never to return, despite the dutiful wait.
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To add injury to profound sense of personal loss, a jogger running the wrong way on the Reservoir, suddenly bumped my shoulder and nearly knocked me over.
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He continued running without so much as apology.
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Grief suddenly replaced by anger, I turned around and hurled a bunch of expletives at him. 
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Finally trying to exit Central Park at 90th Street (one of main crosswalks), there was still another running marathon occurring making it nearly impossible to cross without dodging and running between marathoners.
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"Does it ever occur to you that some of us are sick of this shit?"  I shouted to a volunteer trying to presumably prevent collisions between marathoners and regular park pedestrians  trying to enter or leave the park.
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It suddenly dawned on me why one doesn't see too many senior citizens these days strolling leisurely and slowly through Central Park.
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The perennial "walk in the park" seems to be slowly going the same way as the geese.
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They should put up signs:
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"In addition to geese and other wildlife unwelcomed in this park, neither are elderly people and those with any medical conditions as you need to be fast, young and fit to dodge constant stream of speeding cyclists and runners.  Better that you walk at Times Square."
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(Instead of being called, "Central Park Conservancy," this entity should truthfully be called, "Central Park Outdoor Sports Venue" or "Central Amusement Park." -- Bring on the hunters, exercise machines and Ferris Wheels.)
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But, of course the real anger and frustration has little actually to do with runners, cyclists or others using the park for some sort of amusement or entertainment.
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It has everything to do with the callous and indifferent attitudes towards the innocent wildlife trying to survive in this bucolic setting as most of their otherwise natural habitats have been taken over by development or destroyed.
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But, there is ultimately no peace for the animals either in Central Park -- especially the geese. 
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Rather, a not-so-peaceful place for them to die -- the Jackie Onassis Reservoir now seemingly a hospice for dying water birds otherwise displaced and harassed from everywhere else.
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Rest in peace, my funny little Floozie.
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May you somehow find the "peace" and appreciation so denied to you in this life and in this steel, frosty and ultimately, heartless world.   -- PCA
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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, Patty,
I simply don't have the adequate words to say I'm sorry"...but I'm crying WITH you - and giving you a big hug...
Mary Castrovilla

PCA said...

Thank you so much, Mary. Your kindness means a lot. I know how you too, care for and try so hard to help these forever maligned and persecuted animals. The geese are lucky to have a few friends like you and they are among the few animals with confidence enough to show that appreciation to us. Too bad we as a species, can't show the same.