Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Neither Arrows, Gunshot, Nor Missing Limbs Deter Canada Geese from Their True Loves

Stumpy hobbling on grass with her missing foot plainly visible.She has endured the condition for some years with her devoted mate by her side.
Stanley in protective mode as Stumpy peacefully nibbles on grass.
Though she usually lags behind on land and in water, Stanley waits
Stanley and Stumpy patiently dealing with pesky mallards over the summer molt at Turtle Pond. But they may soon leave as the ability to fly has once again returned.
Since May, I have been enamored of a particular love story between two geese I named Stanley and Stumpy staying at Turtle Pond in Central Park through the nesting and molting seasons.  

Stumpy is easily recognizable to regular park visitors over the years as she is completely missing her right foot. It's not known how Stumpy's foot was severed some years back, but guess is that the injury was either due to fishing line or a snapping turtle.

But Stumpy is not left to deal with her disability alone. Her long standing, protective and devoted mate, Stanley is always by her side or nearby.

True, Stumpy cannot keep up with Stanley either on the ground or in the water. (She hobbles on land and slightly bobbles or is tilted to one side in the water.) But it doesn't matter. He accepts and loves her as she is. Dumping Stumpy for a younger, prettier or healthier female goose is not an option for Stanley. If he has to wait for his lady to catch up to him, so be it. The two can be seen most nights, romantically lazing on the water together at Turtle Pond -- though that may not be true much longer. With the molting season now over, it's possible the two romantic partners might soon take to the skies once again. There is nothing wrong with Stumpy's ability to fly.

The two geese briefly attempted nesting this year. But, apparently the eggs were not viable and Stumpy was forced to abandon the effort. Considering her age and disability, I personally considered the outcome probably more of a blessing in disguise. The two love partners briefly mourned their losses for a few days and then carried on.

Another example of undying love and commitment despite adversity in Canada geese is this news article from Canada entitled, "Arrow Through Belly Doesn't Deter Father Goose from Tending to his Goslings."  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/one-tough-bird-father-goose-carries-on-despite-arrow-through-belly-1.4216703   The article describes and shows a gander who, despite an arrow though his chest and shotgun pellets in his body, still protected and tended to his mate and offspring. (Fortunately the gander has been rescued and the arrow removed; hopefully to soon return to his family.)

Perhaps now we know where the expression, "Tough Ol' Gander" comes from.

But truth is, that neither arrows, gunshot pellets, failed nestings or even missing limbs deter Canada geese from their true loves.

"Till Death Do Us Part" is not just expression or ideal for Canada geese. It is indeed, their way of life.  -- PCA


Friday, July 21, 2017

Duck, Duck, Goose! -- The Curious Relationship Between Mallards and Canada Geese

Mama mallard and two ducklings at Central Park Reservoir. She has five babies, but three were wandering out of picture range.
Greta (right) spending special time yesterday with her two daughters.
Hansel returning to the fold yesterday after spending special "man time" with his son.
A very brash female mallard. And yes, mallards can be bold and brash -- much to the annoyance of Canada geese.
The curious relationship between mallards and geese.

They both often share the same lakes and ponds. They generally enjoy the same diet. Both species migrate and both are intelligent and highly adaptable.  And though both are remarkably social with humans, these may be where the similarities between mallards and Canada geese end.

Both in personality and lifestyle, the two bird species are quite different.

One of the key differences between mallards and geese is that geese mate for life and both parents raise their offspring whereas mallards are generally polygamous in their affections and it is usually the mother who alone, raises the ducklings (There are, however rare exceptions to this rule. I once noted a mallard pair raising their ducklings together at Harlem Meer, but such is generally an anomaly. -- Never say never!)

Probably because both parents are involved in the protection and rearing of offspring, Canada goose goslings have a substantially higher survival rate than do ducklings. A mallard hen can produce up to a dozen ducklings, but she is lucky if even half of them make it to their first month. Canada geese usually produce two to seven hatchlings, most of whom survive to adulthood if getting through the first few precarious days of life when they are particularly vulnerable to accident or predation.

Geese also appear far better organized and disciplined than are mallards -- even from the moment they hatch from their eggs. Observe a new family of Canada geese and one will note the goslings staying extremely close to their parents, both on land and in the water. A new mallard mother on the other hand, has a job trying to keep all her ducklings together as there is great tendency among the little ones to wander off and explore on their own --sometimes losing sight of their mama in the process! (It is, for example, common every spring and summer to read news stories of rescued ducklings who have fallen through storm drains or gotten themselves into some other precarious situation, whereas such are rare for Canada goose goslings.)

Although Canada goose goslings appear the same (as do ducklings), it is sometimes easy to guess the sexes of goslings by the behavior of the parents towards them. As the hatchlings grow, ganders heap more attention on the males while their female mates appear to spend more time and focus with the girls. Presumably this is to teach the youngsters from a very early age, the roles and duties assigned to and expected of them on the basis of their sexes.

Recently, for example, I arrived at the Central Park Reservoir to find the two girls of Hansel and Greta with their mother, while Hansel was with his son some twenty or so yards away from the rest of the family. This is something observed quite frequently over the past ten weeks since the goslings hatched, prompting me to conclude with some confidence, the sexes of the three goslings. (Already the male of the three has demonstrated protective behaviors most often associated with ganders. He has either been taught these by his father or is imitating them.)

Though it's possible that mother mallards may devote time and focus teaching their female ducklings "how to be girls," I personally have never seen it. From my observations, it seems mama mallards have their work cut out just keeping the family safe and together.

In essence, a key difference between mallards and Canada geese is the manner in which little ones are raised. Exploration and independence seem to be encouraged early on in small ducklings, whereas in Canada geese, discipline, order, devotion to family and sexual role identification are established in the dawning days of the gosling's life. Any deviations from the established protocols among geese tend to be met with harsh corrections and discipline. Canada geese appear to be in fact, the epitome of "tough love."

Speaking of love (and reproduction), this may be the primary way geese and mallards differ.  Put simply, when it comes to romance and devotion, Canada geese appear to have it all over mallards.

Love and sex in the mallard world is often composed of "Wam, bam, thank you, Ma' em." A female mallard not already paired up with a male, can find herself victim of harassment and even sexual assault by more than one drake. (A Park Ranger once told me that female mallards are sometimes killed in the spring by pursuit from several drakes. I have personally witnessed aggressive pursuit (and fighting) among drakes for one female and certainly the hens had a rough time of it, but thankfully survived. I suspect this is the reason some female mallards seek to pair up with a drake in the late winter in order to avoid later becoming a victim of spring hormones and "gang rape," so to speak.

Such roughness and "rape" is rarely, if ever observed in the goose world, though it is common for two ganders to fight heartily for the affections of a female goose.

But once the romantic connection is established between a gander and his female love interest, it IS literally, 'til death do part!

Following are just a few of the many examples of devotion and undying commitment observed in Canada goose pairs over the years:

*  Several years ago, a nesting goose became ill and perished at the Central Park Reservoir. Her devoted mate searched and called out plaintively for her for weeks. Although other geese arrived at the Reservoir for the summer molt (most of them young "singles"), the bereaved gander chose to remain alone. When the molt ended weeks later and the other geese departed, the widowed gander still remained alone and searching on the water; indeed a sad and lonely sight.  (This phenomenon has been observed in other widowed geese, as well.)  The grieving process in geese over lost loves is a profoundly long and painful one.

*  Canada goose ganders do not abandon their mates even after repeated nest failures. For some years Central Park practiced Canada goose nest and egg destruction. Time and again I observed known goose couples mourn the losses of their eggs.  But the same goose pairs would return the following year to try again. Nor do ganders abandon their mates if they suffer injury of disability. There is an older goose pair at Central Park's Turtle Pond who have been together for years -- this despite the female ("Stumpy") missing a foot and not being able to keep up with her mate ("Stanley") on land and in the water.

*  Last October during the migration season, a lone Canada goose remained on the water at the Central Park Reservoir long after her gaggle (and mate) departed. It's not known what caused her to be left behind, but for days she remained stoically on the water either waiting for death or for her mate to return. Other skeins of migrating geese arrived and departed, but still the lone goose remained; a forlorn figure under the chilly and foreboding skies. Then, after nearly a week, (when I expected to find her dead on the water), I was shocked one evening to find the loner goose suddenly swimming with a mirror image beside her -- so close were the two geese they almost appeared as one on the water! The image was the very definition of romance as it seemed (following such trauma), the two geese would never let each other out of their sight again. The next evening the two flew out together to presumably try to catch up to their migrating flock many miles ahead.  The main thing though was that they had found each other again. A true romance story.

Of course, mallards and other ducks often form extremely close bonds, but I have not been witness to the kinds of undying devotion and commitment one commonly sees in Canada geese. Such steadfast devotion is in fact, rarely seen in so-called, "monogamous" humans.

Although they share certain similarities (and many differences), the relationship between mallards and Canada geese is a curious one.  There are times they appear to regard the other as either, "nuisance" or "bully" and there are times they actually work together -- especially to get through a particularly rough winter. Mallards are smaller and faster than geese and during icy times, help to break up small ice patches in the water. Geese on the other hand, (being heavier and slower) help to break up snow on the ground which aids mallards in finding food.

Mother mallards will sometimes seek out a goose family with goslings to roost near with her ducklings at night.  (I personally observed this at Turtle Pond seven years ago.) The vigilance and protectiveness of Canada goose parents helped ensure extra security for the mallard mother and her babies.

In essence, though they don't always "love" each other, mallards and Canada geese have worked out a highly beneficial relationship for all over the years. They don't have to love in order to respect and place significant and intelligent value on the company of the other for their own ultimate good. 
Both species are unique and special in their own ways -- as is, all life.  -- PCA

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Family and Social Structure -- Thy Name is Canada Goose

Though it may appear random, these are actually two separate goose families raising their goslings together.
Mama goose (Greta) attacking and delivering stiff "correction" to hapless goose who wandered too close to the family.
Temporarily vanquished. No harm done, but stiff corrections for young goose forced to learn the rules of goose hierarchy and social order -- the first of which is "Never mess with the family."  
Proud daddy, Hansel and one of his now nearly fully grown goslings at Central Park Reservoir. The babies will soon be flying.
One of the most fascinating and informative aspects of observing Canada geese is their intricate social and family structure.

It might appear to the casual eye that a gaggle of geese on a lake or grazing peacefully on grass is a loose and random thing devoid of structure and order. But nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, there is a very definitive hierarchy among Canada geese and those who attempt to test or challenge its order in any way can be in for rough corrections.  

At the very top of the hierarchy are the mated goose pairs with goslings. They essentially rule over all and have first claims to territory and food. So fierce are geese parents in protecting their young and providing the best in resources for them, that no other geese dare to challenge or even defend themselves if and when attacked.

And it is not only the gander who vigorously defends and wards off possible intruders into family space, but the mother goose hen as well. (This is especially true as goslings grow and no longer require the mother to constantly hover over them as is needed when the babies are small.)  

In the past few weeks, I have noted, for example, Greta taking on a much larger role in chasing off and even attacking those hapless geese who make the mistake of getting too close to the family at Central Park's Reservoir. Moreover, while her mate, Hansel is usually content to chase and pull some down feathers from the offending goose, Greta is far more relentless and even aggressive in her pursuit; often pushing the subordinate goose down in the water and continuing the chase on to land. "Mother goose" doesn't fool around as the name in human folklore implies.  

Below parental geese in hierarchy, are the older, established goose pairs without goslings. (But even they have to acquiesce to pairs with offspring.) It is common to see these geese chasing and administering "corrections" to younger geese or sometimes just going off on their own, away from the maddening crowd. 

At the very bottom of goose hierarchy are the young "singles;" particularly those yearlings from last year's crop of goslings who, not only have to withstand constant corrections from the group at large, but even their own parents.  (It is particularly brutal to observe parental geese vanquishing their offspring from the year before when they want to nest again in the spring. "Kicking from the nest" is not just a phrase.)

Established social order among Canada geese has not just played out at the Central Park Reservoir this summer, but also at the park's famous Rowboat Lake.  There, two mated goose pairs have (so far) successfully raised four goslings.

The interesting aspect about this set of circumstances is that one pair only had one gosling and the other pair had three. Amazingly however, both families meshed together (presumably for the overall safety of all the offspring) and as result, even the solitary gosling without siblings has survived. Such might normally be difficult in nature as geese are flock birds who almost always grow up with siblings. It seems in this case, the parent geese of the one gosling adapted and figured out a way for their baby to grow up with others. Fortunately for them, the other goose parents were accommodating. As the saying goes, "There is safety in numbers" and goose parents appear to know this all too well.

There are also five other geese at the rowboat lake, including the presumed parents (Man and Lady) of the two new goose mothers. They appear to be hanging out most of the time with three of their offspring from prior years as they did not successfully nest this year. But even the new grandparents now have to acquiesce to the two families with goslings.

Quite often all 13 geese can be observed in fairly close proximity to each other, but the five have to maintain respectful distance from the two families all the time. Hierarchy and structure matter in the goose world and they matter all the time.  

The reason for choosing this particular time to cover goose hierarchy and the particularly high protective status of goose parents with babies is due to the disturbing story covered in yesterday's blog.

That concerned a goose family with six goslings who were brutally rounded up on a woman's driveway in California by USDA Wildlife Services and sent to their deaths. .http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/environment-and-nature/20170715/scotts-valley-residents-appalled-after-eight-geese-netted-in-spring-lakes-park  

The story was particularly horrifying due to eyewitnesses descriptions of all the "blood" left in the aftermath of the assault. Normally, goose roundups result in lots of feathers strewn about, but not blood.

One has to conclude that either USDA hired brutal thugs to do the particular roundup or that the goose parents fought fiercely for their lives and those of their babies.

I personally surmise that both are tragically true. -- PCA


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Massacre in my Driveway" -- One Woman's Trauma at hands of USDA Goose Cull

Recently, a goose family like this was brutally rounded up (by USDA) from one California woman's driveway in what the traumatized citizen later described as a "massacre" leaving a messy trail of blood and feathers behind. One wonders how we as a civilized democracy have come down to this?
When Cindy Moore returned to her Spring Lakes home in Santa Cruz, California on June 21 of this year, she was greeted by a tangled mess of blood, feathers and feces that covered her driveway. She was unable to park her car until attempting to hose down what she later described as a "massacre in my driveway."

Ms. Moore later learned from area residents and eyewitnesses that during her brief absence, a USDA truck had pulled into the area and that agents for the federal government agency spent more than 20 minutes, chasing, terrorizing and eventually capturing a family of two parent Canada geese and their six goslings to haul away to their deaths.

Ms. Moore claims to have watched the goose parents raise their young and is now so traumatized by the assault (literally in her own backyard), she has put her home up for sale after living there six years.

A community newsletter, "The Spring Lakes Park Gazette" confirmed two days later, that USDA Wildlife Services had indeed "removed" the eight geese for the so-called "safety and health" of residents, a few of whom had apparently complained.

But four of Ms. Moore's neighbors sent letters of protest to all the residents of the mobile park and others spoke to the press on condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution.

One woman described a chaotic scene in which the two adult geese and their six babies were separated, chased, netted and dumped in a truck with one of the agents telling her the geese would later be "euthanized." Another witness stated "The geese were in distress as evidenced by the amount of blood, feathers and diarrhea."

One seriously has to wonder what kind of country we are living, in which a rogue government agency can suddenly sweep into one's driveway and conduct a bloody, lethal roundup of innocent wildlife without any notification to the property and home owners?

While known that the geese have no rights, one has to wonder about the rights of the people?

Sadly, clandestine goose roundups like the one in Cindy Moore's backyard or area parks around the nation are neither unique or rare.  On the contrary, they are common. Only a pitiful few ever garner attention from the press.

Here in New York City, USDA (secret) goose killings are no longer reported at all by the major media. On the contrary (as reported yesterday in this blog), New Yorkers were actually lied to this year when an article published in Crain's New York this past June falsely claimed that New York City geese were getting a "reprieve" this summer and would not be killed at all. (It's not clear at this time who from the "city" lied to the reporter of the Crain's piece as the author declined to name sources for his misinformation.)

We have since learned (no thanks to the press) that USDA goose culls did indeed occur in NYC over the past month, but USDA won't disclose how many geese were killed or from what parks and other city locations they were "removed."

It's past time for the citizens of this country to rise up against the barrage of misrepresentations, cover-ups, deceptions, false media stories that bear no accountability or duty to correct and most of all, rogue government officials and agencies (particularly USDA Wildlife Services) who contract for deadly wildlife "massacres" without ever bothering to notify the citizenry it is supposedly serving and "protecting."

It is truly a disturbing and bizarre day when people feel compelled to put their homes up for sale because of the trauma and memory of a bloody "massacre" occurring on their own doorstep. 

It's a day when the lies have come home to roost.  It's a day to recognize that if we cannot trust and have credibility from those in power, we have nothing at all.  

Our democracy is apparently on life support in more ways than one. -- PCA


Monday, July 17, 2017

Despite False Promises, many New York City Geese Secretly Slaughtered in Recent Days

Young boy feeding and enjoying gentle goslings in Central Park.But in other parts of the city (including Jamaica Bay Wildlife "Refuge"), geese and their babies were secretly rounded up and sent to slaughter this summer. 

Sometimes it seems (especially over the past year) that our country is choking on a consistent diet of dastardly lies and obfuscations.

Though most of the concealments and untruths concern matters outside our immediate backyards, they are nevertheless serious and rightly cause concern over the legitimacy of our Presidential elections -- something at the bedrock of American democracy.

But sometimes the deceptions, misrepresentations and evil doings hit much closer to home. --  Right up to the grasses and lakes of our local city parks, for example.

On June 15 of this year, I published a blog entitled, "New York City Geese and Their Babies Get a Reprieve this year."  The blog quoted and was based upon an article appearing in Crain's (a normally credible news source) that stated "no Canada geese were to be culled in NYC this year." The geese were in essence, getting a "reprieve."

According to the piece, New York City would be embarking on a non-lethal program for goose management in 2017 that would not involve the direct slaughter or gassing of adult birds. Instead, the plan was for "egg and nest destruction and harassment" (bad enough on their own).

The problem is, the premise of this article was entirely false.

Canada geese were in fact, rounded up and killed in New York City this summer.

But like the rest of deliberate concealments and obfuscations, we are not told exactly where these slaughters occurred or how many geese were "culled." (We apparently have to "wait" until the USDA WS writes up a report which could take months.) At this moment, USDA and other government officials only admit that goose cullings occurred in two areas recently  monitored by pedestrians:  Brookville Park (about 40 geese) and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge where apparently at least 50 geese were captured and sent to their deaths more than a week ago. 

The only reason we know of these specific targeted locations is due to the diligence and persistence of one gentleman who not only monitored the sites mentioned, but also hounded various officials for answers, including the director of NY state USDA Wildlife Services.  This person also contacted the reporter, Peter D'Amato, who wrote the misleading and inaccurate piece for Crain's to set the record straight. The reporter acknowledges geese were killed in NYC this year, but apparently feels no obligation to correct and clarify his errant article -- something credible news sources have duty and obligation to do.

Personally speaking, I (like many other weary New Yorkers) wanted desperately to believe the Crain's article when it came out which is why it was featured in this blog and posted on many Facebook and other social media sites by others. (At the same time, however, I remained somewhat skeptical as the article quoted no direct sources or individuals. I therefore was careful to daily monitor the roughly 50 geese and their babies who have stayed at Central Park during the molt. Thankfully all have remained unharmed to this day.)

It is absolutely reprehensible to lie to and mislead the public as Crain's New York is guilty of as well as the city itself.

While apparently true that New York City did not itself sign a goose killing contract with USDA Wildlife Services, it simply shifted the lethal contracting aspects to the Port Authority which is under no obligation to give Community Notifications of goose cullings to either the public or the media.

This is an extremely slick way of continuing goose killings every year in NYC while at the same time, maintaining that the city of New York "cares about and promotes peacefully living with and tolerating wildlife."  -- Something the deBlasio administration has been keen to claim and promote in city bus and subway ads.

Is there ever a day that goes by that we are not lied to by politicians and irresponsible media?

Barbarity and killing are no less dastardly and evil when glossed over with lies and obfuscations. In fact, one could argue they are worse.

As some have argued, "Worse than the crime itself, are the coverups."

Such once brought one President down and could soon take another.

All those officials and media lying to New Yorkers this year that "no goose cullings would occur" also need to be taken to task and ditched to the Unemployment lines.There needs to be serious consequences for lies and coverups.

People being lulled into false complacency is the death knell for geese and other wildlife everywhere. -- PCA