Sunday, April 28, 2019

Where the Star Attraction is the Wildlife





It's a bit ironic that I moved from NYC to Cortland, N.Y. more than a year ago, yet find myself writing nearly exclusively about the same problems plaguing NYC parks and their wildlife as when I was living there.

Could  it be that you can take the woman out of NYC, but not NYC out of the woman?

Actually, I don't think so.

There is nothing I miss about NYC other than friends still living there and the wildlife I came to know in Central Park.  Wildlife that appears now to be under intense pressure to, "Move to Long Island."

In terms of contrast, I am writing today about my local park in Cortland, the Municipal Water Works Park, which is less than two miles from where I live.

Yes, it's a bit of hike walking to and from there, and it's not the rolling hills and manicured lawns of Central Park. But the Water Works Park is a special kind of haven for wildlife.

A large, wooded area is fenced off for the herd of roughly 30 White-tailed deer maintained there and there is a sizable, temperature-controlled pond that is ideal for wild ducks and geese -- especially during harsh Cortland winters.  There are also many robust squirrels, both grey and red and some groundhogs.

Not only are families with children welcomed to bring food for wildlife, but the park actually fills troughs with hard corn and fresh water for deer.

While there are picnic tables in the park, most visitors come exclusively to feed and interact with the deer and waterfowl.
Some people even have names for the deer and can tell you all about their relationships to each other.

In addition to wild mallards and geese, there are also a number of domestic ducks at the park and two domestic (Chinese) geese whom I call, "The Honeymooners " -- that is because Ralph and Alice are so LOUD!  I understand the Chinese geese have been living at the park six years, though no one seems to know how they or the domestic ducks got there. But all survived a brutal winter and appear to be doing well.

Presently, in the park, things are in peaceful lull.
Most of the geese and mallards have departed for more "private" nesting sites.  The deer have lost their antlers and the young have yet to hatch or be born.

But within weeks, the park will be bristling with new life in the forms of baby ducklings, goslings and fawns!

Last year, we had at least 60 ducklings, close to 40 goslings and maybe about 7 or 8 fawns-- all of them healthy despite nearly constant human feeding throughout the year, including much bread.

Waterfowl population does fluctuate in the park with it being lower in early spring and fall and heavier in summer (because of babies) and in winter because of the temperature-managed pond.

Though not having the funding and resources of NYC parks, the Municipal Water Works Park in Cortland is beautifully maintained with crystal clean water all the time, natural trees and fauna. And despite all the wildlife feeding, the park is never littered with trash strewn about or discarded fishing lines. (No fishing in park.)

In short, the Municipal Water Works park in Cortland is as different from Central Park as night is to day. Wildlife is the focal point and main attraction, whereas in all NYC parks, wildlife is apparently  unwelcome inconvenience.

But weren't NYC parks originally created for harried New Yorkers to have peaceful respite and opportunity to connect with nature and wildlife? When did they become mere extension of the outside chaos and crowds of the city; the "concrete jungle?"

Give me a park where instead of movies, shows, concerts, sporting events and fireworks, the star attraction is still nature and wildlife.

I never really left New York City as much as it left me.


                                     .............. 














Friday, April 26, 2019

Greta Hanging Tough in Hostile Environment




There has been very little good news regarding NYC park wildlife over the past year. Dead raccoons, dead goslings, dwindling food sources and dwindling wildlife all around.

Add to that, the campaign to criminalize all people who dare give a peanut to a squirrel or piece of bread to a duck.

The wildlife, "should go to Long Island to find food sources" as one Audubon representative and ban supporter recently put it.

 Nevertheless, there is some good news.

Greta did not abandon or lose her eggs, after all.  She is still on her nest.

The two geese photographed standing on rocks at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir earlier in the week (and mistaken for Hansel and Greta) are, in fact, new arrivals.

It's unusual for new geese to enter into territories of established  nesting pairs and thus, such was not anticipated.  One suspects the new geese may have been harassed from some other location by Geese Police or could be adult kids of Hansel and Greta from a few years ago. In either case, I am surprised Hansel has not chased the pair out.

There are a few plants and blades of grass struggling to grow through the barren landscape at the Reservoir now.  But not enough to sustain two goslings, let alone a potential dozen. (Three nesting pairs in total.)

Matters are still grim, but it is at least good news that Greta and Hansel are OK. It would have been extremely ominous had Greta actually abandoned her eggs. Geese don't walk away from eggs unless something is seriously wrong -- which is why I was so worried for her.

In other parts of Central Park, wildlife matters continue on a downward spiral.

My friend, Liliana went to the row boat Lake today, hoping to feed her two special geese (Man and Lady) and two mallards that were there last week. But none of the birds were present. (This also suggests that Geese Police might be operating in Central Park again -- despite very few geese being there.)

Granted, Liliana is not able to walk around the entire lake. But she gets a pretty good view from the Ladies Pavilian. She saw no ducks or geese at all on the entire north side of lake.

That is shocking news as usually there is a lively group of mallards hanging around the Pavilion this time of year.

Also, only two squirrels observed and very few smaller birds.

Maybe the wildlife really is venturing over the bridges to Long Island, after all?

NYC Parks are clearly unwelcoming environments.  Instead of red carpets, they roll out Geese Police vans, demolition squads, No Feeding signs and pesticides.

Hang tough, Greta, hang tough.

                 .                      .................




Thursday, April 25, 2019

Letter to a NYC Parks Wildlife Official




This morning I wrote a high official in the Wildlife division of NYC Parks regarding the proposed Wildlife Feeding Ban. I share the letter here as both, a matter of record to this blog, as well as refute of arguments in support of the feckless ban.

It is vital to keep the pressure on NYC officials and the Mayor if we are serious about protecting what little remains of precious NYC Parks birds and squirrels.

The argument (put forth by an Audubon representative) that "The animals can go to Long Island" when essentially starved out of NYC parks is neither acceptable nor realistic. Squirrels and baby birds cannot fly or cross bridges.

Dear Mr.XXXXX

It was suggested by a colleague that I write to you regarding the proposed Wildlife Feeding Ban in NYC Parks.

I moved to upstate N.Y. last year. But before doing so, I visited Central Park everyday for nearly a decade and documented thousands of hours of wildlife observations in a blog.

One of the reasons for leaving NYC was the often apathetic, dismissive and even cruel, callous attitudes towards NYC parks wildlife.

I speak of the deliberate gassings and slaughter of more than 6,000 resident Canada geese, in addition to nearly constant harassment and destruction of their nests and eggs. 

The last Swan was harassed out of Central Park in the spring of 2014.

I understand that nearly all the raccoons in Central Park died last year and squirrel numbers are alarmingly low compared to recent past years.  Friends report lower bird numbers in general.

I am going to first, summarize by points, why Feeding Ban Proposal must be rejected, both for the sake of wildlife protection and human welfare. (Later, in this letter, I will refute claims of those supporting ban.)

1-- Destruction of Wildlife Habitat and Natural Food Sources.

Others have pointed to replacement of fruit, nut and seed-bearing trees in parks with ornamental flora that does not sustain wildlife. 

One example of this is destruction last year, of all vegetation that surrounds the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park.  Foliage and grass previously there were important food sources for growing goslings, migratory and molting birds and other wildlife.  Last summer 8 of 9 goslings perished at the Reservoir, all around the age of four weeks. If not the main cause for demise of goslings, lack of food sources had to be contributing factor, leaving them weak and unable to avoid predation.
(Baby birds are unable to fly out until three months of age, to forage food elsewhere. Molting birds in summer are also unable to fly out to find food.)

2-- Climate Change and Lethal Impacts of Severe Winters on Park Wildlife.

The winters of 2014 and 2015 were particularly severe and abnormal all along the North East, including, NYC.  Thousands of waterfowl starved to death on iced-over lakes and ponds. The town of Southhampton in Long Island purchased large bags of cracked corn in effort to save dying ducks on their lakes.
Workers in Central Park told me of finding dead ducks around a frozen Harlem Meer.

Myself and a few others took to feeding starving MIGRATORY ducks, geese and coots on the then iced-over Jackie Onassis Reservoir twice a day. Tourists and even New Yorkers thought we were employees of the park!

"It's nice that the park feeds them!" we were told dozens of times.

Despite our efforts, many birds died anyway.
Imagine what this scene would be like were a feeding ban to pass?

Tourists would be viewing icy duck and goose graveyards.

The Jackie Onassis Reservoir is an important resting stop for thousands of migratory birds every year, as well as an actual wintering location for hundreds of migratory geese, ducks and coots.

Callously allowing migratory waterfowl to starve to death on iced-over watercourses should not be option for NYC parks -- especially at a location Park Rangers claim they "have no access to" for rescues.

Migratory birds, by federal law, are supposed to be protected!

3 --Negative Impacts on the Elderly, Disabled and Children/Families

It is mostly the elderly, disabled and young children who feed birds and squirrels in parks.  These are people who cannot run marathons, take "tours and nature hikes," or stand on long lines for concerts, shows and movies.

I have a friend, Liliana, who is a stage four cancer victim and uses  a walker to get around.  She likes to sit down and feed ducks and geese in Central Park. (She was also one of the people who helped me save starving birds on icy Reservoir in 2015.)

Liliana had a letter published in the NY Daily News last month, opposing feeding ban.

She received a call two weeks ago from Christina Kim of the Mayor's office. Ms. Kim told Liliana that instead of feeding birds, she should "Go on a nature hike with birders" or "Volunteer at the WBF."

Such is truly insult to a disabled, elderly cancer victim.
Is this what the Mayor means by "Education?" - - Insulting seniors?

In addition to disrespect and insult to the infirm and elderly for whom feeding birds is often their only joy in life, a feeding ban would also be harmful to many city children whose only connection to animals and nature are the ducks in the park. One young mother told me her little girl "looked forward all week" to coming to Harlem Meer on weekends to feed the ducks. (They were not allowed pets in their apartment and could not afford trips to the country.)  Are these the people parks seek to criminalize and punish?

Children learning sharing and compassion early in life are more likely to grow up to be generous, caring adults.  By contrast, children hurling sticks and rocks at park wildlife are more likely to later become troubled teens and adults. Those are facts.

Arguments of Ban Supporters and Why They Need to be Rejected.

1-- "Bird and Squirrel Feeders are Responsible for Trash and Rats in Parks. "

This is a shameful example of scapegoating innocent people for failures of parks to do proper clean-up of debris. Bird feeders are not responsible for all the balls, balloons, bottles, diapers, fishing lines, old shoes and other garbage dumped in parks and lakes. Virtually ALL foods put out by birders are quickly consumed by the intended wildlife. Bread especially is devoured with barely a crumb left.
Moreover, to imply that there are hoards of people feeding wildlife and trashing parks is the worst of exaggeration and outright lie.
Less than 1% of people who go to parks feed wildlife.

2-- "Feeding Bread or Other Human Food Harms Wildlife and Causes Angel Wing."

Angel Wing occurs most frequently in domestic ducks and geese raised for meat or eggs. These birds are NOT fed bread or other human foods. Studies show the deformity is most often caused by genetic factors, high density crowding, lack of exercise and movement, stress, heat and too much protein in diet. (Bread is low in protein.)

In terms of Park wildlife, mallards are most frequently fed bread, and they rarely, if ever get Angel Wing. 

This argument (though spread widely over the Internet) is completely bogus and refuted by scientific studies, evidence and observations. Though Angel Wing does occur sometimes in wild Canada geese, this is most likely due to lack of variable gene pool, exposure to chemicals in grass, stress, genetics or unknown factors. 

Most research papers say, "more studies need to be done."

This past winter, swans in the UK started dying after a successful public "No Bread" campaign. Officials then requested people start feeding bread again. Better bread than starvation. It does no harm.

The fact is, people have been feeding bread to ducks, geese and swans for hundreds of years without ill effect.


3-- "Feeding Causes Overpopulation and Birds Not to Migrate"

Migratory patterns are established over thousands of years and are NOT impacted at all by human feeding!   Despite feeding, I was able to predict within days when migratory ducks and geese would leave Central Park, (mid-March), as well as when goose parents and their goslings would depart.  (When babies are 11-weeks-old.)

This argument bears no merit whatsoever.

Mr. XXXX, I submit that instead of seeking ways to shock the rest of the country with this absurd, reckless and cruel feeding ban, you should better equip Park Rangers with boats, nets and training for water bird rescues, along with access to the Jackie Onassis Reservoir for rescue of migratory birds. People should NOT have to helplessly watch innocent birds die on the water or ice in a world famous location.

I also submit that you should do a better job of picking up discarded fishing lines in parks that DO injure and harm wildlife, as well as  addressing harm and injury done to park goers from speeding bikes and vicious crimes.

Senior citizens and children feedIng birds are the very LEAST of NYC Park problems.

Mayor deBlasio, Park Officials and other ban supporters should be utterly ashamed of themselves on this.

I thank God I moved out of NYC to a city that welcomes and cares for its park wildlife, as well as welcomes wildlife feeders. I never thought that when leaving NYC a year ago, I would still be fighting for its park wildlife 14 months later.

Sincerely.....


                                          ..................

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Concern for Greta





I am worried about Greta.

Nothing about this spring has been "normal" for she and her mate, Hansel, who returned to the Jackie Onassis Reservoir last month in order to once again nest.

It seemed at the time, a "hopeful" sign considering Hansel and Greta lost all five of their goslings last year when the babies were only a month old. (One suspects malnutrition being at least, a contributory, if not the main cause to the demise of the goslings, as all the grass and foliage necessary to sustain goslings had been removed from the landscape surrounding the Reservoir.)

But once again, the mated goose pair returned to a barren landscaped Reservoir with not so much as a blade of grass anywhere among the rocks at the East Side of Reservoir -- Greta's usual nesting spot.

The other Reservoir nesting pair, John and Mary did not return to the Reservoir until a couple of weeks ago, just prior to Mary actually nesting.  Previous to that, the pair was observed grazing on the grass at Harlem Meer.

It is necessary for Canada goose hens to "calorie-load" prior to nesting as they barely eat anything for the month that they incubate their eggs.

But Hansel and Greta stayed mostly at the barren Reservoir where building "fat reserves" wasn't in the cards. Perhaps Greta anticipated the foliage blooming again with with the arrival of spring, but it wasn't to be. Apparently, the roots have been destroyed.

Both pairs nested much later than "normal" which is usually the last days of March or first days in April.  John and Mary began nesting two weeks ago and Hansel and Greta only last week.

I speculated that it took them longer this year to build up the calorie requirements necessary for rigors of nesting.

But did Greta actually build up those necessary requirements at the grass and plant-empty Reservoir?

When photographed more than a week ago, Greta had hatched one egg.

But something about the photo was depressing. No nesting materials and just rock surrounding her. In fact, all the recent photos of Hansel and Greta exuded an air of forlorness, search and loss.

But maybe that was just my imagination? My "feelings?"

 Laura, who usually shares photos and updates with me is not able to get to the Reservoir everyday due to work obligations. But she does check Instagram photos.

Two days ago, she found a "sunset" photo on Instagram showing, both Hansel and Greta standing on empty East Side Reservoir rocks with no nest or eggs in sight.

Laura thought that perhaps a recent storm had washed away Greta's eggs, but I don't think so.  Mary's eggs were intact as of Saturday.

Yesterday, Laura requested a friend to check on Hansel and Greta at the Reservoir, but the geese were gone from the nest site. The friend did not walk around the entire Reservoir.

It's possible that the two geese are somewhere else on the Reservoir. Or it's possible they finally gave up on the hostile environment and flew out.

But I can't help having a "bad feeling" about it.

It all seems too Deja-vu....

 Today, I checked back on an old blog post from five years ago, nearly to the day (April 30, 2014):

https://talesamptailsofnewyork.blogspot.com/2014/04/they-only-abandon-their-eggs-when-dying.html

Camille and Brad had survived a brutal NYC winter in 2014 that saw the city receive more than 60 inches of snow. (Normal for NYC is 25 inches of snow a year.). I recall a park worker telling me he had found a number of dead ducks at a frozen Harlem Meer that winter.

But apparently, Camille did not have the calorie and fat reserves to survive the stresses of nesting.  She died a week after laying six eggs.  A little more than a week following her misfortune, another nesting goose perished at the Reservoir on May 10 shortly after laying eggs. (Also detailed in blog.)

And so, am I just being paranoid in worrying over Greta now?
Or is such worry based upon past experience?

I am desperately hoping to be wrong and Laura right. Maybe a storm washed away Greta's eggs.  Maybe she and her mate, Hansel are perfectly fine and just took off after suffering still, another loss.

But the feelings are uneasy, the photos haunting and past blog posts foreboding.

And in light of everything else coming out from NYC parks these days, it is nearly impossible to be optimistic.

I can only hope Greta and her devoted mate are OK, and yet "hope" seems such anemic and powerless word.

           
                                   ...........................

         
                .         


Dead Birds Are Facts; Beliefs and Feelings Are Not







In a recent NY1 interview, NYC Mayor deBlasio stated that he and NYC Parks "believe" there are adequate food resources for the wildlife in city parks.

In a phone conversation yesterday with a staffer at the Parks Commissioner's office, I was told it's the "feeling" of park officials that birds and squirrels have sufficient food sources.

Another caller to her Councilman yesterday, was told feeders will "probably" not be fined.

Beliefs, feelings and "probably" are not facts. It seems officials use these meaningless, ambiguous terms when lacking actual evidence to back up their claims.

However, it is FACT that migratory geese and ducks have starved to death on iced-over watercourses in city parks during rough winters.

It is FACT that man-made parks are designed for human activities to the detriment of natural food sources for wildlife.

It is FACT that all the foliage (a major food source for migratory geese and developing goslings) was destroyed and removed at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park last year, seemingly causing 8 of 9 goslings to perish there.

Other "beliefs" that don't stand up to scrutiny are the claims that bread-feeding to birds causes "Angel Wing" in geese and that feeding squirrels causes them to "attack people."

 Few studies have actually been conducted to prove exactly what causes Angel Wing in geese. What little information exists suggest genetic factors more than anything else -- with some studies suggesting a high protein diet contributing to condition. (Bread is not high in protein.)

But one thing for sure, were bread a major cause of Angel Wing, as claimed, it should be seen more frequently in mallards (who are fed more bread than geese), and in fact, rarely is.
Moreover, Angel Wing is usually evident in very young goslings only a few weeks old. Unless eating ONLY bread, it is highly unlikely that diet alone would cause that kind of damaging "birth defect" in so short a time.

Nevertheless, the feeding ban is not about what to feed wildlife. It's about banning ALL feeding -- including, so-called, "healthy foods."

 It behooves the imagination to understand why some birders and rescuers support the harmful ban despite it not making ANY concessions for their requested "exceptions."

 Would one buy a house or rent an apartment without a written agreement spelling out terms and conditions? Would Congress Members "support" bills making no concessions to their requests and demands? One thinks not.

We are truly down to the wire now.  The proposal now sits on the desks of Park Commissioners, just waiting to be signed.

Please call Commissioner, Mitchell Silver today at (212) 360-1305 to express opposition to ban and Deputy Commissioner, Liam Kavanagh at (212) 360-1307.

And don't buy into their beliefs, feelings and probablys.

 "Just the facts" as Sergeant Friday used to say.

Dead Birds are facts. Beliefs and feelings are not.

                .... .....................

Sunday, April 21, 2019

"Anybody But Me" -- The Folly of Denial and Elitism






This past Friday's edition of the New York Times finally covered the proposed wildlife feeding ban in NYC parks. -- But it may be too little too late.

( "It's Eastertime and the Duck Rescuers are Ready" https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/19/nyregion/ducks-city-parks-.html )

This important article illustrates just some of the likely negative consequences of the reckless ban that the NYC Parks Department and Mayor seek to impose on New Yorkers and parks' vulnerable wildlife.

Abandoned domestic ducks are, of course, not wildlife.
These ducks cannot fly or "forage" like wild ducks and their nutritional needs are greater than those of wild waterfowl. Should the feeding ban pass, these birds are essentially doomed as virtually all depend upon human support, especially in winter.

What has been so stunning and disappointing throughout this struggle are the number of rescue people, birders and even some feeders who support the ban.

There seems to be this naive and even elitist belief that the ban will not apply to them.

During the recent hearing and comment testimonies, a number of birders and rescuers said that they supported the ban, but that they themselves should be exempt because they "only feed nutritious foods" or they only used food in order to rescue.

This is like a dog owner arguing in favor of Pooper Scooper laws,
 "But not for my dog." Or one arguing in favor of wind turbines, "But not in my backyard."

 Such arguments are exercises in contradiction and elitism and tend to carry little weight with decision makers. Indeed the proposed rule makes NO EXCEPTIONS.  Not for rescuers, not for birders and not for feeders supporting dumped domestic ducks in parks.

The proposal was never about what to feed or under what circumstances. It is an outright BAN  and it would apply to everyone and under all circumstances. (No allowance even for severe weather.)

That many birders, rescuers and even Animal Rights people failed to support the effort to defeat this cruel and far-reaching proposal speaks to not only, naivete, but certain arrogance. Most of all, it speaks to misunderstanding of the facts.

One has to suspect most ban supporters were not around in city parks when so many ducks, geese and other waterfowl starved to death on icy lakes during the Polar Vortex of 2015. -- A winter when thousands of water birds perished in the North East. 

(It is not pleasant to watch animals starve to death. It is something one never forgets.)

Now, in their zeal to beat down and punish "stupid" people feeding bread or crackers in parks, they condemn many animals to starve from squirrels, to goslings, to domestic ducks and many others as man-made parks are not created to provide food sources for wildlife.  On the contrary, many natural food sources (such as foliage at Jackie Onassis Reservoir) have been deliberately removed or destroyed.

Thus, those rescuers, birders and even feeders who supported ban have argued against their own interests and efforts. ( i.e."self-sabotage.") They will be handed tickets and fines just as anyone else.

It is unlikely that Ms. Zafonte (profiled in article) will continue feeding after paying hefty fines and threatened with jail time.

And that will be very bad news for the three domestic ducks at the 59th St Pond in Central Park that she has been feeding for some time and who are reliant on her.

A pox on all the houses that supported this draconian, reckless and cruel measure that will ultimately harm both, animals in parks as well as the caring humans who tried to help and save them.


                                 ..............................













Friday, April 19, 2019

And Then There Were None




Treasure your photographs. One day they may be all you have."

I saw the above quote on a Facebook post yesterday. I imagine it was meant to convey the importance of family and friends.

But it could also apply to park wildlife.

I realize that so many photographs I have are of animals that no longer exist in Central Park.

The last swan (whom I had named, "Hector") was harassed out of Harlem Meer in Central Park in the spring of 2014.  None have been seen in CP since.

At one time, several swan families lived on the Boat Lake in Central Park.  I have photos of my daughter feeding them in early 1990's.

" Treasure your photographs. "

I also have many photographs of Central Park raccoons. Entire families of raccoons from Harlem Meer to the south Pond. I even have a photo of a mama raccoon nursing her juvenile baby from only a few years ago.

Now mama and baby are both dead along with all the other raccoon families of Central Park.

Perhaps this 2017 article from the New York Post helps explain why:

https://nypost.com/2017/09/16/new-york-is-waging-war-against-raccoons/

New York City has in fact, "waged war" against many park animals in recent years. Swans, raccoons and certainly, Canada geese of which six thousand have been killed over the past decade.

But where do all these "wars" lead?  What is the end goal?

Parks entirely devoid of birds and other wildlife?

One of my friends was at the Boat Lake in Central Park yesterday.
She noted "two ducks" and "two geese" on a lake that would normally this time of year contain dozens of waterfowl.
She also noted few birds at all around the Ladies Pavilion in Central Park - a spot normally teaming with all kinds of small birds this time of year. And she also saw only one wary squirrel.

Mayor deBlasio said in a recent interview, that the city is doing "all it can to eradicate rats in city parks." But what else is the city  "eradicating" in the process?

 A Manhattan friend lamented on FB yesterday, all the animals who perished in the Notre Dame cathedral fire in Paris -- and all the animals dying around the world.

But what about the animals vanishing under our noses and being pushed out of New York City parks?  As the saying goes, "Think globally, act locally."

 If everyone did that, it would be a far different world.

It would be a world in which we didn't have to look at old photographs to remember what was, but is no more.


                                               ....................






Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Tale of Two Cities; Same State




Sometimes I have a hard time believing I am still in the same state containing New York City.

The small city in which I live now seems to have such a different attitude towards animals; in fact, towards life in general.

Animal stories are often featured on the local news in Cortland, NY.  The wildlife in the local park is not only provided food by families, but by park employees as well. (Salt sticks are even put out for deer.)  Roads near the park contain,"Duck Crossing" signs and pets are generally well cared for with few strays.

In many ways, Cortland, NY is like throwback to 1950's America.
Most of the houses in this quaint and friendly "railroad" (and now college) town were built in the late 1800's or early 1900's. (Some are now rented out to college students.)

Cortland is not a booming city. Most of the people who live in Cortland work in nearby Syracuse or Ithaca, are retired or go to school here.

You won't find skyscrapers in Cortland or people in designer clothes. (Despite frigid, snow-filled winters, I have yet to see one Canada goose coat!) There are small shopping plazas around Cortland allowing one to actually live here without a car. But most people drive.

Cortland is, in essence, very blue-collar, "Middle America." It's equally divided between Republican and Democrat, Conservative and Liberal, though most people are squarely in the political middle. There seem to be no extremes.  There is no pretentiousness.

 I like Cortland.  It reflects well who I am. It reminds me of 1950's Austin, Texas where my mother and I spent six months when I was a child.  I loved Austin. It was a fun-loving, smallish city and much more "liberal" than NYC; we didn't even wear uniforms in Catholic school!  I hated having to return to NYC at only 7-years-old then and cried on the train ride home.

And yet, more than a year after finally moving away from NYC decades later, I find myself in political battle with it over its proposed, "Wildlife Feeding Ban in city parks." (How cruel and bizarre is this -- especially compared to other parts of the country?)

Seems as if I had a "love/hate relationship" with NYC all along --which ironically still continues to this day.

Yesterday's rally in City Hall (NYC) was well attended, with good visuals and excellent speakers, including one Bronx City Councilman supporting the "ban the ban" rally.

But NYC media failed to cover the rally and reportedly, Mayor deBlasio walked by at one point and didn't even acknowledge.

Why is none of this surprising?  Par for the course, one might say.

My friend, Liliana tried to attend rally, but her car ride was late and she had trouble getting through security at City Hall. (They must have suspected the 75-year-old cancer victim was hiding guns or bombs in her walker.)

But Liliana wasn't upset. She has dealt with far worse than this in the forms of aggressive cancer and a Mayor's representative smugly  telling her she should "volunteer at the Wild Bird Fund" (a highly physical undertaking) or "take nature hikes with birders." The Mayor seems to have as much regard for senior citizens as he does for pigeons, geese, ducks and squirrels.

Meanwhile, at the still (plant) barren Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park, three determined goose pairs attempt to bring forth new life.  But will their efforts once again meet with defeat and death as they did last year?

Thankfully, I won't be in New York City to personally witness.

It's 14 months since I left New York City and I don't miss a damn thing about it -- with the lone exceptions of a few known and treasured geese trying to buck the odds and a beloved friend, still too, battling the odds.

To quote Simon and Garfunkle, "I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains."


                                          . ..........................





Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Profile in Courage - Liliana Berezovschi




Today is the day of the City Hall rally to protect NYC park wildlife and the caring people who feed birds and squirrels.

I am unfortunately 5 hours away in Cortland, NY. But my friend, Liliana is there, frail and fragile as she is.

When one considers what Liliana has been through over the past two years, it's a wonder she is still standing: Surgery, radiation, hundreds of chemo treatments, tests and injections. Stuff that would render most star athletes to their knees.

An immigrant from Romania, Liliana, 75, has known poverty, hardship and hunger much of her life.

Such have been the primary motivations for her compassion and empathy for struggling and hungry wildlife in Central Park.

 "I know what hunger is," she has said to me many times in her thick Romanian accent without going into details.

 And, "What good is the life without purpose?"

Liliana was there for me every night during the brutal, "Polar Vortex" winter of 2015 when we struggled to save starving migratory ducks and geese at the then, iced-over Jackie Onassis Reservoir.

Passers-by thought we were employees of the park.

 "It's nice that the park feeds them," they would say to us.

 That only they knew now that city parks and the Mayor are actually determined to criminalize the very people who feed hungry wildlife in parks. People like Liliana.

I don't know that any press will cover the rally. I know that Roxanne Delgado (organizer of the effort to oppose feeding ban) has sent out press releases and worked tirelessly to defeat the cruel and feckless proposal from day one.

But these days, media seems only interested in the latest Trump tweet. Some people campaigning for the rights of pigeons or squirrels to exist seems like joke to them.

And yet it is about so much more than that.

It's about all the remaining wildlife in city parks.

It's about the elderly, infirm and often disabled people who cannot run marathons or "take hikes," but who deeply empathize and connect with the birds or squirrels of city parks. People willing to tredge out in all kinds of weather to ensure no one goes hungry.

When did things like empathy, kindness, connection and purpose go out of style? When did they become actions to criminalize?
One could argue they are the very qualities that define us as decent  human beings.

This morning Liliana called me to read some prepared remarks she wrote, should she be interviewed by a reporter.

Let's hope she gets opportunity to say them.


                                     ................



Monday, April 15, 2019

Crunch Time! Rally to Support Park Wildlife Tomorrow




We are down to crunch time, folks.

Whether the dreadful anti-wildlife-feeding proposal passes or not, depends largely on what happens over the next few days.

Specifically, at tomorrow's rally on the steps of City Hall (1 to 2 pm).

Turnout is critical, as well as decent media coverage.

I am not in New York City anymore so don't have sway over events.

A woman, Roxanne Delgado, of Bronx Animal Rights Electors is organizing the rally and has worked her butt off on this issue for months.

It appears that those in power thought it was going to be easy to pass this draconian, punitive and heartless measure into "rule" with little fanfare or notice. Indeed, they did not even go through the City Council who most assuredly, would have rejected it.

It's easy to understand why city parks officials, the Mayor and others would think this way.

After all, little media coverage and protest occurred when thousands of Canada geese were captured from NYC parks and sent for gassing or slaughter over the past decade.

Few, if any appeared to have questioned or critiqued the destruction of all trees and foliage that surrounded the Jackie Onassis Reservoir. It appears as barren wasteland over the past year-- though containing mounds of plastic trash, both, in the water and on the rocks.

And other than published press releases from NYC Parks stating some raccoons died from Distemper last year, nothing quite explains the deaths of more than 300 raccoons from Central Park in just a few months;  its seemingly entire raccoon population.

So yes, it seems in light of all this, a simple rule change would likely not garner attention or protest.  (Of course, they would have to elicit "Public Comment" and hold a public hearing on the matter, but such were just formalities.)

Early media reports suggested the Ban Proposal was a slam dunk and would "go into effect this summer."

 But, not so fast.

People did comment -- almost 90% in opposition to ban.  People showed up to protest at the hearing.  A petition with more than 4,000 signatures of opposition was delivered to the Parks Commissioner and letters of protest have been published in newspapers.

Mayor deBlasio has even been confronted with the issue on radio and TV interviews. His reasons for supporting the ban are weak and feckless at best. He deflects from the real issue of scant food resources for park wildlife to blaming bird feeders for trash and rats in parks.  He tries to say ban is about "Education," but punitive rules and laws aren't passed if a goal is merely, "education."

The Mayor made it sound as if city parks were over-run by hoards of wildlife feeders who littered parks with all kinds of debris from balls to balloons to bottles to old shoes. It's true parks are.littered with these items, but they are not from bird or squirrel feeders.

The truth is that less than one percent of park-goers feed birds or squirrels.  (I rarely saw other feeders during the thousands of times I went to Central Park.)

But most of the people who DO feed are senior citizens, the disabled and families. People the Parks Dept and Mayor now want to label criminals.

Yes, the bureaucratic and political officials thought they would have an easy slam dunk with this -- and they still might have.

But this time there were more than just a few people willing to stand up and say, "No, not this time. Not ever!"

 Killing animals is apparently one thing. Taking away a simple and basic human right is something else. (The right to feed and peacefully interact with birds or squirrels in a park. -- a right people have been enjoying for centuries.)

The City Hall rally is tomorrow. It is only for one hour. (1 to 2 pm.)
If there is way for you to attend, please do so.
Roxanne and others who have worked so hard on this need your support.

Most of all, the remaining and often struggling wildlife in city parks need you to be voice for them.

Thank you!



                             .........................

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Hope and Determination Spring Eternal-- Just Ask the Geese!




When leaving New York City more than a year ago, I knew matters were going downhill for city parks' wildlife.

But I never imagined the amount of destruction and loss that would occur in just one short year, especially in the park with which I was most familiar: Central Park.

Last summer, virtually all of Central Park's raccoons sickened and died. I have constantly asked friends, but not one has seen a raccoon since last August.

NYC Parks claimed some of the raccoons died from Distemper.
But how does any disease kill virtually all -- especially animals living in different locations of a 843 acre park?

At the same time raccoons were dying left and right in Central Park,  8 of the 9 only goslings to hatch in CP last summer also perished. This is something highly unusual for Canada geese (who are exemplary parents in protecting their young), especially in a place with few natural predators.

It seems no one questioned deaths of the goslings and so no press releases were issued on them.

Then there is the question of declining duck and squirrel numbers in Central Park as their numbers too, are dropping without noted question or cause.

Many who are familiar with NYC parks claim that fruit, nut and seed-bearing trees and plants have been cut down in favor of more ornamental flora.

I can't personally speak to that, but for certain, ALL the vegetation, trees and foliage that surrounded the Jackie Onassis Reservoir was completely demolished with nothing in its place. (The plants and grass were important food sources for goslings who cannot fly, and other waterfowl and animals.)

One Manhattan resident I recently spoke with about the Reservoir said, "Don't worry. The foliage will all grow back in the spring."
We are well into spring now and the Reservoir is as bare as it's been for the past year.

I don't know what park goers tell themselves when witnessing all the destruction, disappearances and deaths happening under their noses (more than 300 raccoons perished in CP last summer). But as much as we are advised to "think positively" and " never judge or criticize," there are times when people need to start paying attention and opening their mouths to question and critique.

That time is especially now considering the hideous and cruel "proposal" that the Mayor seeks to make law: Criminalization of all Bird and Squirrel feeders in city parks. A rule that could potentially land senior citizens and others feeding birds in jail.

Really important for people to find voice to oppose this bitter and draconian measure that appears to be designed to starve remaining wildlife out of city parks and punish people of compassion.

Yesterday, my friend, Laura Taylor shared with me, report and photos from the Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park:

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=369765413879986&id=100025395917812

Despite barren surroundings and mounds of trash and debris in water, four Canada geese have once again returned to their nest site. But only one of the pair (John and Mary) so far have eggs.

Last year was disastrous for both pairs.

John and Mary lost their first batch of eggs, nested again and then lost 3 of 4 of their month-old goslings.

Hansel and Greta lost all five of their babies who were also around a month old.

For all the (previously healthy)  goslings to die at that age makes one suspect starvation as cause under the circumstances.

And yet, despite the deliberate gassings and slaughter of more than six thousand NYC geese over the past decade, the harassment and egg destruction of many hundreds more, hope and determination spring eternal.

But not without effort, action and sacrifice.

It is hard to imagine positive outcome for the eggs and potential goslings, Mary now sits on at the barren Jackie Onassis Reservoir based on last year's losses.

But if she and her long time mate, John (as well as Hansel and Greta) are not giving up, neither should we.

Hoping for a huge turnout for Tuesday's anti-proposal rally and loud voices.

The people who support park wildlife are not mindless criminals -- and they have voices!



                    .................................. 










Friday, April 12, 2019

New Yorkers Say No to Criminalization of Bird and Squirrel Feeders --'Please Attend Rally!




This coming Tuesday (the 16th), a 1pm to 2 pm rally will take place at City Hall to protest New York City's and the Mayor's push to criminalize bird and squirrel feeders in city parks.

This is a battle for wildlife's right to exist in city parks as well as the right of people to enjoy a long treasured and peaceful past-time of "feeding ducks in the park."

In a city plagued by so many real problems from violent crimes, drugs, gangs, trash pick-up (especially in parks) and a multitude of others, that city leadership would focus on something like this is truly mind-boggling and irrational (unless goal is to empty parks of virtually all wildlife).

Primarily targeted are senior citizens or disabled people feeding birds in parks.
People who cannot run marathons, take nature hikes or do hard, physical labor.

A recent poll by New York 1 showed 81% of New Yorkers were opposed to the proposed rule. (Shame on the 19% who voted for it.). That is strong and clear majority.

Public comments on the NYC Parks website were overwhelmingly opposed (87%) to the draconian proposal, as were people who showed up to the public hearing to testify.

A couple of weeks ago, petition was delivered to city parks office with more than 4,OOO signatures in opposition to the ban.

Yet, even with all this, the Mayor went on television a few nights ago and arrogantly continued to imply that bird feeders were responsible for all the trash dumped in parks as well as rats.

From the beginning, this has been a campaign of despicable demonization and belittlement of some of NYC's most vulnerable and defenseless citizens: The elderly, the poor, the disabled and even children and families.

Not only does the Mayor scapegoat and blame them for trashing parks, but he also insults their intelligence when repeatedly saying they need to be "educated."

 The one who needs "educating" is the Mayor himself for disrespecting and ignoring the will of his constituents.

Constituents who also care about protecting and safeguarding the little of what remains of city park wildlife. Wildlife for whom most "natural food sources" have been deliberately and callously cut down and removed in what (in conjunction with feeding ban) assuredly amounts to a starvation campaign against innocent animals by the city of New York.

And though when asked, proponents of feeding ban claim displaced park wildlife will "travel to Long Island to find food resources," the reality is that squirrels, baby birds and any still existing raccoons can't walk over bridges.

Nor do most New Yorkers want all natural wildlife to "travel" and disappear from the parks of NYC.  Such is certain!y not what Olmsted and other park founders had in mind. Parks were designed to provide New Yorkers with peaceful respite and connection with nature and wildlife.

It is sad that with all the public opposition already expressed for this cruel, draconian and feckless rule that a demonstration still be necessary, but it is.

No matter how otherwise busy, please make time in your schedule  to attend this critical one-hour rally.

This is to stand up for and defend the rights of squirrels and birds to still exist in NYC parks, as well as the right of the people to care about and in some cases, nourish and sustain them -- especially through harsh winters.


                           .......................

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Dead Birds Don't Travel






Today, my friend, Liliana, received a call from the Mayor's office.

The call was apparently in response to her letter in the Daily News opposing the proposed Wildlife Feeding Ban that Mayor deBlasio stubbornly supports.

As described in her published letter, Liliana is a 75-year-old cancer victim who receives chemotherapy every three weeks and has to use a walker to get around. Her one remaining joy in life is sitting in Central Park and tossing some treats to her two favorite geese, "Man and Lady" and a few ducks.

 "Christina" (from the Mayor's office) suggested that instead of feeding birds, Liliana should "volunteer at the Wild Bird Fund or take nature walks with birders."

Volunteering at the Wild Bird Fund entails heavy, physical labor such as cleaning cages, floors, handling large or feisty birds, going up and down stairs. Nature walks with birders is usually facilitated and conducted by Rangers taking people on "tours." These involve much walking, often up and down hills.

 Does Christina know what stage four cancer is?

In defending the Mayor's cruel position, Christina attempted to assure Liliana that she need not fear criminal prosecution and arrest as the ban is mostly about "Education."

Does a woman with two Masters Degrees and thousands of hours in a city park needs "education?"

 Liliana tried to tell Christina about all the birds who starved to death at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir during the Polar Vortex of 2015, as well as goslings who starved at the Reservoir last summer (after all the foliage and vegetation was removed) and all the raccoons who died over the past year.

She was told that wildlife "travels" (presumably to Long Island) although dead birds and dead raccoons don't travel anywhere.

Distressed by Liliana's unfortunate experience with a Mayoral representative, I later called Christina's number, but got voice mail.

I left a message that I am "stunned" with what she told my friend who suffers from stage four cancer and uses a walker to get around.

Seriously. "Take a hike?"

(Christina, by the way, never answered an email I sent her last week regarding the proposed feeding ban. It included photos of birds who starved to death on a then, iced-over Jackie Onassis Reservoir.)

The Mayor and his staff are completely clueless and lack empathy and respect for both, starving wildlife and disabled humans.

Education of Tourists







Weather extremes (often with devastating impacts) are seemingly part of everyday news.

The winter of 2015 was the third coldest in New York City history due to a Polar Vortex which lingered many weeks.

All over the North East thousands of water birds starved to death on iced-over lakes and ponds that stayed frozen through most of February and March.

The Jackie Onassis Reservoir in Central Park is wintering location for several hundred migratory ducks and geese each year.
But in 2015, more than 90% of it too, was iced over, resulting in many birds starving to death.

I and several other people took to feeding ducks and geese twice a day in order to save what we could.

 Sometimes pointing to dead birds on the ice, we also asked others, usually tourists, strolling by to bring food when they came to the park.

But what was striking in all of the conversations with park goers, was that virtually all of them thought the park fed the birds (including many New Yorkers)!

"Aren't you employees of the park?" They asked. "Doesn't the park feed the birds?"

 I was astounded by such questions. What park feeds birds, I wondered?

I have since learned that some parks do feed their wildlife.
(I live near one now in Cortland, NY.) And some parks put out vending machines that, for a small price, dispense waterfowl pellets for feeding ducks.

In 2015, the town of Southampton in Long Island purchased 50 lb bags of cracked corn in order to save starving ducks on their lakes and ponds.

So yes, some places do care about hungry wildlife in their parks.

New York City is sadly not among them.

But what's worse, is that NYC parks and Mayor deBlasio now seek to criminalize any kind hearted people who feed struggling wildlife in parks. -- Parks where many natural food sources such as nut, fruit and seed-bearing plants and trees have been deliberately  removed.

I wonder what those tourists would think now if and when learning of the new "Wildlife Feeding Ban" that the Mayor and city seek to impose?

Small wonder New York City gets such a bad rap around the rest of the country.

Tourists, watch out if daring to feed a peanut to a NYC park squirrel or piece of bread to a Mandarin duck!


                                   -------------------

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Mass Exodus for Long Island -- The Mayor Speaks




Regarding the proposed criminalization of bird and squirrel feeders in NYC parks, Mayor deBlasio announced in a recent media interview that he supports the ban. This should surprise no one.

https://www.facebook.com/326231281077113/posts/805533333146903/

In answer to the charge (and fact) that parks have cut down nut and fruit-bearing trees and plants in favor of non-native and ornamental flora (or in the case of the Central Park Reservoir, chopped down ALL surrounding foliage and trees; important food sources for water birds), the mayor said he "believes" there are enough food sources for animals, though he doesn't say what, nor does he deny the charge.

He is then quick to deflect the subject to rats, implying that it is the bird and squirrels feeders (not garbage) that are responsible for rats in parks.

The Mayor becomes defensive when addressing the charge of criminalization of feeders by trying to ensure there is not going to be a "draconian crackdown" on feeders, but rather a campaign to "discourage and educate."

 While unlikely that busy NYC cops will be hauling people like 75-year-old cancer victim and bird feeder, Liliana Berezovschi to jail, the implication that feeders are stupid, responsible for rats and uneducated is insulting. Ms. Berezovschi has two Masters Degrees.

The blaming and scapegoating of bird and squirrel feeders for problems in parks may not result in jail sentences, but it opens these mostly older and defenseless people to harassment and bullying by self-appointed "vigilantes" and park rangers -- which has already happened.

In many ways, city parks have become intimidating environments for senior citizens who have to navigate and dodge speeding bicycles, marathon runners and crowds. But now add "discouragement and education" (i.e. bullying) should they toss some bread or nuts to hungry birds or squirrels and it is obvious that city parks and the Mayor do not welcome the elderly and the disabled any more than they welcome birds and squirrels.

(Raccoons, swans and geese are already gone or quickly disappearing from most city parks.)

Some have argued that city parks don't get enough funding from the city to adequately clean up the garbage which, in truth, attracts rats.

But parks receive millions of dollars in donations. Donations that support all kinds of "Special Events" in parks, from concerts to sporting events, to food fests to fireworks displays. The fundraiser Central Park Conservancy recently sent out didn't even mention  lack of funding from the city.

This issue is not about funding, pigeons (which are mostly in city streets, not parks) or even garbage and rats.

It IS about a starvation campaign against city park wildlife as well as an intimidation campaign against the city's most vulnerable and  defenseless citizens -- the elderly, the disabled, the poor and even children, many of whom enjoy "duck feeding" in parks.

In answer to the question of how city park wildlife can survive without supplemental food support from humans, one supporter  of the park proposal (Audubon representative) answered, "The birds  and squirrels can go to Long Island to find food resources."

 And that is what the Mayor and city parks really want:
An emptying of virtually all but token few of city park wildlife.

Maybe the city's elderly, poor and disabled who are empathetic with animals should follow that mass exodus of squirrels over the Tri-Borough bridge as they are apparently not welcomed either.



                                          ------------------















Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Going to the Park to Feed Ducks -- A Criminal Activity?



One Saturday afternoon a few years ago, I was walking in Harlem Meer in Central Park, when I noticed a young girl tossing bits of bread to the ducks; the smile on her face a mile wide.

 "She really loves the ducks." I smiled to the girl's mother who was standing nearby. "Its nice to see children connect with nature like that."

The young mother explained that her little girl loved animals, but they were not allowed pets in their apartment. The child looked forward all week to coming to the park on Saturdays to "feed the duckies."

 "She would stay here all day feeding them if I would let her." the mother laughed. "She's even named some of her favorite ducks!"

 The sweet memory haunts now as New York City is on the verge of criminalizing such activity in all city parks.

What options do such children have now?  Children who cannot have pets for one reason or another. Children whose parents might lack the resources for nature trips to the country or even local trips to the zoo.

Perhaps city officials and Mayor deBlasio would argue that children can view videos of animals or admire "from a distance." But such are not the same as interacting one to one with a semi-tame duck, goose or squirrel in the park. Animals who have grown up around and are comfortable with people.

I now live in Cortland, NY.  A sleepy kind of 1950's style city of less than 100,000 people whose children can still delight in going to the local Municipal Water Works park and feeding the ducks on a Saturday afternoon. They can even name them.

Not all changes are progressive.

 Criminalizing a behavior that for millions of Americans is considered a charitable act of giving and sharing, as well as representing warm childhood memory is simply furthering our disconnection from the natural world and plunging us into deeper separation, individualism and ultimately, loneliness and isolation.

We do our children and citizens no favors by such cruel and feckless policy.

                                                          ------------------------

Monday, April 8, 2019

"Neighborhood Gym and Cocktail Parties"




Today, I received a 3-page fundraiser for the Central Park Conservancy in the mail.

Depending upon the amount of money donated, I can enjoy everything from "Special invitations to Tours, Skating Party, Cocktail Parties, Garden Parties, Film Festival, Jazz Fest, New York Philharmonic, Marathon Breakfast, lectures, discounts on merchandise" and more.

 "26 ballfields, 21 playgrounds," Central Park is my "neighborhood gym for running, biking, hiking, or just strolling."

 "Everywhere you look, birds are singing," the fliers proclaim. But that is actually more true of city streets than within Central Park.
Most pigeons, sparrows, grackles and other birds scavenge city gutters and sidewalks for nourishment rather than seeking it in what would seem the more natural areas of city parks.

Other than the "birds singing," there is no mention of Central Park wildlife at all.

 In fact, except for description of trees, flowers and lawns, I wouldn't know this 3-page fundraiser was about a park at all.

 Emphasis is on all the "fun," entertaining and sporting activities over any tranquil enjoyment of nature or animals.

Nowhere in the 3-page fundraiser are nature or wildlife alluded to at all.

So how exactly is the "neighborhood gym" the "escape from city life?"

I might think that this is a fundraiser for Carnegie Hall or Madison Square Garden.

                             ......................

Sunday, April 7, 2019

In Praise of Unsung Heroes -- "I Know What It's like to be Hungry"





Yesterday, Roxanne Delgado of Bronx Animal Rights Electors met with my friend, Liliana to film a statement from her regarding the proposed criminalization of bird and squirrel feeders in NYC parks.

https://www.facebook.com/326231281077113/posts/803762266657343/

It is tough seeing my friend now. Though we speak on the phone almost everyday, I have not seen Liliana since moving upstate more than a year ago.

A two-year battle with cancer and countless chemo treatments have taken a toll on Liliana's already frail frame. And yet, like the courageous trooper that's she's always been, Liliana is willing to do whatever is necessary to help and save the needy -- in this case, park wildlife.

But less anyone think that Liliana is just a "fair weather feeder," only feeding birds for her own joy under favorable skies, the opposite is true.

 No one was more dependable during the brutal winter of 2015 when thousands of water birds starved to death on frozen lakes all along the East Coast -- including many in Central Park.

When finding dead bodies on the ice and overwhelmed with trying to feed more than 300 starving migratory ducks and geese on the CP Reservoir, I called Liliana for help.

She went around begging day-old bread from local bakeries and would show up to the snow and ice-covered Reservoir with a shopping cart filled with wholesome wheat breads for the famished birds. Breads that would normally be thrown out despite being baked that morning!

No, we were not able to save all the birds -- but we saved most!

I wrote a blog post then titled "unsung heroes" about Liliana which is appropriate to share again:

https://talesamptailsofnewyork.blogspot.com/2015/03/in-praise-of-quiet-unsung-heroes-for.html

And once again, Liliana is being called upon to save the day for the birds and other wildlife she cares so much about.

If anyone can stop this runaway train of cruel and barbaric proposal, it is this humble 97 lb woman who has managed to down stage-four cancer for the past two years.

Liliana may not be most people's idea of a hero, but she is certainly mine.

She is the kind of woman who would give the shirt off her back and freeze to death less another go cold.

 "I know what it's like to be hungry," she meekly says.

       
                              -----------------





Friday, April 5, 2019

Looking in Mirror -- How Do We Define Ourselves?




It is vital to oppose and defeat the city's cruel and feckless proposal to criminalize all bird and squirrel feeding in NYC parks.
This is a two-prong battle:
1-- To preserve and protect disappearing wildlife in parks.
2 -- To respect and protect the mostly elderly, poor, lonely and disabled  people who go to parks to connect with nature. People who cannot run marathons, play softball or defend themselves from bullying, intimidation and threats of arrest.
Before leaving NYC last year, I was in Central Park everyday and have thousands of photos.
I saw what happened during tough winters when water birds had no access to food on frozen lakes.
I saw geese and other birds routinely harassed by Geese Police -- even in winter. I witnessed geese grieve when their eggs were deliberately destroyed.
 I saw elderly people with walkers and wheelchairs feeling purpose when feeding birds.  One senior lady with a walker came down from the Bronx to Central Park everyday to sit for hours and enjoy her favorite squirrels and birds.  Another in a wheelchair had ducks and geese eating from her hands.
Now, these empathetic and often religious people acting on principles of mercy have to be afraid. 
Afraid of harassment, belittlement and possible criminal arrest.
Is this what New York City strives to be?
A place of intolerance, malignment and vilification of both, wildlife and its most vulnerable and defenseless people?
This battle is not just about pigeons or even garbage.
It is so much more than that.
It's about being able to view New York City as a progressive place of leadership that celebrates all its people and its wildlife.
It's about being able to call ourselves decent human beings.


                             ---------------------------

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Sad and Stinging Memory




Recently I looked at some old photos taken in Central Park.

Below is a photo taken several years ago of a mama raccoon nursing her juvenile baby who was at least, several months old. 

Raccoon babies stay with their mothers for more than a year. Families are generally tight and don't stray far from home base.

Sadly, virtually all Central Park raccoons sickened and died last year.

Friends report not seeing any raccoons at all since last summer. (There had been more than 300 in 843 acre Central Park.)

I moved away from New York City in January of 2018. Part of the reason for moving was despair I felt with the apathetic and sometimes hostile attitudes towards park wildlife displayed by park and city officials-- Attitudes and policies that resulted in death for thousands of park geese and other animals.

But I left a big part of my heart with remaining wildlife of Central Park, as well as friends still doing battle with indifferent and often callous city and park officials.

At no time or place has political heartlessness been more displayed than in the proposed NYC rule to criminalize all wildlife feeders in city parks.

Not only does this amount to what is essentially a "starvation campaign" for many semi-tame squirrels and birds living in a sanitized and manipulated urban environment, but it also targets for ticketing and harassment, the elderly, poor and disabled -- people who cannot run marathons and who frequently show mercy to hungry park birds and squirrels through the charitable and kind act of  giving food.

In some ways I feel as if I left the Titanic just before it hit the iceberg; the once sweet image of a mama raccoon and her nursing baby, now sad and stinging memory for the knowledge of what followed.

                         ................ 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Small Shards of Ice in the Water





When a child, I used to drink vineger from the bottle.

My Grandmother would say, "That stuff can turn your blood to water!"

 My blood never turned to water, but my Grandmother's dire warning stayed with me.

I've since learned that "can, could, may and might" are often used as scare tactic without actual proof of claim.

 "You might break your neck if skiing down a slope."
 "You can fall down stairs if drinking. "
 "You could be abducted by aliens."
 "The raccoon may have rabies."

 Though dire warnings are sometimes warranted, more often than not, we need to take them with a grain of salt absent actual photographic or data evidence to the claim.

For every "can, may or might," there is a won't, doesn't or didn't.

And so it is, with virtually all the outlandish and unfair claims made against bird and squirrel feeders in city parks.

While generally true that any activity done to EXCESS usually does cause problems, it is NOT true that moderate feeding of urban wildlife in parks causes major behavioral changes in the animals or attracts rats. Nor is it true that feeding bread to birds causes significant health issues; on the contrary, bread-feeding has often helped to save park birds from starvation -- especially in winter.

It's better than nothing at all.

I remember some year back, reading "Goose Removal Reports" from APHIS (USDA Wildlife Services) which attempted to justify roundups and slaughters of Canada geese from NYC parks.

The documents were filled with "can, may, might and could."
In other words, speculation, conjecture and (to my mind) worst case scenario fear tactics.

Such rationalizations were used to justify capturing as few as four geese from a city park and sending them to a slaughterhouse upstate (in what could be called, "management to extirpation").

While real incident, "Miracle on the Hudson" was the primary excuse  for killing more than 6,000 resident geese from NYC parks and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, the fact remains that the geese that flight 1549 collided with on that fateful January day in 2009 were migratory geese from Labrador, Canada according to the Smithsonian Institute which analyzed goose remains.

They had nothing to do with resident geese in city parks who rarely flew above the trees.

It is therefore factually correct to say that these thousands of NYC geese posed no threat to anything and essentially died for nothing. However, many people made money from the NYC goose slaughters. From employees of APHIS, to park workers and rangers, from truck drivers to slaughterhouse owners and workers to even manufacturers of equipment and supplies.

In other words, a profitable "make work" scheme, but one that caused terror and death to thousands of innocent beings.

It is said that more than 90% of things we worry and fret over never come to pass. (All those coulds, cans, mays and mights.)

But sometimes our concerns do play out in far bigger ways than we even imagined.

Before leaving New York City in January of 2018, I had many misgivings and  concerns for Central Park wildlife, especially Canada geese (all of which were expressed in this blog).

Sadly, most of the concerns about geese are being realized  -- even the starving deaths of 8 of 9 goslings last summer at the CP Reservoir which was not foreseen.

But I never imagined the sudden demise of virtually all of the park's raccoons -- much as I was aware of many people's unjust fear of them.

Nor did I imagine a heartless campaign of lies and misinformation to demonize feeders of park wildlife and even threaten them with jail.

A part of me feels like I left the Titanic just before it hit the iceberg.

But one could say I saw the way the tides were turning and the ominous small shards of ice in the water.



















Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Food of Life



A mother raccoon nursing her juvenile in Central Park several years ago.

Today, these raccoons are dead.

It is astounding that anyone claiming to love animals would BEGRUDGE them treat or nutritional support.

Food is the most basic drive in all living beings.