Costa Mesa park lovers cry foul as mysterious bread drops pose risk to pond birds

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Regular visitors to Costa Mesa’s TeWinkle Park find their feathers ruffled by apparent fraudsters, who continue to dump massive amounts of bread near a fishpond frequented by ducks, geese and other waterfowl despite bans.

Longtime Costa Mesa resident Barry Friedland, who comes to the park to play tennis or walk his dog, says it’s not uncommon for people to leave bits of bread behind, thinking it’s helpful to local wildlife, although experts advise against such meals altogether.

But the practice became a problem in February 2019, when he and his wife Jeannette were walking near the pond area and saw two huge heaps of food dumped unceremoniously on the ground.

Although a sign at TeWinkle Park in Costa Mesa warns of the dangers of feeding ducks and geese, regular mass feedings continue.

(Courtesy of Barry Friedland)

“There was a pile of garlic bread, fresh and ready to eat, and a huge pile of rice about 100 feet away,” he recalled on Tuesday. “We immediately decided to bag whatever we could find and throw it in the trash.”

Signs that read “DO NOT FEED WATERFOWL” list the reasons — from overcrowding and migration disruptions to over-habituation and health risks posed by poor nutrition — residents should keep their bread to themselves.

A retired engineer who now posts community-focused news videos on the YouTube channel”Brief Costa Mesa,Friedland documented the cleanup effort on video so he could show the footage to police.

A pile of brown and white rice was dumped near a pond in TeWinkle Park in 2019, one of many unwanted donations.

A pile of brown and white rice was dumped near a pond in TeWinkle Park in 2019, one of many unwanted donations.

(Courtesy of Barry Friedland)

But without any concrete details, like a description or the license plate number of the vehicle, officials told him there was not much they could do. So Friedland decided to drop the matter, until a visit to the park last Thursday rekindled his interest.

The Costa Mesa resident came across another pile of bread tossed roughly on the floor. Although not as tall as he had seen before, Friedland’s hair stood up. He took to social media and posted a new video with footage from 2019.

It got people talking.

Costa Mesa resident Sandra Cotten posted photos on Facebook Sunday showing ducks and geese pecking at a pile of assorted breads and leftover tortillas, some of which had spots of green mold. By Tuesday, another vast mound of quick and easy carbs had appeared.

A goose finds a piece of bread left by the pond in TeWinkle Park on Tuesday.

A goose finds a piece of bread left by the pond in TeWinkle Park on Tuesday.

(Don Leach / personal photographer)

“There are all kinds of families who go to feed bread. I try to tell them bread is really bad for ducks, and some people seem to not know and will thank me,” said Cotten, a waitress who once raised mallards. “[But] it looks like someone from a restaurant with big bags of bread.

Cotten said the deposits are just the latest in a litany of Tewinkle wildlife violations. She saw people eating meals and throwing their leftovers – containing chicken, rice or pasta – on the ground.

Although feeding ducks and geese seems well-intentioned, the act can pose a big risk to waterfowl, especially migrating species, says Debbie McGuire, executive director of the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach.

A pile of discarded breads, including pieces containing mold, were seen at TeWinkle Park on Sunday.

A pile of discarded breads, including pieces containing mold, were seen at TeWinkle Park on Sunday.

(Courtesy of Sandra Cotten)

“Nobody should feed wild animals because if they get used to an area, they don’t go wild and fly around looking for food like they’re supposed to,” McGuire said. “It disrupts everything.”

A diet that is too high in carbohydrates can impair the growth of ducks’ wings and bones. For example, “angel wing” is a condition caused by poor nutrition and abnormal carbohydrate and sugar levels, in which the wings curve outward, preventing waterfowl from making natural movements like flying. .

Moldy feed can cause lung infections, while carbohydrate infusions can cause birds to defecate more often, creating an environment for bacterial growth, McGuire added. Waterways can be similarly polluted by excess bread, posing risks to humans and poultry.

Costa Mesa Police Department spokeswoman Roxi Fyad said Tuesday the department has received at least one complaint from a resident about the situation at TeWinkle Park. However, without identifying information, it can be difficult for officers to stop unwanted donations.

“Any information that would allow us to identify a suspect would be most helpful,” she added.

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