Hi Dave, Thanks for your thoughtful attention to this matter. I was going to write sooner in response to your initial note, but have been dealing with an injury that has taken much of my attention. I will write a more extensive note soon. But for now, let me just point out that the Club already has been heavily involved in working with the City on several issues related to Stewart Park, including the goose management plan. I encourage you to please hold off on your efforts until you hear the complete story. I’ll plan to spend some time on the topic at the meeting tomorrow.
Thanks Jody Cayuga Bird Club President From: Dave Nutter<mailto:nutter.d...@mac.com> Sent: Sunday, March 13, 2016 9:52 PM To: CAYUGABIRDS-L<mailto:cayugabird...@list.cornell.edu> At the suggestion of some bird club members I am drafting a resolution to bring before the Cayuga Bird Club meeting tomorrow night asking the City of Ithaca to halt its plans to ban feeding waterfowl, to haze geese on City land and water, and to disrupt nesting. Reasons are several and may include: The process was wrong. The recent “stakeholders” meeting did not include a particularly interested, knowledgeable, and passionate group, namely local bird enthusiasts such as the Cayuga Bird Club. The one time we were included it seemed that participants agreed to try habitat modification to make areas unattractive for geese which are prime areas for human use and where it is especially desirable not to have goose droppings. We believe this would be least expensive and most effective in the long run as well as least disruptive to the peaceful atmosphere of City Parks. However, this appears not to have been done and instead it appears that a Parks Commission subcommittee has since taken an entirely different course without the participation of this stakeholder group, and the Planning and Economic Development Committee of Common Council intends to rapidly push it through despite numerous and serious flaws. Renwick Wildwood Sanctuary on the south side of Stewart Park was created as a bird sanctuary through the work of the Cayuga Bird Club. The Fuertes Sanctuary in the west end of Stewart Park was created as a waterfowl sanctuary in honor of renowned artist and beloved Cayuga Bird Club President Louis Agassiz Fuertes. The shallow south end of Cayuga Lake is an important area for waterfowl of many species during migrations and winter, while a few individuals may remain over the summer as well. A significant portion of the population of one species of duck, the Redhead, winters on Cayuga Lake, and it is common to see flocks of thousands of them from Stewart Park. Canada Geese are the most easily recognized waterfowl by the lay-public, but there are two similar-looking species of goose, as well as several different looking goose species. It is entirely inappropriate to harass waterfowl in the Steawrt Park area. We also believe it is wrong to promote or institute as an official policy the harassment of birds. Canada Geese are not dangerous like rabid raccoons; geese stick out their tongues and hiss when people threaten their young. Canada Geese don’t wreck cars, destroy food gardens or ornamental plants, or wipe out the understory of forests like deer do; geese just eat grass, perhaps even saving the City money on mowing. Stewart Park is an especially wonderful place to view a great variety of waterfowl species from many parts of North America, sometimes at very close range and among Canada Geese on land or in the water. The habituation of the local waterfowl to people can bring other species closer. It is not unnatural that birds tolerate people when people are not mean to them; rather it is to be celebrated. This is a wonderful education opportunity which connects people to wildlife, emphasizes our ecological connectedness to other places, and promotes conservation. Harassment of geese will not only be unpleasant to people, it is apt to disrupt the activities of other species of birds as well, including Common Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Wood Ducks, and Mallards which also nest feed, display, and raise young locally. We have no evidence that feeding waterfowl is a problem, that it happens often or in great quantity, that it contributes significantly to the birds’ diet or the amount of poop they create, or that it creates any health problem. However, what little feeding which occurs can be very educational and create a lasting positive feeling toward wildlife. Stopping feeding will not stop the geese from coming to the parks to eat the grass, which they do daily. While we support the City using the Ithaca Police Department to enforce its ban on shooting on City land and water and keeping guns out of Stewart Park, we do not support using police resources to ticket someone feeding birds in Stewart Park, such as a kid with a bag of popcorn or a family with a loaf of bread, which are harmless activities. We believe feeding waterfowl should not be banned. We value education, but the education suggested by the City’s program does not comport with what we observe or know to be true. Grain is not unhealthy, waste grain powers goose migrations of hundreds of miles. Flocking is perfectly normal. The ill health we see appears to be largely due to injuries by hunters. Sometimes a few geese of other species join the local goose flock for days or weeks while pausing to recover from the stresses of migration. Presumably some migrant Canada Geese do this as well, but it is harder to tell. We see no evidence of ill health from a bad diet or from supplementary feeding. We would like to collaborate with any education efforts by the City. The tolerance of the geese toward humans creates a wonderful educational opportunity which would be spoiled by making them afraid. Young students can observe behavior and learn to interpret the meanings of different postures. If, as suggested, geese are to be banded, given individual tags, collars or markings, they could be individually tracked as a Citizen Science project. Older students could try to determine local goose population dynamics: Where do they come from? Where do they range? How many are here at various times of year? How many nests are there? How many eggs? How many fledgings? How many survive to adulthood? What are their natural predators? What is their average lifespan? Hazing and disrupting their breeding not only would cut off these educational opportunities, and keep us from learning about the geese. Understanding the geese should come before starting any control program, not be an afterthought. We understand that goose poop is the real issue, not the geese themselves. Why is there so much? Geese graze. Canada Geese in our parks eat the grass. Grass is not very nutritious, so they must eat a lot. However, geese can’t afford to get heavy or hold the grass inside them for a long time like a cow does to get the maximum food value. Geese must be able to fly in case of predators, therefore they process the grass quickly and minimally, and poop it out. David Attenborough talked about this in his famous television series, The Life of Birds. The goose poop we see is bright green inside and shows individual grass fibers. Sure, no one wants to lie down in it or eat off the ground, but dirt and lawns never were sanitary places. While people have a natural aversion to feces, it should be understood that goose poop is very different from the feces most people deal with from humans, dogs, and cats. It isn’t stinky, it decays quickly, and it is very similar to the paste of grass clippings from the inside of a lawnmower. For poop, it is very benign. People should understand that. Meanwhile, the question is, where is it most important that there not be goose poop, how much trouble and expense should be taken to ensure that, and how best can it be done without disrupting the wonderful situation we have with waterfowl in Ithaca? -- Cayugabirds-L List Info: http://www.NortheastBirding.com/CayugabirdsWELCOME http://www.NortheastBirding.com/CayugabirdsRULES http://www.NortheastBirding.com/CayugabirdsSubscribeConfigurationLeave.htm ARCHIVES: 1) http://firstname.lastname@example.org/maillist.html 2) http://www.surfbirds.com/birdingmail/Group/Cayugabirds 3) http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/CAYU.html Please submit your observations to eBird: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/ -- -- Cayugabirds-L List Info: http://www.NortheastBirding.com/CayugabirdsWELCOME http://www.NortheastBirding.com/CayugabirdsRULES http://www.NortheastBirding.com/CayugabirdsSubscribeConfigurationLeave.htm ARCHIVES: 1) http://email@example.com/maillist.html 2) http://www.surfbirds.com/birdingmail/Group/Cayugabirds 3) http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/CAYU.html Please submit your observations to eBird: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/ --