29 May 2012

Flags Not Displayed at Half-staff

There were several places about east Omaha where the flags were not flown at half-staff as they should have been in respect to veterans on Memorial Day.

One of the primary companies noted had three places where the flags had not been lowered.

First National Bank, on the west side

First National Bank Tower

First National Bank, atop the building

KETV Television Center

Midtown Crossing, flying properly at half-staff

Nebraska Medical Center

VFW Building along 24th Street

It was a moist morning with passing fog clouds after the overnight rains.

There were more flags flying at half-staff this year than last, on this important holiday. In particular at the Union Pacific Center and Omaha/Douglas Civic Center.

Return of a Pilgrim

During the summer of 1870, Col. S.T. Suit, of Sulteville, Prince George's county, Maryland, a few miles below Washington, D.C., was considerably annoyed by thieving hen hawks making raids upon his chickens. Desiring to put an end to their too friendly and frequent visits, the colonel placed a large pole in his yard and fixed upon its top a steel trap, which he baited with a dead chicken. No hawk put in an appearance, but the colonel was greatly surprised one morning to find in the trap a large Turkey buzzard — a bird protected by law in Maryland from the gun of the sportsman. The suggestion was made that the bird be marked in some manner and again set at liberty. Acting on the suggestion, a good-sized old-fashioned sleigh bell was procured and fastened about its neck with wire, and after christening the bird "Maryland," was again given its freedom. Nothing more was thought of the matter until last Sabbath, when the good people of that quiet neighborhood were startled from their noon-day devotions by hearing "music in the air." A glance upward plainly revealed the cause of all the commotion, for circling far above their heads was the long-lost "Pilgrim" of eight years absence, returning to visit its old haunts, with the bell still attached to its neck. How far the bell and bird have traveled since its liberation eight years ago, is the subject of many conjectures among the farmers of that neighborhood who remember the occurrence. Colonel Suit says he reckons many poor darkey has been nearly scared out of his wits by the bird as it passed over Southern towns with the bell ringing, making these poor creatures think that the Judgment Day and Gabriel with his horn were near at hand.

For the above facts I am under obligation to my friend William M. King, a farmer living in the vicinity, who witnessed its return last Sunday, from his house. For his veracity and truthfulness, I can heartily vouch.       Sam.

October 18, 1878. Hudson Evening Register 13(124): 3.

O, the Crow, the Beautiful Crow

The New Orleans Republican says the following is in general circulation in the West. It's authorship is unknown, but striking harmony of sentiment and verification has led some of our exchanges to attribute it to Wash. McLean, of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Air. — O. the Snow, the Beautiful Snow.
O, the crow, the beautiful crow,
How the quills stick as they downward go!
Dearest diet of all, that we've got
To swallow, whether we like it or not,
Worrying down.
Forcing a smile that looks more like a frown
The unpitying Hands that go snickering by,
Ask it it's nice, with a wink of the eye.
Of all the tough things we have eaten they know
There is nothing so tough as the Tildonite crow!
Once I was not fond of raven, but now
I prefer to any bird roosting on bough,
Broiled prairie-chicken or canvas back roast,
Snipe, squash, or quail upon toast.
Vulture, Owl
All are less sweet than the primest of fowl
Blacked, and roasted, boiled with care,
Served on platform we didn't prepare.
O'er it for sauce pour a bar'l or so
Of greenbacks, and then what is sweeter than crow?
Spread is the table, the guests they are met.
Storey has come, though with signs of regret,
Watterson is as Amphibryon set.
Waiter Dorsheimer with reverence low.
Asks, "Raven broth, sir, or purse de crow?"
Crow hash
Corbeau, roti.
Crow pot-pie and crow salad sed,
Wines — Old Crow, and the ladies say,
"Fray, will you join in a game of crow-quet."
All that are round or before us we know
Are varieties on the single theme — Crow.
O, for a lodge in some wilderness vast,
Where Storey and I could avoid this repast!
O, that my lot with the Sioux had been cast!
That I were sitting, not as here forlorn,
At the small end of the Little Bighorn.
Shooting Crows.
There as my implacable foes!
Happier far the Dakota's lot,
Though certainly starved and probably shot,
Let the worst come to the worst, poor Lo
Has only to kill, not to eat his crow.

Cincinnati, July, 1876.

Oswego Daily Times 33(151): 4. Issued July 29, 1876.

24 May 2012

Yellowthroats Suffering at Downtown Omaha

There were nine known instances of Common Yellowthroats striking glass walls at two buildings in downtown Omaha. This became 12 after a mid-day foray to check again for any window-strike instances.

This is the largest number of known instances for this species on any single day. The previous was 11 on an autumn day.

CenturyLink Center Omaha

The first instance was a temporarily disabled female at the north end of the west wall. It heard a nearby male calling and quickly flew to the ground vegetation before a photograph could be taken. There were three dead warblers further to the south. All of these and other recent fatalities despite what is ineffective decals placed upon the windows.

There was also a dead Eastern Wood-Pewee present.

At the mid-day visit, there were two more dead yellowthroats.

Holland Center for Performing Arts

It was completely amazing to see five live yellowthroats at this glass building. They were all disabled along the south wall in the courtyard. Birds in this area within the building often have a difficult time finding their way to escape, and often strike the glass again in their attempt to fly away.

Each of these birds was captured and moved to a green space on the north side of downtown, where it would be safer. Except for the female, the birds flew away with gusto into the shrubbery. Hopefully they all will survive and get away from the dangers of downtown Omaha.

There was also a dead Common Grackle at the same place.

Curtis National Park Service building

Window-strike instance No. 12 was located on the east side of the Curtis Midwest Region National Park Service headquarters along the Omaha riverfront.

There is a website where this quote was found:

"The National Park Service was dedicated to designing a building that exhibited its philosophies about the environment."

This statement certainly does not convey the reality of the building in regards to known deaths of migratory birds.

18 May 2012

Disabled Yellowthroat at Omaha-Douglas Civic Center

This Common Yellowthroat was found the morning of May 18th, at the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center in downtown Omaha. The gentleman sitting on the opposite side of the table did not even know there was a colorful bird also using the same table on the plaza.

After getting a couple of pictures, the male yellowthroat flew, but went southward and struck the glass shown in the picture. It was still lively as it was captured for rescue from an unsafe situation.

The warbler was released elsewhere, after its bus ride to another place with a situation suitable for it to recover away from the hazards of city buildings.

Indian Legend of the White Owl

It was in the country of the Winnebagoes, and there was a great scarcity of game. An Indian hunter, while returning from an unsuccessful expedition, at the sunset hour, chanced to discover in the top of a tree a large white owl. He knew that the flesh of this bird was not palatable to the taste, but as he thought of his wife and children, who had been without food for several days, he concluded to bend his bow and kill the bird. Hardly had he come to this conclusion, before he was astonished to hear the owl speaking to him in the following strain: "You are a very foolish hunter. You know it is against the laws of your nation to kill any of my tribe, and why should you do wrong because you happen to be a little hungry? I know that your wife, and children are also hungry, but that is not a good reason for depriving me of life. I too have a wife and several children, and their home is in the hollow of an old tree. When I left there a little while ago, they were quite as hungry as you are, and I am now trying to obtain for their enjoyment a red squirrel or a young opossum. Unlike you, I have to hunt for my game only at night, and if you will go away and not injure me, I may have in my power to do you a kindness at some future time."

The Indian hunter was convinced, and he unbent his bow. He returned to his wigwam, and after he had told his wife what had happened to him, she told him she was not sorry for she had been particularly fortunate in gathering berries. And then the Indian and his family were contented, and game soon afterwards became abundant in the land.

Many seasons had passed away, and the powerful nation of the Iroquois were making war upon the Winnebagoes. The hunter already mentioned had become a successful warrior and chief. He was a mark for his enemies, and the bravest among them started upon the war-path for the express purpose of effecting his destruction. They hunted him as they would the panther, but he always avoided their arrows. Many days of fatigue had he now endured, and, believing that his enemies had given up he chase, he stopped on a certain evening to rest himself, and enjoy a repast of roots, after this comfortless supper was ended, he wrapped himself in his skins and thought that he would lie down and enjoy a little sleep. He did so, and the only sounds which broke the stillness of the air were caused by the falling of the dew from the leaves, and the whistling of the whippoorwill. It was not past midnight, and the Winnebago was yet undisturbed. A whoop is heard in the forest, but so remote from his grassy couch as not to be heard by the unconscious sleeper. But what can this shouting mean? A party of Iroquois warriors have fallen upon the trail of their enemy, and are in hot pursuit. But still the Winnebago warrior is in the midst of a pleasant dream. On come his enemies, and his death is inevitable. The shouting of the Iroquois is now distinct and clear, but in the twinkling of an eye it is swallowed up in a much louder and dismal shriek, which startled the Winnebago to his feet. He is astonished, and wonders whence comes the noise. He looks upward, and lo! perched upon one of the branches of the tree under which he has been resting, the form of a large white owl. It rolls its large yellow eyes upon him and tells him that an enemy is upon his trail, and that he must flee for his life. And this is the way in which the white owl manifested his gratitude to the Winnebago hunter for his kindness in sparing its own life many years before. And since that time the owl has ever been considered a very good and a very wise bird; and when it perches above the wigwam of the red man it is always safe from harm.

Thus ends the story. Some commentary does seem appropriate.
At this time, the Winnebago tribe territory was in Iowa and Minnesota. It is not likely that the Iroquois of the eastern country (i.e., Ohio River Valley) would battle the Winnebago, a distance westward in the Mississipppi River valley. There are other false precepts in this story — especially in association with the known lore of the snowy owl — if the story is looked at in a critical manner. It is not probable that a snowy owl would be present when the whip-poor-will would be calling in the woods.
This legend might better be associated with the great horned owl, whose habits much better reflect comments given in the tale. Whatever the actuality, this article can none-the-less be appreciated as an interpreted legend written by some unknown, eastern coast scribe.
Tuesday, July 3, 1849. Indian legend of the white owl. Fredonia Censor 29(18): 1 as issued at Fredonia, New York. From the National Intelligencer.

Educated Paroquet Entertains Crowd

The Baltimore American gives the following account of a troupe of trained Java sparrows and parroquets, now exhibiting in the streets at that city: —
"When a suitable place is found, a circular table is opened, and the birds are all turned loose upon it; they manifest no fear at the crowd, and do not offer to escape. The performance consists of ringing bells, trundling small wheelbarrows, slack wire walking, firing off pistols, dancing, swinging each other in small swings, an excellent imitation of a trapeze performance, and a number of other equally interesting tricks. The most wonderful part of the performance, however, is done by a paroquet. This bird walks to the center of the table, and after bowing to the crowd, seats himself in a small chair near a bell. To the clapper of the bell there is attached a small cord, and any one in the crowd is allowed to ask the bird to strike any number of times upon the bell. If asked to strike ten times, he leaves the chair, seizes the bell rope, and pulls it ten times, after which he bows and returns to his seat. This was repeated a great many times, and with one exception the bird made no mistake. The bird will strike twenty-seven times, but after that he refuses; and his owner states that he has worked nearly a year to get this bird to strike up to thirty, but it appears that his memory gives out at that point, and it is unable to count further. A collection is, of course, taken up after each exhibition."
December 10, 1874. Educated birds. St. Lawrence Plain Dealer 19(22): 4. Issued at Canton, N.Y.

16 May 2012

Feather Flowers New Branch of Industry

A new branch of industry has been started in Florida, which bids fair to prove exceedingly remunerative. It is the manufacture of feather flowers, that will not fade or change color under any circumstances. The flowers are made of the plumage of the white heron, while the leaves are taken from the paroquet. They are unusually rich and attractive, and need only to be seen to be appreciated. Some of these flowers are made of the dove-colored crane's plumage, for ladies who no longer claim the privileges and gayety of youth, and others again are manufactured for those who are in half mourning, the jetty blackness of certain portions of the work contrasting elegantly with the snow white purity of the other.

Weekly Columbus Enquirer 44(44): 4. Issued October 29, 1872. From Exchange.

10 May 2012

Brown County Flora Diversity Revealed

A recently issued scientific paper indicates a great diversity of vascular flora occur in Brown County, Nebraska.

There are 726 plant species, subspecies and varieties known to occur, according to research by Megan K. Killion and Steven J. Rothenberger, associated with the University of Nebraska at Kearney. There are 105 plant families represented.

The diversity is due to the variety of native vegetation types occurring in the 1,221 square miles of the county, from the Niobrara River valley south to the Sand Hills. Specific types identified include sand hills mixed grass prairie, gravelly mixed-grass prairie, ponderosa pine forests/savannas, sand hills borders/mixed-grass prairie, upland deciduous prairie and wetlands.

Another explanation for the floral diversity indicated by the authors, is that "post-glacial forests in the valley serve as a transition zone that supports species with both western and eastern affinities."

"Parts of the Niobrara valley represent a unique transition zone where species with northern, southern eastern and western affinities meet," said Rothenberger. "There are plant species that are more representative of the Black Hills or of montane forest environments than the Great Plains."

The significance of the river valley and its flora "runs far beyond the state's border," he noted in an article prepared for the National Park Service. "Management of the scenic river valley is essential to its biological integrity," he said

Some of the rare or unusual species within the Niobrara Valley include paper birch, hybrid aspen (known as "ancestors of the Pleistocene Epoch" of thousands of years ago), harebell, large-flowered tick-clover, wild columbine, prairie alumroot and different types of sedges.

"It is noteworthy that Megan completed this study as a part of her senior undergraduate research project at UNK," Rothenberger said. "All of our undergraduates are required to complete a research project under the guidance of a mentor (a full-time faculty member of the biology department). She was originally from Brown County and was pleased to discover some new county records that were added to the state's known flora."

There were 14 "new county records" collected, according to the article. The "blue scorpion grass" specimen was only the second for the state, being previously known only from Cass County.

The list of species is based upon specimens collected at 21 sites visited during the 2008 growing season, including Long Pine State Park, the Niobrara Valley Preserve, privately owned pastures and hay meadows and Keller State Park. Their work also involved a review of pertinent publications or material in museum collections to determine additional records.

A comparison was included which indicates the difference in the number of species known for four other Nebraska counties:
Banner - 435
Dixon - 439
Keith - 645
Seward - 613

The recently issued article was in the Transactions of Nebraska Academy of Sciences, 2011 edition. It includes a complete list of those plants recorded thus far in the county. Voucher specimens are now in the herbarium at UNK. Records from this effort have also been added to the Flora of Nebraska (second edition, issued in 2011), by Robert Kaul, David Sutherland, and Steven Rolfsmeier.

05 May 2012

Window Decal Replacement at CenturyLink Center

Decals on the expanse of windows on the west side of the CenturyLink Center are being replaced.

A crew including two portable lifts and three men washed the windows, and at the same time, replaced the decals placed on the glass some time ago to deter bird-strikes.

The cost of the decal replacement is not known, but it certainly is an expense added to the window washing expense as it requires additional effort and time. For each section of glass, the old decals are scrapped off, the window washed, and new square decals put in place.

Work started on Monday, April 30.

The board of Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority certainly approved the effort, including the additional expense of decal maintenance.

This effort is commendable, but its efficacy is questionable as bird strikes continue to regularly occur at this building.

The obvious reason: there are no decals or other measures sufficient to deter bird strikes for the lowest section of glass, to a height of approximately 20 feet.

A hazardous situation for birds occurs at the CenturyLink Center Omaha because of the tree and ground cover plantings just far enough west of the structure that birds are attracted to the foliage, and then when ready to fly-along, have sufficient momentum to hit the glass — which reflects a scene of greenery — with deadly force.

As of May 1st, half of all of the known bird strikes in the Downtown Omaha area thus far for 2012 have occurred at the west side of the CenturyLink Center Omaha.

Prothonotary Warbler that struck the building glass on April 30, 2012.

02 May 2012

Happy Hollow Work Delayed by Omaha Officials

 Work to complete installation of the walkway barricade along Happy Hollow Creek was delayed by officials of the city of Omaha.

"We were ready to field-fit the barricade in mid-April" when we presented this option to city officials, said a spokesman for the contractor, Valley Corporation, interviewed at the project site.

Field fitting is where the posts are properly placed and the rail segments are "trimmed" to fit. This involves cutting out a section and then rewelding it to the proper size.

About a dozen cuts and welds were required, the company spokesman said May 1, while they were making repairs expected to be finished within a couple of days.

The new welds will be smoothed, sandblasted and then painted to match the remainder of the barricade.

Example of a weld repair.

Field fitting is where the posts are properly placed and the rail segments are "trimmed" to fit. This involves cutting out a section and then rewelding it to the proper size.

About a dozen cuts and welds were required, the company spokesman said May 1, while they were making repairs expected to be finished within a couple of days.

The new welds will be smoothed, sandblasted and then painted to match the remainder of the barricade.

A meeting was held onsite on April 30 to reach an agreement on fixing the barricade, according to the spokesman. The president of the contractor company and a planner with Omaha Parks Recreation and Public Property were among those present.
The company representative noted that it took five days to get approval from city officials for the nuts and bolts to use to anchor the barricade structure.

Costs associated with the additional work needed to complete the installation of the barricade will be the responsibility of the contractor.

The amount will be a few thousand dollars, he said, adding that their work had strictly followed the engineer plans provided by the city.

The spokesman also noted that they had fenced off the entire sidewalk area to ensure the safety of people, because if one of the heavy barricades fell — though thoroughly anchored — it could be a hazard.