Monday, May 31, 2010

I love Memorial Day

What a beautiful Memorial Day this was! The weather was perfect, and it was truly the start of summer. Our own BBQ was not in the park - we are lucky enough to have a beautiful backyard, and on Sunday we had about 40 people over for food and laughs and a general good time. Our BBQ's are multigenerational - our friends and our children's friends. One guy said it was his 15th. He was a teenager, now he's married, a serious grad student, and waxes eloquently on the beauty of urban management. Swan Princess and Knight came (their first time) and I was thrilled to become part of the Swan sisterhood.

The Park is the backyard for so many Brooklynites! It has its own rites and traditions. First someone comes early to get the "spot." There are some favorite and choice spots this year. Usually it's grandpa. There he sits, reading his paper, guarding all the chairs, tables, coolers, cooking equipment, balloons and streamers - all the accouterments of a special family gathering. Sometimes it's the teenage son. If he's alone, he usually looks cranky - not thrilled to be up early to sit in the park. When he's there with his friends, it's a different story - 2-4 guys, hanging out, drinking sodas, laughing and making all kinds of undoubtedly tasteless jokes. Being responsible and having fun.

This year, the BBQ Plaza is really popular. All the tables were reserved. One man nearby man said he's gotten their at 7 AM, but all the spots were already taken. 5 AM next year! By Monday, all the trash cans were full with about a dozen bags around each one. It's a shame the Parks Dept,. can't do a mid-weekend pickup, but a pleasure to see that people do seem to be trying to keep the park clean. All the re3cent publicity - in the News, Post, Times, Brooklyn Paper and Channel 11 seems to have done a good job of raising consciousness of taking care of the park.

Technically, it's still spring, but it really feels like summer has arrived.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mover and shaker or just taking credit?

This was supposed to be yesterday's blog. I spent a lot of time uploading pictures. One of them was a little blurry. I carefully searched the help section to find out how to delete one picture. I followed the directions carefully. Aargh!!!! The whole thing got deleted. So I rewrote the text in Word, and will take on the uploading of pictures today. I think I should write everything first in Word from now on, so I don't lose anything.

On Wednesday, I wrote about Tony from FIDO and the containers for recycling fishing line that FIDO had ordered and how they weren’t up yet. And lo and behold, there they are! Rather nice and odd looking. They remind me of the dancing tubes that I think I once saw in Cirque de Soleil. Or maybe it was Mummenschanz. At least as seen in an episode of Northern Exposure with Bill Irwin playing a mute "flying man" who romanced Elaine One of my favorite episodes. Anyway, the containers look like they should have faces painted on them. Maybe the Park can get artists to paint them. Or maybe hold a contest for the best way to decorate them. It would get people’s attention. And save the waterfowl from being strangled, always nice. We only saw two of the containers, but we didn’t circumnavigate the lake.

We also met a dog named Hooper, known as Hoop. Poor Hoop had a run-in last night at the Parade Grounds with a pitbull. The pitbull attacked Hoop for no apparent reason, and the pitbull’s owner was completely unable to control him. Hoop and owner tried to run into a ball field and close the gate, but the pitbull kept attacking. Poor Hoop was taken to Animal Kind Animal Hospital for stitches, as you can see. This happened in the early evening. Tony (from FIDO) had said one time that he thought people were training pitbulls to fight in the park at night. I wonder if this is one of those cases. It all seems pretty horrible. Dangerous, plus it is really bad for the pitbull’s reputation. BE WARNED ABOUT THE PARADE GROUNDS IN THE EVENINGS. (May 29 addition: Norana has been looking for a new dog. last week they went to the shelter - full of pitbulls! Apparently you can't insure damage from a pitbull anymore. After seeing Hooper, I am not surprised. In the law, "every dog gets one bite." Then you know the dog is a biter and you are responsible. I think pitbulls have lost that benefit of the doubt. No wonder.)

JJ had a wonderful time with her new summer coat. A little odd looking and almost unrecognizable without her usual long, thick hair. Plus, she is velvety smooth and a delight to poet. Maybe we should keep her like this . But then we’d have to get her clothes in the winter, something I do not favor for dogs.

About 2 weeks ago, I expressed delight that the trash can, which had been the lake for at least a year, was finally removed. Clearly someone else had a different perspective and missed its familiar presence. Now there’s a new trash can in the lake. I notice that the standing trash cans have begun to get chained, so they not end up in the lake.


A turtle got stuck on a pile of wood chips by the lake. It was probably a lovely spot yesterday during all that rain. Poor thing thing was trying to get out, to no avail. Ber took him off the pile, and the turtle was in the water before we could get a shot of him. Faster than a speeding bullet! Whomever said turtles are slow hadn’t met this one.

May 29 addition: Cayuga duck is still at the lake and is looking a little better. He is now able to straighten out his neck almost all the way. Big Mallard and the caramel ducks seem to be checking on him.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

War in the Park?

There was a N.Y. Times article about a war in the park in which Papa swan attacked and killed 3 goslings. Here's the link: Just want to say that I am definitely on the side of the swans. Here are the pictures to support my position. The geese are invading the swan nest and attacking it. There have been a lot of them in the swan nesting vicinity. At last count, we saw 17 live goslings in one day, and that was after we had seen some dead ones. The geese are the original invaders in Prospect Park, taking over the lake. There are so many of them! Apparently they have stopped migrating and have found the perfect year-round home right here in Brooklyn. This would be fine, but they seem to be overrunning the place. And now, the protective Papa Swan is desperately trying to take care of his little flock of four. And mama too. They both came right to the edge of the lake to hiss at Ber and JJ this morning, with their cygnets right in between them. (and note the delightfully full log of sunning turtles in the background.) I know that the swans are also an "invasive species," meaning that they are not native to this area, but there are only a few of them and they don't make messes on the grass like the geese do.

Of course, as I reread this, I realize I sound EXACTLY like those disgusting anti-immigration people, talking about hordes of foreigners coming to America. HOWEVER, this is about waterfowl. IT IS NOT ANY KIND OF ANALOGY TO ANY HUMAN ACTIVITIES WHATSOEVER.

We're not the only ones looking after the lake. there's now a Prospect Park Pond Patrol! This is a group of school children who took a trip to the park and became very involved. I am very hopeful about the future, with children like these. Will try to scan in their adorable brochure....managed to do it. First time scanning in something. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?


JJ is at the groomers and will be unrecognizable with her summer shave. I'll put photos of her in her cool new look tomorrow.

FOUND IN PARK: what appear to be two turtle traps. This would explain the recent finding of what look like freshly eaten, decapitated turtles.

Tony, the FIDO president, was very upset. FIDO spent a lot of money buying specially designed trash containers for fishing line, to ensure that the lines stay in and do not get blown into the lake to strangle swans, geese, ducks, etc. They were given to the parks department, who claims that they were thrilled to get them. However, the Parks have not put them out. What are they waiting for? Everyone knows that these torn lines are a menace to the animals in the lake.

Lastly, look closely at the last picture. Can you spot the giant (live) carp? He was quite impressive, but the camera's eye is not as clear as the human eye.

A reminder: click on pictures to make them big and clear and, when appropriate, readable.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

While we were away....

The cygnets were born!!!!!! Anne had e-mailed me that they were born on May 21. I actually hoped that she had just seen the newbies on the 21st, and that they were really born on May 20, which happens to be on MY birthday. No such luck. We met Ed and Anne in the park, who said they saw them hatching on the 21st, and that they had parts of their shells on their little heads. Would have loved to seen that!!

Anyway, on Sunday we came back from a week in a little cabin in Taughannock Falls State Park, outside of Ithaca. The area is full of gorges and waterfalls leftover from glaciers. Beautiful weather and hiking, though of course I overdid uit and messed up my knee again. I keep telling myself that these things are temporary, but then I keep overdoing things and messing it up again. Temporary is inaccurate. Perhaps intermittent. Anyway, I only mention this because I am hobbling around again and not really up for our usual 3-4 miles in the Park. BUT I absolutely had to see the baby swans. So we adapted - drove to the park, so I only had to walk a little bit. Worth it! See adorable pictures of cygnets. There are four of them, staying close to mama. One even climbs up on her back.!

As I said, we ran into Anne and Ed, who said there were five of them originally, but one already died from having gotten caught in fishing line, which got wrapped around its neck and killed it. There was a picture in Sunday's Daily News. There was also fishing line around Mama, but some park rangers went out in a boat to rescue her. Good thing, since I'm sure the cygnets would have died without her. Anne says they tried to do it the day before, but not in a boat - waders. they sunk in up to their chests (the park rangers) and so managed to find a boat to use the next day. I'm sorry about the cygnet, but since Mama was saved I regard this as a happy ending. Not all baby animals make it. I still have a vivid memory of attending to our sow's delivery back on the farm. There was quite a long gap after piglet number 5. I was just about to grit my teeth and put my glove and grease covered arm in to help, when suddenly out came 6 and 7. Poor 6 was stillborn, but 7 managed to push 6 out ahead of her. By the way, there were 12 altogether.

By the way, Anne and Ed were with a Daily News reporter and photographer. Maybe with a little more publicity there will be something done about the fishing line. Disposal bins? restrictions? I noticed that there are more efforts to contain the BBQ coal damage to the trees. Bins to dispose of the coals, signs explaining the rules and procedures, and of course "Charcoal kills trees" ribbons. I hope these things work. Is there anything so nice as a BBQ in the Park on a beautiful day? I wouldn't want it to be forbidden.

I did manage to hobble a bit, while Ber took JJ to Peninsula for a nice run. BBQ Plaza was used a lot while we were away - note the bags of trash. This was on Monday. Why weren't they picked up, Parks Dept? You know weekends are busy.

Alas, in spite of our massive cleanup before we left, trash is already returning. When we first came near the swan nesting area, I saw a white blob floating in the water. My heart sort of stopped as I thought the worst - that something had happened to a swan. It turned out to be a white balloon animal floating in the water.

The park is looking so lush and beautiful. Trees are in full leaf, shading the pathways so they look dark and mysterious and peaceful, all at the same time.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's My Park!

We had a really great day in the Park yesterday. It was "It's My Park Day," and we were two of the many people who volunteered to clean up the park from 9:30 to 2. Our group collected 54 bags of trash from our part of the lake front (from the Wollman parking lot to the southeast end. We met and were in the same group as Greg Mocker, the Channel 11 guy who's been the squeaky wheel that's gotten more action from the park. He and Karen, our Parks Dept group leader, both wore waders and were impressive walking around in the water. The rest of us had bags, gloves, trash-pickers, lake scoopers, and rakes. A car radiator, a trash can lid, a complete pair of shoes, what looked to be a family size bucket of chicken and biscuits, and bags and bags of blankets and clothes were some of the highlights. The weather was perfect, and the smells were horrendous as they stirred up the muck amongst the phragmites. I could use a camera with smell-o-vision. Ber and I are contemplating getting waders so we can go in the water next year.

I got a souvenir. What looked like an open can buried in the ground was hard to pull out, so I used a toothbrush (found in the phragmites, along with a razor and underwear) to dig it out. It turned out to be a large piece of hand made pottery! You can see the coil marks on the inside.The top was broken but otherwise intact! I wonder how many years it had been buried there.

We also spotted 2 groups of goslings. Nine in one group and 6 on the other. I am no longer worrying about their numbers. They are plentiful and doing fine. They are so funny looking, staying close together and trying to keep up with the adult geese.

Since we were so filthy and smelly after hard work and mud, we stayed in the park and went to our friend Vanessa's BBQ in the Nethermead, where Rigel, Norana and Austin, and JJ were, had set up a spot. Greg Mocker joined us and no one seemed to mind our post-cleanup condition. They had Purell, with which er were generous before touching food. Vanessa is in from California, where she now lives, and served (among other things) "California Dogs." Bacon wrapped around a tofu dog, with guacamole. She said she went to a Dodgers game and asked for sauerkraut on her dog, and they acted like they'd never heard of sauerkraut. My how the dodgers have changed since they left Brooklyn.

We also noticed that all the trees in the BBQ areas have ribbons wrapped around them with the phrase "charcoal kills trees." Hope this helps. I suspect people think charcoal is natural, and therefore good for trees. Not so! And the brand new BBQ Plaza is already being used.

No posts for a week - we are leaving for a week in a cabin near the Finger Lakes. Enjoy your park now that's it's spanking clean.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Things that don't belong in the lake

In honor of our meeting with Mr. Woess, and the fact that we learned that we need to tell him or someone else at the Prospect Park Alliance of things that don't belong in the lake, we are starting to photograph and document all the things that don't belong in the lake. The good news: the trash can that's been in the lake for a year or more is no longer there. But here are some other things.

Todays sightings (from top to bottom):
1. An unknown object in the water by the peninsula
2. a dead fish
3. An orange traffic cone (hard to see)
4. plywood raft floating in the lake
5. another traffic cone (easier to see)
6. A piece of tree trunk someone rolled into the lake. Well, it's not manmade, so a creative arguer could say that it belongs there. But we have documented evidence of it's progress from grass to stuck in tree roots to in the lake.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cayuga still at lake, dredger arrives

Big entry today - A lot seems to be happening and I'm probably posting way too many pictures, but they say a picture is worth 1,000 words, and I don't want to be writing 10,000 more words.

The continuing story of Cayuga the duck: Cayuga was not removed by animal control yesterday, although he was netted and looked at. It's more likely a blister or growth than a pellet. We saw him today. Although he isn't going into the water, he looks like he's improving, at least to our uneducated and hopelessly optimistic eyes. He looks like he's moving his neck a bit better. We may bring him some canned corn - easier to eat than popcorn - tomorrow and see if he'll eat it. there should be an article in the Brooklyn Paper about him in a few days. A reporter was there and has talked with Ed and Anne. It turns out that Cayuga is not a wild duck, but a domesticated one that has taken up residence in the park. Since he's injured, you can get close to him. He looks plain black from a distance, but in the sunlight you can see iridescent blues and greens in his coloring. Truly stunning.

A pair of geese have taken over the dock - more recycling in action. The dock seems to have settled in one spot and is not floating all around the lake any more. I'm glad some of the birds are making good use of it.

The Smurf movie people are still around. They are planting all kinds of beautiful flowers - both real and artificial - all around the boathouse, which is temporarily Anjelou's, an outdoor cafe. They also restored a path alongside the waterfall, also with lots of plantings. There were also some fake lampposts laying on the side, ready to be put into the film. We asked one of the guards if the plants were staying. He said no, that the Parks Department didn't want them because then they would have to maintain them. A shame. The movie people are turning this area of the park into the way the park should be - OF COURSE we can't keep it that way. I'm pretty sure this will be a terrible movie, but I may have to go see it anyway, just for the gorgeous rendition of Prospect Park and the Boathouse. Normally I avoid all cartoon/comic book movies, but I think this will be the exception.

The steps up to Lookout Hill are still scrupulously clean. The pictures are of the different flights - one can see why it is such good exercise. there are even more than shown. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed every moment of our huffing and puffing.

We were very excited to see a dredger arrive - a boat named the Lake Mess Monster. We also met a Mr. Woess, the driver and in charge of it, and a naturalist. He works at the Prospect Park Alliance, a private non-profit. He says the Alliance is in charge of the lake, and that the news coverage (Greg Mocker's tire and TV stories, Brooklyn paper coverage, etc,.) has blown everything out of proportion. This may be true, although I hadn't noticed any dredger until the media coverage happened. I asked if the dredger would be cleaning out the lake. Not yet. First, they want to control the duckweed that grows in the lake, then they'll start on the trash. We'll see. He says to notify the Alliance of major trash dumps, not the parks Dept. He didn't answer my question about the trash can that's been sitting in the lake for at least a year. I'm concerned that the Parks Dept. has delegated the lake to a private company, since it is a public park. Where is the accountability?

Anyway, it was very impressive to see the launching of the dredger. I also talked to him about the swans. He didn't seem too concerned, and said that mute swans need a large territory, so that there shouldn't be that many here. He was very unconcerned about the nest - possibly for the same reason. I did some research. What he said seems to be not exactly true. Apparently when there's enough food, the swans are not so territorial and can live in large groups in peace and harmony. In fact, there's a huge flock of swans in Abbotsbury, in Dorset, England, where there are nearly 1,000 mute swans living peacefully. Of course they are fed regularly, but so are the swans in Prospect Park, what with so many people feeding them as a recreational activity. An interesting note: in Abbotsbury they have recently documented the second official sighting of a pair of gay swans living happily together.

One final plus: the fence around the BBQ cage is really down!! We shall rename it the BBQ Plaza.

And: A HUGE Congratulations to the Swan Princess!! Some time ago she took the N.Y. State Wildlife Rehabilitation Exam. She just found out she passed with a score of 99%! That is great. Among other things, it means she can perfectly legally take Cayuga to rehabilitate him. Love it when people walk the walk as well as talk the talk.