Thursday, July 24, 2008

UPDATE: Border Collies on School Property? YES!

Photo Credit: Kirk Condyles for The New York Times

UPDATE: Today I received word that the Ridgewood Board of Education has granted authorized volunteer resident border collie owners permission to flush geese from school property with their dogs following the GeesePeace protocol.

I will be meeting with Mr. Angelo DeSimone, the Business Administrator for Ridgewood Public Schools, to iron out last details. The geese are still in their molt cycle, but they'll be flying again soon--perhaps as soon as next week, early August latest. As soon as they take to the air again we'll be ready to chase them from Stevens and RHS Stadium fields. Not enough volunteers yet to cover the remaining BOE properties, but I'll be working on that. All volunteers welcome. Don't need a dog to help; the dog handlers need helpers! Contact me if you're interested in helping out. View my profile on this page for contact information.

Stay tuned.


Great news:
Angelo DeSimone, Business Administrator for Ridgewood Public Schools, asked me to present the GeesePeace program at the Board of Education meeting held Monday, April 7. I first met with Mr. DeSimone April 3, at the request of Steven Tichenor, Manager of Maintenance and Custodial Services, who attended our March 27 training session. After Steven and I presented the GeesePeace program to Mr. DeSimone, he was in full favor of allowing resident volunteer border collie owners to flush geese from our school fields, but needed to get the Board's approval.

At the April 7 meeting, the Board unanimously passed a resolution authorizing trained GeesePeace volunteers to oil eggs on school properties, and tentatively agreed to allow residents to put their dogs to work after nesting season, which ends around first week of May. What I need to do now is reach out to the half dozen or so border collie owners who raised their hands last year, and come up with a plan which I will present to the Board at its next meeting April 28.

I can't tell you how huge this will be if we can make this work. Many of you know that the Village will not allow us to use border collies on its property. But if we succeed on the distinct BOE properties this year, maybe the Village will take notice and either authorize volunteers to work its properties next year, or better still purchase a Village dog and hire a professional handler for next year.

Together we can make this work. Consider the GeesePeace success story in Oyster Bay, NY. I stumbled across this New York Times article while searching for an image of dogs flushing geese:

“The results have been amazing,” said Eric Swenson, Oyster Bay superintendent of environmental control. “We have our schools virtually free of goose problems. No one wants their kid tackled on a football field full of goose droppings.”

The article is worth a read. Good stuff including a concise history of the suburban goose problem and the origin of the GeesePeace 60-mile strategy for the NY Metropolitan area.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for updates on our own border collie program!

Friday, May 16, 2008

GeesePeace in Bill Ervolino Column

Turning Goose Eggs Into Zeros Shouldn't Be Hard, Right?

In case you missed it, that's the title of the column we've all been waiting for since columnist Bill Ervolino went oiling with Jane over a month ago. The column appeared in the Bergen Record, on May 15, and you can read it here.

Here's an excerpt:

It was a damp, chilly day, and Morales had pinpointed three nests of eggs we could oil around the pond behind 445 Godwin Ave. With us were her husband, Luis, and Ben Mena, another Midland Park resident and Geese Peace volunteer.

Together, we tiptoed into the quiet woods around the pond in search of nests, trudging through mud and thorny bushes like Elmer Fudd, huntin' wabbits.

I was carrying a bottle of corn oil and a cobalt blue umbrella. Mena had his own umbrella and a pair of nasty-looking pliers. I knew the umbrellas are used to scare the parents away from the nest. But ...

"Pliers?" I whispered.

"In case one of the geese bites you," Mena replied. "I'll need them to pry the bill off your leg."

"Terrific," I murmured, as another errant branch hit me in the face."

Mud and muck? Goose bills clamped onto your legs? Errant branches hitting your face? Poison ivy? Black bears? Bring it on!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Goose Defeats Border Collie

Click image to watch this 1941 classic via Google Video.

So last week I encountered an immovable goose here, and vowed to return.

Yesterday, I did return
with Jane and our new friend Kim, along with Kim's border collie mix, Riley. Superior firepower to be sure. Or so I thought.

I anticipated that mother goose would hop right off that nest as soon as she caught sight of Riley. But quite to the contrary, she just laid low in her nest and stared him down. I had a sinking feeling, as I clamored down the embankment to fetch my pail of water, that we were not going to succeed.

Jane approached first with the umbrella, and then Riley was brought forward. But the goose stood her ground. I think Riley was more afraid of her, bless his gentle soul.

Ultimately, Jane succeeded in using her umbrella to create a paper-thin shield between mother and nest, just long enough for me to snatch one egg for testing. It bobbed and floated right to the surface, so I put it back and we retreated
humbled by one tough old bird. My hat's off to her. Especially as she was all alone in this encounter. Papa was nowhere to be seen.

But I guess that's what's so cool about nature, and in a sense encouraging for all the underdogs of the world. Sometimes the tortoise beats the hare.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What a Weekend: Over 300 Eggs Oiled!

Photos courtesy of Gregory Ulscht

GeesePeacers were out in force last weekend, oiling eggs all over Bergen County from Saddle Brook to Woodcliff Lake. My unofficial tally, based on reports from the field, is 343 eggs oiled between Friday, April 18 and Tuesday, April 22!

Over the Weekend in Ridgewood

In Ridgewood alone, volunteers oiled 46 eggs in 11 nests, including the nest on the roof of Somerville School. By my count, volunteers have oiled 73 eggs in 13 nests to date within Ridgewood's borders. See map
here. (Note: Some of the nests indicated on this map are in Paramus and other neighboring towns; these are
not included in the Ridgewood tally.)

Sunday Morning in Saddle Brook

On Sunday, April 20, Diana Perog and I teamed with Greg Ulscht and Naomi Gamorra, two volunteers from Waldwick and Glen Rock, to oil eggs at the Saddle Brook County Park/Pehle Area in Saddle Brook. See map here. Greg, who is an outdoor photography hobbyist, took the photos shown in this post. (See his Website here and link directly to his GeesePeace gallery here.) And Naomi is largely responsible for where we are today; she wrote the published essay about GeesePeace that caught Diana Wing's attention, resulting in Diana taking point in bringing GeesePeace to Ridgewood and throughout the region.

We met at 6:30 a.m. in the Pehle Area parking lot. Greg had already scoped out 8 nest locations along the east bank of the pond, and several nest locations on both sides of the Saddle River. Some of the nests along the pond were difficult to access, as they were well protected by vines and brush. But we got to them all, and for the most part the geese were easily coaxed off their nests.

The fun began when we reached the nests located on the river, three of which were built on islands. None of us had waders or even waterproof boots, and Greg and I were pretty much resigned to passing on the island nests. Diana and Naomi, on the other hand, were undeterred. Without the slightest hesitation, the two oilers walked right out into the water, shoes and all. Since Greg and I were the umbrellamen, we had no choice but to follow their lead. So we sort of looked at each other and agreed, "Looks like we're getting wet."

At the end of the morning, we tallied everything up: 56 eggs in 15 nests!

Tuesday Morning in Woodcliff Lake: Jane and Ray Hit the Jackpot!

Tuesday morning, I found this email message from Ray Cywinski in my inbox:
Jane Morales and I went out to the island in the Woodcliff Lake Reservoir (United Water New Jersey property) this morning. Here is a summary of our activities:
  • No. of Nests Treated: 49
  • No. of Eggs Oiled: 167
    Ray also noted that 20 eggs floated, and so were left untreated, and that they saw two geese protecting 7-10 goslings. But 167 eggs oiled in a single outing? WOW!

    I don't know the exact formula, but this is a fact: thanks to our efforts over this weekend alone, there will be a few thousand fewer geese in our area in eight years than there would have been absent the GeesePeace program. Congratulations and thank you all on a great job!

    Friday, April 18, 2008

    14 Nests in Ridgewood and Counting

    Click here to see known nests in Ridgewood as of today. Out of the 14 known nests, 9 have been treated with a total of 55 eggs! Know of any nests I don't have marked here? Let me know.

    Meanwhile, Jane is maintaining a map for Midland Park and other areas she is patrolling, from Van Saun Park up to Don Bosco! 10 active nests discovered so far, of which 9 have been treated with a total of 47 eggs. Check it out.

    Jane is out and about all over the place, as you can see, and can use some help. If you want to see some action, contact me and I'll put you in touch with her.

    I Shall Return

    Three of us went out yesterday to treat two nests on the Paramus side of the Saddle River, both in the Wild Duck Pond area that runs from the Ridgewood Duck Pond to Dunkerhook. In both cases ... denied!

    I've run into some protective geese before, but the tough old bird pictured at right was immovable. The nest location is across the river from mile marker 0.6 on the bike path, which is approximately at the terminus of McGuire Court in Ridgewood. Not even gentle yet forceful nudging by two determined umbrellamen could persuade her to leave. She simply folded in her wings and burrowed down low on the nest. After several attempts, we grudgingly accepted defeat and headed for the second nest about a mile downstream, behind Paramus Catholic.

    I noticed this second nest, pictured at left, earlier in the day while jogging down the bike path. It looked accessible enough from across the river, but when we arrived we found that the nest was very well protected by an escarpment and thorn bushes all around, with little or no room to maneuver. I plan to go back over the weekend with some pruning shears! I just hope after all that, she is more easily coaxed off her nest than the first one.

    After being denied for the second time, our staff photographer David Grant captured me, against my will, slinking back to my cara portrait of a man defeated. (Note: the gaping tear in my shorts leg was not inflicted by the geese!) As I pondered our failed attempts, my once unquestioned skills and abilities suddenly in doubt, I tried to think of a way to get that first goose off her nest. Then it hit me: visit her again with the superior firepower of a border collie. And so with my pride restored, having so clearly outsmarted a creature with a brain the size of chick pea, I vowed to return.

    So if any of you border collie owners would like
    to help persuade that goose off her nest, please contact me. To get to the nest, it's a half-mile walk through the woods each way.

    UPDATE: Jane has also reported an immovable goose, in Midland Park. So we could use some help from a border collie there as well.

    Monday, April 7, 2008

    Three Active Nests Found, 15 Eggs Oiled at Sewage Treatment Plant

    Sentinel keeping watch just above dam at Upper Ridgewood Tennis Club.

    Our intrepid oiler Ellie Gruber, working with Andy Lowry, reports success at the NBCUA plant with access to a boat to the Upper Ridgewood Island:

    Andy Lowry and Ellie Gruber had great success this a.m.; already there were three active nests, with a total of 15 eggs oiled, at the NBCUA (Northwest Bergen County Utilities Authority, aka sewerage) plant in Waldwick. These nests are in plain sight, on top of rocks, and next to roadways. There is also one sentinel high up on a building on the property. The geese have been there for years, apparently. The director of the NBCUA was extremely helpful and his workers will keep an eye out and call us.

    There are at least 5 more nests to go, as the geese are pairing up and starting to build.

    Although not in Ridgewood, this plant has direct access to the island in the middle of the HoHoKus Brook (see photo of geese pairing on island above right), next to the Upper Ridgewood Tennis Club which had over 5 nests last year which we oiled before the big flood. We will go back in 10 days to see. The Utilities Authority has agreed to let us use their boat to get to the island. There are a couple of pairings on the island, and one nest built on a pile of sticks (see photo left) right next to the dam, too dangerous to go, as there will be no way to get her off the nest without us getting washed over the dam. I'm praying for a heavy rain to wash them away, however.

    Ellie G.

    Resident Geese Will Molt Migrate

    A new study conducted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and published in the February 2008 issue of Journal of Wildlife Management reveals that "resident" Canada geese that fail to produce offspring will molt migrate to Canada.

    The Michigan study, titled Movements and Survival of Molt Migrant Canada Geese in Southern Michigan, took place between 2000 and 2003. The authors destroyed the nests of 168 radiomarked females by removing eggs after day 14 of incubation, and left nests of 82 incubating hens undisturbed after capture and marking. Of females whose nests were experimentally destroyed, 80% subsequently migrated from breeding areas to James Bay and other areas of Canada.

    Nest destruction can induce molt migration, increase hunting mortality of geese returning from molting areas, and reduce human–goose conflicts, but managers also should consider potential impacts of increasing numbers of molt migrants on populations of subarctic nesting Canada geese.

    The GeesePeace protocol calls for oiling eggs as opposed to destroying nests, but the effect is the same: with no goslings to tether them to their breeding area, "resident" geese will migrate north. In addition to having fewer geese on our fields and in our parks during the Summer, the migrating geese will be exposed to hunting along migratory routes, which may reduce the number of geese returning in the fall.

    If you're interested in reading the study, download a copy here.

    Saturday, April 5, 2008

    New Ridgewood GeesePeace Web Site

    Looking for GeesePeace forms, documents, images or video?

    Visit the new online Ridgewood GeesePeace Resource Center.

    Ran out of Authorization Forms needed to oil eggs on private property? Need another copy of the GeesePeace Field Guide? Want to view the
    GeesePeace Training Video? Just click here to find and download whatever you need.

    Monday, March 31, 2008

    Can You Say "Goose" in the Lenni Lenape?

    Terrain map showing location of geese spotted at Campgaw Mountain Reservation.

    My daughter and I went on a reconnaissance mission at Campgaw Mountain Reservation Saturday afternoon. There is a lake with a dam below the ski area parking lot, and I thought we'd find lots of geese there. We parked in the lot, climbed down the hill to the northwest corner of the lake and started our 0.7-mile hike around its circumference on the Hemlock Trail. (Trail Map here in pdf.)

    After only a few minutes we spotted the pair of geese pictured at left, swimming close to shore along the western edge of the lake just below a large sign identifying the Hemlock Trail. They calmly paddled away from us as we approached, so I know they haven't nested yet. But I'll check back later this week to see how they are doing.

    As we continued our trek through the woods we soon realized that those first two geese were the only ones on or around the lake. Which is kind of ironic when you consider this: to the Lenni Lenape, "campgaw" meant "goose!"

    When David Feld conducted training at The Stable last Thursday night, he made an interesting point to the new trainees. In addition to performing a valuable public service, one of the benefits of GeesePeace participation is that you get outside and interact with nature. You go places you might not otherwise go, and do things you might not otherwise do. I have found that I am more observant of my surroundings when seeking goose nests than when taking a casual stroll through the woods, and observation leads to discovery--such as the origin of the name "Campgaw." Having spent so much time skiing there as a kid, hiking its trails as a teenager, teaching my own kids to ski and more recently playing the awesome disc golf course there, surely I must have wondered from time to time where Campgaw got its name. But I was never curious enough to find out. Then last Saturday, as my daughter and I reached the southern tip of the lake, we came across the sign pictured above. Who knew?

    But I digress.

    Back to the scarcity of geese at Campgaw. At the time, I didn't give much thought as to why there was only one pair of geese on that big lake. But on the drive home, my daughter noticed several pair waddling around little Cooks Pond in Franklin Lakes, which is right on Pulis Avenue just west of Wyckoff Avenue. I wondered why the geese would prefer this noisy and relatively cramped space along a hazardous thoroughfare when they could be enjoying the serenity and expanse of a much larger water refuge at nearby Campgaw? Then it dawned on me: there's no grass around the lake at Campgaw. But there was plenty of meticulously manicured (albeit poop littered) lawn surrounding the pond on Pulis Ave.

    Just so happens, on Sunday our intrepid volunteer Jane Morales patrolled the lower lake at Ramapo Reservation. And guess what: she found zero geese. In an email to me, she wrote that there was almost no grass to be found anywhere at Ramapo.

    So while I'm out looking for nests, even in the thickest of woods, I'll be a little more alert for areas that have at least little patches of grass nearby.

    Over 100 New GeesePeace Volunteers Trained in Ridgewood

    GeesePeace founder David Feld and Diana at Village Hall Comunity Center,
    how to addle eggs following the humane GeesePeace protocol.

    Turnout was high at two GeesePeace training sessions held in Ridgewood on March 27. Over 100 volunteers from all over Bergen, Passaic, Hudson and Sussex counties in New Jersey, and Rockland County in New York, attended an afternoon session at Village Hall and an evening session at The Stable.

    Ridgewood more than doubled its roster of volunteers, which grew from 16 last year to 35 this year. We certainly have enough people to continue the success we experienced in the Village last year, and expand out to cover our Bergen County parks and golf courses. Diana and Jim are working on assignments week of March 31. Time is of the essence, as we have already discovered and treated one active nest in town.

    A big "Thank You" to Captain John LiPuma of the Ridgewood Police Department, who arranged for an officer to assist with parking, particularly at The Stable where the small lot overflowed its capacity quickly.

    Sunday, March 30, 2008

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    Saturday, March 29, 2008

    First Eggs Oiled in 2008

    The two geese at 223 Burnside got busy early it seems. After a call from the homeowner on March 25, Barbara and Diana investigated and found a nest with seven eggs—the first oiled this season. So we're off and running.

    Goose Patrol, please let me know when you spot a nest, and give me the most precise location as you can so I can plot on the 2008 map.

    You can view the 2007 map here.

    Oh, and remember to bring a camera with you when you patrol! Send me photos and/or video of oilers in action, your geese, the location—anything. I can post to the blog and add to the marked map locations.

    Tuesday, February 26, 2008

    Ridgewood GeesePeace Volunteer Kickoff 2008

    Ridgewood GeesePeace kicked off its 2008 efforts last week at The Stable. But before I recap our meeting, take a look at the map above. The blue markers pinpoint the locations of the nests we treated in Ridgewood last year -- 26 by my count. In those 26 nests were a total of 181 eggs. And if those 181 eggs had hatched, even with a 60% attrition rate there would have been 4,860 more geese in and around Ridgewood in just eight years. Clearly, we're making a difference.

    You can
    view the interactive map here; click on the markers for details on each nest location, such as number of eggs and other relevant information.
    Note to Ridgewood volunteers: We can add as much detail as we want to the location notes, including photos and video. So when you're out there this year, take notes and bring along a cameraman! Send me funny anecdotes, photos, video, anything you like--and I'll upload to the map. It's a cool way to create a permanent record of our efforts, and it's easy to share with others.

    2008 Kickoff Meeting Recap

    One indication of the success of our efforts last year is that all volunteers have signed on again for this year. We're a committed group, and it's a pleasure to be working with you all again.

    At Monday's meeting, I returned the tax maps we used to plot nest locations in our assigned areas. If you could not attend, I'll be in touch to get your map back to you. Should be easier to find nests this year, as we know the geese will nest in the approximate same area.

    Other items we discussed:

    • Diana and Jim presented GeesePeace program at Somerville HSA meeting, with goal to recruit new volunteers to help as we expand to cover Bergen County Parks
    • David Feld back at The Stable March 27 for 2008 GeesePeace training
    • SuperScience Saturday, March 8--Diana and Jim will be present to showcase GeesePeace and our efforts last year
    • Diana and David Feld to participate in a panel discussion sponsored by the NE NJ Watershed Alliance on on Canada Geese, their potential effects on the environment and the pros & cons of control methods. Tuesday, March 4, 7:00-9:00 pm, Bergen County Community Services Building, 327 East Ridgewood Avenue, Paramus. All welcome to attend!
    • Border collie included in Village 2008 budget request
    • New feature of this blog--in case you haven't noticed, there is a new calendar of events on the right-hand side