Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
So, the first thing we do when we get to the park these days is go and check on the nesting swans. This seems to be the only swan family in the park these days, and we are amazingly concerned about their welfare. It feels like being an imminent parent all over again - waiting for the cygnets to hatch. I'm estimating they'll hatch sometime in May, although we really don't know, since we don't know when she started setting on them. Occasionally, I wonder to myself, "What if they never hatch." and feel quite anxious and fearful about that possibility.
Papa was exceptionally protective today - came over to us and hissed and spread his wings when we were standing on the shore. We were just trying to get close enough to take a picture of an egret hanging out there - one with grayish wings at the edges. The second picture has this egret - enlarge, and it's there. This is not the all-white one we've seen and whom we saw today by the Lullwater). A birder we stopped and asked says the grayish feathers are usually the sign of an immature egret. He also tells us that they usually don't nest here, but in Jamaica Bay or Brother Island, and that they fly miles each day to search for food.
Weather stunningly gorgeous and clear today and yesterday. A little chilly - just right for walking. We spotted a robin's nest yesterday - nice to know the eggs don't all end up on the ground. Also noted progress in the playground: large, domed structure being set up. The BBQ cages are almost finished, and they are nowhere near the playground. Don't quite understand this. There used to be a nice little BBQ grove next to the playground, so the adults could socialize while the children played in the playground. Now they are quite far from each other, and the BBQ cage seems quite unwelcoming. Maybe that's the idea? And is the fence permanent? I have noticed that no fence ever seems to come down in the park - there are falling down fences everywhere. I wonder if this is a strategy or just laziness/neglect/budget cuts.
Clean-up notes: the disgusting mess is still there, but drying out. Probably good that there's no rain for a bit. Speaking of no rain, the lake level is down slightly, and some of the mini-lakes are reduced to mud puddles. We noticed yesterday that the disgusting paper was blowing around, so I gritted my teeth and picked it up and brought it to a trash can. Luckily, we now come to the park with rubber gloves and handi-wipes, in addition to the usual plastic bags for the dog.
Another can/candle/tin foil combination in the same spot as before, this time new, with no fire burning. Took it to the trash can. If I keep removing it, will the person give up? Yesterday we (well, Ber) moved the plywood near to a trash can - someone had put it back in the water, so we dragged it further away. Not picked up yet, lying on the ground by the can.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The park flooding seems more extensive than ever. These photos are taken at several different locations, all showing how far the lake has gone beyond its boundaries. JJ was happy to find her own little lake. She doesn't like to be in the water if she can't feel a solid bottom, so it must seem like there's now a lake made just for her. Cayuga and entourage have another little corner just for them, all cozy and surrounded by phragmites. The swans are now further and further from the edge of the shoreline, although they have to keep building up the nest to stay dry. I got a nice little video of Mama swan building up her nest. Such a hard working parent!
CAUTION: THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH AND RELATED PHOTO CONTAIN IDEAS AND IMAGES UNSUITABLE FOR CIVILIZED HUMAN BEINGS.
I had to climb up the trunk of a downed tree to get a good angle for the video. This was partly because I was trying to see into the nest (still couldn't) but also because some disgusting person has shit, literally, on the nice little mound from where I usually get a good view. Big puddle of feces! They even left the filthy toilet paper!! What is wrong with these people. It is disgusting, unsanitary, thoughtless...I could go on and on. Unsanitary. It is close to the water, so all the bacteria etc. will go into the water and make the fish, ducks, children who put their hands into the water, etc., sick. We go backpacking upstate - the hard and fast rule is to 1) bury waste and 2) do it at least 100 feet from water. Even now, hours later, I want to throw up just thinking about it. Of course (just for balance), there are NO facilities in the south and south east parts of the park. On the other side (Park Slope side) there are facilities, both flushable and port-a-Johns.
END OF REVOLTING PARAGRAPH
On the bright side, we saw a robin's egg. Alas, on the ground, not in a nest. But I'm sure there are nestsful of them around. Such a pretty color! And we've decided to show the phragmite height by seeing how quickly I can disappear behind them.
The only dead animal today was a little fish, probably abandoned by one of the fisherpeople, since it was not right next to the water. Many fisherpeople are responsible - they cast their poles sideways , so the lines don't get caught in the trees, and return what they catch. But it only takes a few bad apples to end up with abandoned fishing line and hooks that injure the waterfowl.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Both swans were off the nest this morning! It seems a bit odd, since the sun is NOT shining and warming the nest. Could it be that the cygnets have hatched? We could hear no noise, nor see into the nest, even when we climbed a tree a bit. I really need to get some kind of periscope. Could it be that the water is a bit higher, and the swans wanted to take some weight off the nest? Could it be that Mama got really, really hungry? Tomorrow we'll try to climb up higher in the nearby tree to take a look.
Cayuga and entourage are back in the main part of the lake. Obviously the mini-lake provided insufficient real estate. We call the entourage caramel ducks, but that isn't their official name. They don't have an official name. Our friend the Swan Princess told us that on the official Bird Counting Day, the overseers didn't even want to count them. They're a crossbreed, between two different kinds of ducks - hence the unusual coloration. Swan Princess, like myself, believes that any census must count EVERYONE or it is useless, so they got counted as caramel ducks.
Tree down near the peninsula, blocking the road. Curious - there was a storm last night, but it was not super windy, as it was during the last big storm when so many trees went down. Many of the trees in the park are quite old - 100 years or more, so I guess there are always some on their last legs, or roots, as it were.
Nice picture of egret flying across the lake, thank you Ber. He (Ber) came around a corner and there was the egret stock still within a few feet of him. Of course by the time he got the camera ready to shoot, the bird had flown. Still, it's a pretty good and close shot.
I've been informed that last week's dead duck was a mallard. No dead animals spotted today. How nice!
Sunday, April 25, 2010
It's not just the midday sun that they go out in, it['s also pouring rain days. Lucky me slept in while the indefatigable Ber and JJ went off to the park watch. The report: Nesting swans are still fine, though Papa is hiding under some shrubbery to keep out of the rain. Mama is undoubtedly counting the minutes until she can move again. Love the picture of the raindrops!........ The lake is higher than ever, and new little mini lakes are forming all around. Cayuga and entourage have settled into one of them. .Poor old JJ was very forlorn in the Peninsula today, with absolutely no other dogs out for her to play with. ...Off to our Sunday farmers market on Cortelyou to see which vendors braved the weather and show them our appreciation.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
We had a huge scare when we went to check on the nesting swans - a large dead bird in the water. Nearly had a heart attack when we didn't immediately see Papa
Swan, but he was there, and the dead bird turned out to be a goose. Still not pretty, but, after all, there are a lot of geese, and only 3 swans these days. Ber bravely went out on a fallen tree trunk to push the goose closer to shore with a stick. I fished him (the dead goose, not Ber) out of the water and we took him to a trash can. Not exactly a dignified burial, but at least it won't pollute the lake.
I'm getting quite tired of all these dead animals. dead duck, dead goose, dead raccoon, dead fish, dead possum, dead turtles. I like to look on the positive side, but it's getting a little hard. The good parts were it was a beautiful day, with stunning scenery and strange flowers growing directly out of tree trunks.
I was discussing the swans with a friend the other day. Ber and I really feel especially attached to the swans - so handsome and dignified, yet friendly. My friend doesn't like swans, says they are mean. Hmmm. I think mean is when someone is gratuitously nasty, or nasty as a power trip or to stoke up their egos. The swans are perfectly well behaved as long as no one invades their personal space. Only then do they stare, hiss, spread their wings, and possibly attack. They stop as soon as the person/duck/goose/dog/whatever has crossed back over the personal space boundary. Mostly, they just stare at the invader, move silently towards them, and the invader decides, "I think I'll go the other way." This seems quite reasonable to me. Actually, I see them as an excellent role model for human behavior. Make your position known when necessary. Otherwise, live and let live.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The TV is out of the lake, finally. No thanks to the Parks Dept. but to Channel 11 and Greg Mocker, with whom I am suddenly deeply in love.
Otherwise, it seemed to be Turtle Day in the park. In the Lullwater, by the duck beach, back at the burned phragmite area number 1, we saw 15-20 turtles sunning themselves,. Enlarge the pictures and see if you, too can spot them. One let Ber get VERY close.
Phragmites are now over 6' tall. We saw akll three swans. Nesting swans still look fine. She is lying so flat over the nest she almost looks 2-dimensional. Papa was busy hissing and using his wings to intimidate the geese.
Sad news: we fished a dead bird of the lake and laid it to rest in a trash can.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Crack bag count: 15, including a new design of little purple unicorns. Unicorns? You can't make this stuff up.
This title does sound like one of Aesop's fables, but it's just some of today's happenings. First, we went to check on the nesting swans, since I had a dream that they had hatched last night. No, they haven't hatched yet. Papa is keeping very close guard. The lake level seems even higher today, and is pouring over the edge in many places. The swan nest looks like it is sitting right on the water. Hope it doesn't get waterlogged. I think that all the overflowing spots will save the nest if it keeps rising. I wonder why the Park is letting this happen? After all, it is an artificial lake and there are drainage places that they can open up. In the tree picture, you can see the wall that is supposed to be the outer edge of the lake but isn't.
We'll take another picture of the phragmite height tomorrow, but meanwhile I thought I'd show the big picture. All that green mass was blackened, burnt vegetation only a few weeks ago. I am constantly amazed at how nature restores itself if given even half a chance.
I saw a rabbit in the woods! And managed to photograph it before it ran away! My observation skills and speed with the camera are definitely improving.
actually, the rabbit ran off when I tried to get a bit closer, but I sensibly took the zoomed pictures before I tried to get closer. And, I got the 5 turtles sunning themselves on a log - been trying for that one for weeks! The egret is still hanging out around the Lullwater, and we saw another white bird - very thin, with a long neck, smaller than egret. As soon as I can remember where I put our bird book I will try to identify it.
About the egg: there was another one today, gone by the time we came back on the way home. So I decided to cook the one we have and eat it instead of incubating it. This is the subject of three part video, "The Story of the Egg." It was really quite delicious. I've had duck eggs before, and they are sometimes a little strong, but this one was mild and delicious. Of course I feel totally guilty about taking food from the Park - there are undoubtedly actual hungry people who deserve it more. But they're not out there at 8:00 A.M., and this was in pursuit of knowledge.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Back up Lookout Hill today, WITH my trash bag. 13 crack bags, but surprisingly few beer cans and water bottles. Looks like they did a decent job of cleaning up after this "run for water" thing yesterday. The dead raccoon is gone, as is the stage, tents, etc., as one can see from today's picture taken from the same vantage point as yesterday's dead raccoon picture. Did find surprisingly more cigarette packs than usual - do runners smoke? Didn't think so. There was a glass tube from a cigar - is that a sign of a quality cigar?
Also found a leaflet of interest. I hadn't realized that this "run for water" was brought to you by the same Dow that brought us Agent Orange, Bhopal, and Dioxin poisoning. I'm one of those people who has never forgiven them for agent Orange, and thus have never bought Saran W. Even when I cleaned out my mother's apartment and acquired what I referred to as "the heirloom Saran Wrap," I couldn't bring myself to use it, and threw it out after about 10 years. The leaflet refers to the Run for Water as "a shameless attempt to cover up the company's role as a major polluter of both drinking water and aquatic ecosystems." WELL PUT!!! Check out the websites at: http://vn-agentotange.org?, bhopal.net, trwnews.net and snipurl.com/dowdolphins for more info.
Back to the subject of the raccoons: Ber did get a response to his e-mail from Eugene Patron, who says he is forwarding the e-mail and thanking him for his interest. Form letter number 1 or 2?
My do-it-yourself rehab seems to be working. I had very little trouble bending down to pick up the trash. It was a beautiful day, and JJ really enjoyed finding herself a HUGE stick! The phragmites are growing several inches a day. Cygnets not yet born, and the hawk was not nearby. Papa was - can't be too careful!! Swan Princess and Knight reported on finding freshly decapitated turtle heads - someone might be eating them.
Speaking of food in the park, there was another duck egg sitting on the newly mulched shoreline. Since every egg we've seen there has ended up broken, we took this one home with us. Should we try to incubate it or just eat it???????
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Well, as you can see, we got a much better of the snowy egret today. He was standing right by the Lullwater edge, hanging out with a giant turtle, enjoying the sun. Ber got this picture. I kept trying to adjust the light meter on my camera, and by the time I was ready he (assuming it is a he) had flown away. It's a good thing there are two of us trying to capture the sights. We also saw one of the swans in that area. This was good - he's been kind of MIA lately. Still hoping he's looking after a nest nearby, but no sign of it.
Just realized that if you click on a picture it gets larger - and you can really see the egret clearly!
The Nethermead was closed to dogs because of the big "Run for the Water." A concert stage, booths, etc., were set up. A raccoon had decided to lay down and die right outside the rent-a-fence they had put up, so we notified a park person. I offered to pick it up if the park person had a bag and gloves, but she said no - an official person would get it. Ber wrote the the Parks Dept. about it. He had done this a couple of weeks ago, when we spotted another dead raccoon. we want to know why it dies, since there have been vague rumors of rabid raccoons. There was no answer at all the first time. I wonder if two dead raccoons will get their attention?
Princess Swan and the Knight of the 1,000 Swans took over to one of the trees that had blown down in the storm. Half the tree was cut up, but the other half is still standing, albeit at a steep angle right over the new playground. You don't have to be a fear-monger to be concerned. The roots look quite shallow, and intertwined with years of trash and plastic bags.
It was cool today, but the sun was shining. Perfect weather for the runners. I think it was a fund-raising run because they only went around once. The serious races make several loops of the 3 mile circular park road.
By the way, Cayuga and entourage are VERY HAPPY with the new wood-chip mulch on the shoreline. It certainly looks far cozier than the hard p[an underneath. No more eggs. I really will take one if I see another one - they aren't being sat upon to hatch as it is. Actually, no one remembers any baby ducklings from last year. They need parental training. Maybe they've forgotten how to nest? Is life too good in a city park?
Of course we did our usual check on the nesting pair of swans. The higher water level makes the nest look bigger - sitting above the water line. Both parents were very close - mom in her nest, pop right there. She seemed to be fussing a lot. We wonder if the cygnets are close to hatching. Perhaps. There was a large hawk in a tree nearby. We're pretty sure it was a hawk. Tried to get photos, but my zoom lens isn't strong enough. It flew off, and the wingspread was DEFINITELY hawk-like. Good thing papa the protector is nearby.
Here's some research about swans: "Swans are the largest and the most beautiful of large waterfowl. The Mute Swan is one of 7 species of swan worldwide. Adult females weigh around 20 lbs. with males around 25 lbs. Average. Weights of up to 38 lbs. have been recorded.
Swans are found in low lying wetland areas of the northeastern Atlantic coast and the Great Lakes. They breed at 3 years of age having a clutch of from 3 to 8 eggs. The gestation period is 35 days from the date of the last egg. During the incubation period the male becomes very territorial and will aggressively protect his mate. He will normally use his strong wings as a weapon instead of biting.
The cygnets are born with a gray downy plumage that eventually turns to white. They can fly in 3 to 4 months and generally stay with the parents until the next breeding season.
Mute Swans have been known to live for over 25 years, but most only survive to 5 or 6 years old. "