30 January 2014

To the First Spring Bird

From the St. Augustine News.
Blue Bird ! on yon leafless tree,
Dost thou carol thus to me,
"Spring is coming! — Spring is here!"
Say'st thou so my birdling dear?
What is that in misty shroud,
Stealing from the darken'd cloud?
Snow! — my friend! — it gathers round
Deeply o'er the whiten'd ground, —
Still thou singest, blithe and clear,
"Spring is coming! — Spring is here!"
Strik'st thou not too bold a strain?
Winds are piping o'er the plain,
Clouds are sweeping o'er the sky
With a black and threat'ning eye;
Urchins, by the frozen rill,
Wrap their mantles closer still,
You poor man with doubtlet old,
Doth he shiver at the cold?
Hath he not the nose of blue?
Tell, me birdling, tell me true.
Spring's a maid of mirth and glee,
Rosy wreaths and revelry, —
Hast thou woo'd some winged love
To a nest in verdant grove?
Sung to her of greenwood bower,
Sunny skies that never lower?
Lur'd her with thy promise fair,
Of a lot that knows no care?
Prythee, bird, in coat of blue,
Though a lover — tell her true.
Ask her if, when storms are long,
She can sing a cheerful song —
When the rude winds rock the tree,
If she'll closer cling to thee, —
Then the blasts that sweep the sky
Unappall'd shall pass thee by. —
Tho' thy curtain'd chamber show
Siftings of untimely snow,
Warm and glad thy heart shall be,
Love shall make it Spring for thee.
Hartford Conn., January 25, 1839.
April 11, 1839. Edgefield Advertiser 4(10): 5.

The Singing Bird in the Woods

O Thrush, upon the beechen bough,
Shake thy glad wings and sing;
All things around thy dwelling now
Bud freshly in the spring.
Through new oped leaves of brightest green
The flitting sunlights breaks;
The fern-leaves o'er the streeamlets lean,
The star primroses wake.
And over all the sunshine flows,
And over all they song,
Sole breaker of the wood's repose,
Floats as we pass along.
Thou hast no past, no future, bird!
Sing on in unchecked glee;
From me shall come no harsher word
To mar thy minstrelsy.
Sing clear and shrill! 'tis sweet to list
Thy song of jubilee,
And in this weary world to wist
That some rejoice like thee;
Some who can dwell in simple trust
'Mid this day's leaves and flowers;
Nor taint their beauty with the dust,
Of bye-gone days or hours.
May 30, 1863. Washington Statesman 2(24): 1.

A Plea for Maryland Songbirds

The following article, taken from the Baltimore Sun, we commend to the special attention of those, who, in their great love of sport, deem everything with feathers "fair game," be it large or small. We think it would be conducive to the benefit of the entire community, if the country press throughout the State would unite in condemning this practice of shooting small birds.

"Some days ago in the local column of the Sun, there appeared an item giving and account of a "robin hunt" in Harford county, by some amateur sportsmen of the City of Baltimore, when three hundred and fifty of these little "red breasts" were slaughtered in one day. The doubtless, was considered by those engaged in it as a most delightful day's sport, but, to the intelligent and reflecting agriculturalist, who is aware of how fast increasing inroads that are now being made upon every vegetable production of the farm by the insidious attacks of insects, this wholesale destruction of insectivorous birds is a matter of deep and serious regret — in fact, of alarm!

When had these birds in abundance — robins, jay-birds, flickers, blue-birds, &c. — building their nests and rearing their young in our woods and orchard, we could raise fruit that was fair and smooth, and which would properly mature; but, now it is almost impossible to find a single specimen of any description, but what, through agency of some invisible insect, is rough, warty and wormy. It is not our orchards and fruit gardens alone that suffer from the increases of insect, through the thoughtless — using no stronger expression — destruction of our small birds, but our grain and vegetable crops of all description, are every year having some new enemy to encounter — either worm or fly.

It is to be hoped that public opinion, which, where well directed, is far better that legislative enactments, may hereafter be of such a character, that say notice of "small game" hunts, as the one above mentioned, may solely be for the purpose of reproof and condemnation.

June 26, 1869. A plea for the birds. Vancouver Register 4(37): 1.

Given, not Hired

By Ethel Lynn.
We hired the roof above our heads,
And walls to gird us round,
The garden walk, the drooping vine,
The rose and blossom mound;
But oh, that streak of sunset sky
Between the budding trees,
The moonlight on the little porch,
Who shall we pay for these?
We have musicians too, all day,
Whose flutes we did not bring;
An oriole trills all the while,
And saucy robins sing;
While in the bush or evergreen
A cat-bird, gray and shy,
A solo gives. Who pays the birds
For all these songs? Not I.
Just when the twilight turns to dusk,
And reveries are sweet,
A piping voice, exceeding small,
Sounds by lay idle feet,
And birds me listen to its tale
Of home and household fire —
Our cricket, that we did not bring,
The song we did not hire.
The summer wind that lifts the leaves
Then whispers soft and low,
How roses and syringas bloom,
How sweet acacias blow,
With memories of childless hours
In garden pathways sweet,
Who sends the southwind to my door,
With soft unshodden feet!
Nay, these are gifts one cannot buy,
Not pay in market gold;
One debt uncancelled evermore
When cycles shall have rolled,
So, lifting up a thankful heart
To God, Who gives, I cry;
"Thou knowest, Lord, I cannot pay
For all these things: not I."
June 30, 1871. McConnelsville South-eastern Independent 1(13): 1.

The Old Barn

No hay upon the wide-spread mow,
No horses in the stalls,
No broad-toed oxen, sheep or cows
Within the time-worn walls.
The wind howls through its shattered doors,
Now swinging to and fro;
And o'er its once frequented floors
No footsteps come and go.
But once, alas! each vacant bay,
And every space around,
Was teeming with sweet-scented nay,
The harvest of the ground.
And well-fed cattle in a row,
At mangers ranged along,
Each fastened by an oaken bow
Stood at the stanchions strong.
But where so long ago old Dobbin stood,
His master's pride and care,
And from his hand received his food,
And now is vacant there.
Then these broad fields, from hill to plain,
Waved in the summer air,
With choicest crops of grass or grain,
Now left so bleak and bare.
How sweet the music of the flail,
Resounding far and clear,
As borne upon the passing gale
It reached the distant ear.
The blackbird hailed the dewy morn
From out his rushy perch;
The sparrow sand upon the thorn,
The cat-bird on the birch.
The robin from the highest tree
Sent forth his whistle clear,
His soul partaking of the glee
That wakes the vernal year.
And childhood's merry shout was heard
The farm-yard choir strong,
Which, mingling with the note of bird,
Enriched the tide of song.
The master on his daily round
With conscious pride would go,
His faithful dog, close by him found,
Attending to and fro.
Old honest "Trip" long since has gone,
And moulders 'neath the wall;
No more he takes the welcome bone,
Or hears his master's call.
The kindly master, too has died,
The matron in her grace,
And dead, or scattered far and wide,
The remnant of their race.
Anonymous. November 9, 1871. Elk County Advocate 1(36): 1.

Cricket and Cat-Bird

There's a quaint little fellow in black,
In an out-of-the-way place he hides;
Good nature he never doth lack,
And fretting and care he derides.
With arms held akimbo he stands
And takes the world easy each day;
He owneth not houses nor lands,
Yet in sunlight or rain he doth say,
"Cheer up! cheer up!"
There's a queer little matron who hops
Mid leaves of the garden and grove;
Her querulous tongue never stops
Complaining where'er she doth rove.
She seemeth a sprite of old care,.
While cheery and blue are the skies,
And joy is abroad on the air;
Forever she slumbers and cries,
"Oh dear! Oh, dear!"
There are boys, yes, and girls, like these twain —
I meet them in field and in street;
From fretting some never abstain,
But some all cheerfulness seem,
A cricket or cat-bird to-day,
Now which, will you be, little dear?
A kiss for the red lips that say,
Though skies may be cloudy or clear,
"Cheer up! Cheer up!"
August 4, 1877. Pacific Appeal 14(48): 1.

27 January 2014

False Premises - Wind Turbines in Nebraska

In a recent online commentary, Richard Branson, a world-wide entrepreneur, wrote that there is a need for improved energy development and use. He wrote of these options : "from advanced renewable fuels, to electric cars that leave their petrol-powered rivals behind, to more efficient, lower-cost solar cells and intelligent ways of heating and cooling buildings need adequate financial backing."

Prominent for being excluded from this essay on challenges facing the planet, was any mention of energy developed from wind turbines. There was a greater focus on positive energy options that can reduce the impact of energy development and demand.

Two obvious example that do just the opposite are tar-sands and turbine farms and associated infrastructure.

Consider wind turbines, and especially a local drive to place them within the sand hills.
This is requiring the construction of an industrial powerline 220 miles in length through the south-central portion of the region. Costing hundreds of $millions, it will also degrade the route by destroying native prairie habitat, establish a corridor of powerlines dangerous to migratory birds, ruin landscape views among the hills, and allow for further degradation elsewhere by providing a method to connect to the larger electrical grid.

Industrial wind turbine energy is not green energy. In addition to the afore-mentioned three unwanted impacts mentioned with powerlines, there are other reasons turbines should not be placed within the sandhills:

1). Any turbine farms will further destroy unique resources, and require construction of additional powerlines to connect to the grid line;
2). Wind turbines are not a reliable source of energy, but only a secondary source;
3). Wind turbines are known hazards to birds and bats;
4). public land may be destroyed forever for a dubious project(s); and,
5). claims of the environmental benefits of energy from wind turbines is questionable, as shown in many instances.

Why should the so-unique sandhills have industrial sites to develop energy imposed among a place which is the last, great American prairie. Nebraska is already is a surplus power production state? Why should the region be further industrialized so other places can have lights on all night at sports stadiums, or run huge promotional televisions all night, or have led-advertisements signs going 24-hours every day?

The amount of energy developed by a turbine farm in the sandhills — with a known amount lost during distribution — could be readily offset by conservation initiatives, or preferably by local solar.
Nebraska is going straight ahead on this industry that is only surviving to a large-extent due to tax-subsidies. The industry economic model is flawed because it cannot survive with the public having to give their hard-earned dollars so others may personally profit.

There are many preferable options to wind, especially local solar. Instead, Nebraskans prefer to have a pro-wind energy meeting in North Platte.

This meeting is not necessary. It will present topics with information readily available elsewhere, especially on the internet, according to the meeting brochure. How many people will burn expensive gas, or have to pay for lodging and meals when they could spend a short time online and learn so much more.

Whomever devised this agenda, seemed to have an obvious bias associated with where not if, regarding the construction of industrial wind turbine facilities. Even the titles for some of presentations reflect this perspective.

Missing in the mix, are results of any new findings, especially prairie-chickens and turbines in Brown county. Will there be an indication of the subsidy amount necessary to make turbine development profitable for a few business people and land-owners? The showing of a few pretty pictures at lunch does not really express the unique character and nuance of the region? How is the ruination of the features appreciated by past generations of sand hill residents, reflect a continuation of their heritage?

It will simply be a great opportunity for developers and proponents to learn about and discuss where they should focus on building turbine farms … a time for for-profit companies and private land-owners with dollar signs in their eyes to get someone else to provide details generated with so many others. It’s another example of a subsidy. And if anyone questions whether suitable consideration was given to the local resources, the developers and others can say they held this meeting.

It is a "faux" event!

21 January 2014

Cooperative Attention to Wintering Trumpeter Swans

An early year arrival of majestic Trumpeter Swans has meant a cooperative effort by many interested in our avian neighbors, and that cared enough to share details of a unique event.

This whole situation started early in January 2014, when local birder Justin Rink was at Carter Lake, viewing the scene from the Nebraska side, and took the time afterwards to post the results of his survey.

Dramatic among the waterfowl was one of the many swans which had an orange-colored marker on one of its wings.

It was a mark that could provide a history for this birds, one of the many among the flock at a bit of open water during the frigid "polar vortex."

Rink's online post indicated: "One orange-tagged adult labeled 387."

Soon thereafter, other bird enthusiasts visited the lake, to see the waterfowl congregation.

Loren and Babs Padelford visited on the 11th, posting online their fowl observations. On the 12th, Robert, a member of the NEBirds forum posted a picture of the tundra swan. Another member Ruthie Stearns, visited from Lincoln, during a time when Omaha birder Betty Grenon was also visiting the lake.

It was the bird with a label that was an especially significant observation.

"Others in this series were released in" southern Minnesota, said Madeleine Linck, of the Trumpeter Swan Society, based in Minnesota. "Generally, if the tag is on the right wing it would have been sexed as a male."

She forwarded my inquiry to Steve Kittelson, a wildlife lake specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Subsequent details convey the special life of this big bird.

"Here is the release information on wing tag #387 in May 2011. I do not have any other information on sightings of #387 after release. A sibling, wing tag #388 was released with #387. #388 was reported with #391 (likely) at Squaw Creek, Missouri in April 2013 (see #3 below)."

Further details from Jon Schneider of Ducks Unlimited, indicate a unique perspective of success associated with this birds previous occurrence, up north in Minnesota.

"A photo 3314 which shows a tundra swan in the foreground and one of our trumpeter swans (387) in the background at Jennie Lake. I never cease to be impressed by continuing progress in habitat restoration that is being accomplished by these collaborative projects with Ducks Unlimited and the Section of Wildlife thanks to LSOHC.
"Pictures of 316-acre Jennie Lake in Douglas County (south of Brandon, east of Alexandria) taken by me on November 1 at the peak of duck migration. Recall Jennie Lake was one of the 8 shallow lakes enhanced by DU in partnership with DNR Wildlife through our initial 2009 OHF appropriation for “shovel ready projects” and was one of the stops on the initial LSOHC tour in 2009 (or 2010?)."

Trumpeter Swans at Jennie Lake, Minnesota. Photograph courtesy of Jon Schneider.

Jennie Lake is about 320 miles from Carter Lake, and is about directly north as the swans fly.

Ongoing Attention

The interest and followup by staff of the Omaha World-Herald are the "final chapter" for this unique saga. A positive response to a story suggestion to Nancy Gaarder, a pictorial effort by supreme photographer Mark Davis who knows what it takes to get grand images of swans at Carter Lake (as he has done once before), and others have come together to present a story of the swans.

This same bird is shown in a previous photograph, and was also among a flock of swans and coots up north.

Birdly Significance

The collaboration which has brought about this recognition is unique in the annals of plains ornithology. So many elements came together through a team effort.

Its a special month for the swans. Only if it would be possible to give #387 a treat, because the swans are oblivious, and that is why it is so important to work on their behalf!

Further Sightings

Date Carter Lake Desoto NWR Schilling WMA
01 Jan 18 - - - -
03 Jan 19 - - - -
05 Jan 16 - - - -
08 Jan - - 12 - -
09 Jan 22 - - - -
11 Jan 11 - - - -
13 Jan 16 - - - -
15 Jan - - - - 22
19 Jan 28 * - - - -
* Greatest count ever based upon records for this locality since 1998.

These are the current sightings of Trumpeter Swans Along the Middle Missouri River during January, 2014

The number of Trumpeter Swans present at Carter Lake this month exceeds any numbers previously reported, especially in 2013. Every count thus far in 2014 have indicated more than ten of these swans, whereas all previous reports were for eight or fewer swans, with 19 of the twenty counts six or less.

Current season observations at Carter Lake by Justin Rink, Ruth Stearns, with other mentions by others, as well as a personal visit on January 5th. Desoto NWR records from refuge staff bird survey. Schilling WMA report by Clem Klaphake, who indicated that swans were present during the Omaha Christmas Bird Count done in latter December. Nearby, at the Cass County sandpit lake, there were 22 swans present, including one with a red neck band.

This is the NEBirds report by Daniel Leger, of Lincoln, for activities Sunday evening at Carter Lake.

"I was at Levi Carter Park in Omaha yesterday, arriving around 4:15. By 5:00 there was a crowd of about 30 folks looking for the swans. Justin Rink and Clem Klaphake were among the throng, most of whom were apparently drawn by an article in the Omaha World Herald.
"Three Trumpeters (the tagged adult and two juveniles) were present when I arrived. Others started coming in around 5:15 but most of them didn't come in until around 5:40. There were over 20 Trumpeters plus the juvenile Tundra. The only downside was that it was getting fairly dark by the time the Tundra appeared.

There were 22 Trumpeters present in the morning and 30 in the afternoon on January 23rd. The ambient temperature in the morning, when the following picture was taken, was -5o with a -24o windchill.

Birding Outing Without Benefit to Local Economy

On Sunday morning, January 19th, weather conditions were right for a first-of-the-morning bicycle trip from Dundee to Carter Lake. With the expansive story about the grand Trumpeter Swans in the Saturday issue of the Omaha World-Herald, it was time to once again enjoy the fowl congregation, and participate in some wildlife viewing, using terminology used by bureaucrats that need to put things into particular categories.

The outing started as the first of this day's light spread across the hills and valley west of the Missouri River. There was no need to purchase gas, because the mode of transportation was a well-used bicycle, with a rear brake that was only slightly working, and not contributing hardly anything to being able to stop quickly, as is sometimes required on the hard streets of urban Omaha.

The ride of more than eight miles was mostly a smooth ride, despite the roughness of some pavement places. Particular attention was given to traffic and other possible motor vehicle hazards along the street route. Going along the well-done sidewalk/bicycle path through the City of Carter Lake did not include any stops nor the spending a single cent.

Upon arrival at Carter Lake, there were several guys fishing near Bird Isle, at the eastern extent of the oxbow lake. These sportists had a lot of stuff, including various sorts of the things needed to snag and yank fish from the lake, including small boats, augers to pierce holes, big trucks to carry everything to their destination and many other sorts of accoutrements seemingly necessary to catch fish from the lake.

Further north and slightly westward — after an unknown number of rotations needed to pedal a bicycle — there was the waterfowl congregation at the relatively small extent of water without a cover of ice.

It was a phantasmagoria of many waterfowl, with individual voices heard as given by so many ducks or geese during a spectacular grandeur of wild birds on a Sunday in winter.

The magnificent Trumpeter Swans were — obviously — the birds which got the first attention, as they are so uniquely prominent right now at the Carter Lake.

There were so many swans, with 28 the extent based upon two counts. Especially seen were the family groups, with the parents and juveniles raised during the season of 2013, going about their ways. As a family, the young appreciating guidance by elders that brought them to a "safe" haven for during the harsh winter season.

None of the waterfowl at the oxbow know anything about the "big story" in the local newspaper.

Whilst about Levi Carter Park, there was obviously no chance to spend any money, whether a nickel, a dollar or even some sort of currency in the $10-20 range. Incoming flocks of the Canada Goose, did not convey that there would be a fee to see them arrive in their full glory of sight and sound. Some Harris's Sparrows didn't ask for any remuneration in order to see them scurry among a bit of brush. A secretive pair of cardinals got a deserved appreciation at no cost to the watcher, while they do deserve recognition of their value to this park place.

Birds can be freely watched at any time. If there is money that should be spent, it would be a thousands or more to make certain that these feathered wonders have a safe haven, and that there is a place for them to thrive now and into the future.

The morning ended pedal by pedal — now that would be a stat for a bureaucrat to ponder — for at least eight miles back to the neighborhood. Then some pennies were spent for the electricity to enter the days records into a database, and for the time needed to scribe these words using an aged computer.

Benefit of this outing to the local economy: zero dollars and no cents. Personal value: priceless ... once again.

The Bird Trade of New York

"Harmony" writes to the Mobile Register:

"Early this morning I started out to procure a pair of little green parroquitos. I found them scarce and high priced. — For a pair scarcely larger than Java swallows, $8 was asked. I visited five large bird stores devoted to nothing else. Each contained thousands of Canary birds. Each bird has its own cage. — It would seem impossible to give seed and water to each tenement and its inmate. — Yet it is done, not precisely in the way that one thousand locks in the State prison are turned, and one thousand bolts shut at the same moment. The cages are tied together, and an adroit bird feeder will put seed in the box of each cage, and water in the jar very speedily. He will feed 1,000 birds an hour.

"These canary birds are supposed by unsophisticated buyers to have come from Hartz Mountains, in Germany, via Havre, France, or down the Rhine to Rotterdam. I however, am of the opinion that the millions are reared on the champagne districts. A good singer retails at $4; the wholesale price is $2.50. But they must be males and singers. — Females are sold at $1 each. Java sparrows, parrots, mocking-birds, robin red-breasts, and rice birds, make up the main stock of the bird stores. You cannot get cages at the same place where the birds are sold. To get a nice cage you visit the regular bird cages stores, where you can procure a vast assortment.

"Java sparrows sell at $1 each. A boy — proprietor now of the bird stores I visited this morning, and worth $50,000 — commenced his career peddling a pair of canaries.

"They will send to the Philippian Islands for Birds of Paradise, to Charleston for a turkey-buzzard, or to Illinois for a white cow [?crow]."

May 24, 1860. Stroudsburg Jeffersonian 19(20): 1.

Extraordinary Death of Songbirds in California

One of the unaccountable phenomena of 1864 has been the immense quantity of songbirds which have been driven upon the cultivated lands of California during the month of May. In the southern counties, thousands upon thousands of robins, linnets, thrushes, canaries, orioles, humming-birds, finches, blackbirds, magpies, sparrows, etc., have swarmed around houses and gardens, destroying the fruit and vegetables, and then dropping down dead near wells and pools of water. The mortality among them has been extraordinary and is supposed to have been caused by their being driven from the mountains by the April storms of cold, when, not finding food in the valley and lowlands, they are killed by the hot winds, hunger and the drouth. When picked up, sometimes ten or twenty in a lump, they are completely starved and fleshless, being often chased down by the boys and cats, and expiring in weak twittles, mournful to the sympathies of the little people, who lay them in their graves. — S.F. Bulletin.

June 22, 1864. Extraordinary death of songbirds. Sacramento Daily Union 27(4135): 2.

Destruction of Birds by Telegraph Wires

Referring to Dr. Coues' article on this subject, in the Naturalist and elsewhere, I wish to add my testimony to the destruction of much larger birds than any mentioned by this writer. Many prairie chickens (Cupidonia cupido) are annually destroyed in this way. In December, 1868, near Cambridge, Story County, Iowa, I saw many of these birds lying dead on the snow beneath the line of telegraph, and was informed that they killed themselves by striking the wire in their rapid flight. Some of the birds had their heads cleanly cut off, and most of them were torn and lacerated to a greater or less extent. One or two wounded were still alive and fluttering. The spot seemed to be a favorite one for the flight of chickens. A high belt of timber skirted the river, and beyond this lay the river-wide expanse of "Skunk Bottom," bounded by high bluffs on the east. For certain reasons — possibly owing to some peculiarity of the winds at this point, or to the protection afforded by the belt of timber — the birds were accustomed to speed like arrows down across this bottom, and slight contact with the single wire that stretched across would either maim or kill them outright. Since that time I have heard of several instances in which these birds have been killed in the same manner. the destruction of these birds is so general along some of the railroad lines in the West that section men make a regular business of gathering them up as an addition to their own stock of provisions. The telegraph wires may therefore be set down as one reason, and not an insignificant one, whereby the extermination of the prairie hens is proceeding with a degree of rapidity which would be astonishing had we any means of making even an approximate calculation. — Charles Aldrich, Webster City, Iowa, American Naturalist, November.

December 8, 1877. The Country 1(7): 79.

Legendary Old Sandhill Crane

The Gridley (Butte county) Herald is responsible for the following.

Thomas Chaplin, of Virginia City, Nevada, passed through this city last Friday, with a team and light wagon, on his way home from a visit to friends in Sonoma county. When crossing Butte creek, ten miles west of this place, he shot and killed a sandhill crane. The bird acted as if lost, and being alone, attracted Mr. Chaplin's attention with the above result. After the bird was killed Mr. Chaplin decided to save the feathers. While thus engaged he saw that the bird was blind, a thick white film covering the pupils of both eyes, and on the neck he discovered a crease encircling it, which looked as if at some time or other the heard had been almost cut off with a knife. Upon close investigation, however, the gentleman found that this crease was caused by a wire around the neck and sunk deep into the flesh — so much so that it could not be seen until the flesh had been cut away. Suspended from the wire, which passed through a little hole near the rim of the coin, was what had evidently at one time been a silver quarter-dollar. Both sides of the piece were smooth and bore the following inscriptions: "Captured at Fort Du Quesne, May 25, 1783." "Released at Fort Dearborn, November 17, 1846." The coin was of a dull bright color, but having been protected by the soft down, bore no evidence of having experienced rough weather. Cranes are out of their latitude in this climate at this season of the year, and it is highly probable the bird was unable by reason of the infirmities of old age to travel any longer. It is more than likely the coin was an English piece, as this government had not issued metal money at that early day.

June 20, 1881. An old bird. Sacramento Daily Record-Union 13(102): 5.

10 January 2014

Bird Feast of the Aeagehemen Nation Indians

Father Geronimo Boscano, in his account of the Indians of the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, in Los Angeles county, written between 1815 and 1831, and published in Alfred Robinson's "Life in California" (New York, 1846), has the following curious statement of the "Bird Feast" of the Indians of the Aeagehemem Nation, who compromised the principal portion of the Mission aforesaid:

"The most celebrated of all these feasts, and which was observed yearly, was the one called the 'Panes,' signifying a 'Bird Feast. Particular adoration was observed by them for a bird resembling much, in appearance, the common Buzzard, or Vulture, but of larger dimensions. The day selected for the feast was made known in the public on the evening previous to its celebration, and preparations were made immediately for the erection of their ranquech; into which, when completed, and on the opening of the festival, they carried the Panes in solemn procession, and placed it upon the altar erected for the purpose. Then immediately all the young females, married and unmarried, commenced running to and fro with great rapidity; some in one direction and some in another, more like distracted than rational beings; continuing thus racing, as it were, whilst the elder class of both sexes remained silent spectators of the scene. The 'Puplem,' as has been heretofore described, looking like so many devils; in the mean time, dancing around their adored Panes. These ceremonies being concluded, they seized upon the bird, and carried it in procession to the principal vaqueech, or temple; all the assembly uniting in the grand display; the Puplem preceding the same dancing and singing. Arriving there, they killed the bird, without losing a particle of its blood. The skin was removed entire, and preserved, with the feathers, as a relic, or for the purpose of making their festal garment, called Paelt. The carcass they interred, within the temple in a hole prepared previously, around which all the old women soon collected, who, while weeping and moaning most bitterly, kept throwing upon it various kinds of seeds, or particles of food, and exclaiming at the same time: 'Why did you run away? Would you not have been better with us? You have made pinole as we do; and, if you had not run away, you would not have become a Panes!' Other expressions, equal in simplicity, were made use of; and, as the ceremony was concluding, dancing commenced again, and is carried on for three days and nights, accompanied with all the brutalities to which they were subject.
"The Indians state that said Panes was once a female, who ran off and retired to the mountains, when accidentally meeting with Chinigchinich, he changed her into a bird; and their belief is, that notwithstanding they sacrificed it every year, she became animated and returned to her home among the mountains. But the ridiculous fable does not end here; for they believed, as often as the bird was killed it became multiplied, because, every year all the different Capitaines celebrated the same feast of Panes; and were firm in the opinion, that the birds sacrificed were but one and the same female."
Alexander S. Taylor. July 1, 1859. [Addendum to summary of accounts of the condors of Chili and California.] California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences 11(22): 170.

Crows Congregate in January at Carthage

During the frigid time of early morning on Monday, January 6th, well before the sun was anywhere near the eastern horizon, a bunch of crows gathered in the northern side of the Carthage neighborhood of midtown Omaha. Clock time was a few minutes before 5:30 a.m.

A bunch of these expressive black birds gathered at a flat and empty lot during pre-sunrise on a morning when temperatures were sub-zero, and even more chilling because of the northwest wind. There was a tinge of snow on the shorn turf.

Why they congregated is not known. Any suppositions would be based upon some sort of biased interpretation. One perspective — by Mr. Walt the observer — was that it was too cold for the birds to roost among the trees, so they instead sat upon the ground.

This is one point of view, from a man up early but with only a tiny bit of bird-related knowledge. But due to community communication, this event was given further consideration and discussion by the men in the north Carthage neighborhood. And we were a bunch of older guys, who talked together, and who thought about and discussed this one event as to get a better understanding of what happened.

A rational for the pre-dawn gathering might be because of something other than weather conditions. There may have been some decision for the flock to make? Had some misbehavior occurred, and which the birds had to deal with?

Among the flock, perhaps a few of the older and wiser birds with experience spanning at least a crow generation, made sure the flock gathered in an appropriate manner at a place where the entire clan was comfortable in their presence.

Crow court is a recognized activity for these birds — as indicated in the chronicles of Nebraska ornithology — so the morning's gathering may well have been such an event. Why else would these birds be so active two hours before sunrise?

In this neighborhood, the crows are also expressive a long time after sunset so the pre-dawn gathering was something unusual. A regular roost site is a couple of miles to the south at the cemetery at 50th and Leavenworth Street. Corvids are seemingly always active about the Carthage neighborhood. Numbers vary from one or two and then into flock counts with many crows flying along.

This latest gathering is not the first instance when American crows gathered at this grassy lot along Hamilton street. A similar congregation of crows at this same particular place occurred January 18, 2004. This occurrence — based upon a birdly perspective — seemed to have an intent associated with a group activity. Some birds walked or stood around. A small group in the middle of the gathering were associated with just a few others amidst the entire flock. Some of the birds were very vocal, but the sound was nothing that it could have been if all of the birds were expressive.

It seems obvious that the relatively open expanse of this urban lot suits the birds for them to gather and do their crow thing.

Obviously any decisions or outcome of any "deliberations" are not known, since only the crows know their decisions.

Further Nocturnal Activity

On the evening of January 8th, at 6:50 p.m., the raucous calls of many crows were vividly heard in the same, immediate area. The noise meant a stop in my walk, and soon the flock was seen wheeling about above 49th and Hamilton streets.

There were about 200 crows. Why they were flying about nearly two hours after sunset is, once again, not known? This area seems to be a place where they linger and flock during the dark of the night, and early morning.

Apparently there is a roost in the area, according to word of men who know, and also live in the neighborhood, based on this day's outing.

The crow place was discovered on the evening of January 9th, as more than 200 — with a count of ca. 220 — of these prominent black birds as seen etched in profile against a grey sky, while they were perched atop the upper branches of four deciduous trees by the corner 49th Avenue and Caldwell Street. It was a scene to enjoy in its nuance for this winter season. Especially interesting were the varied calls by members of the congregation. There were different tones and expressions which had to be nothing more than crow conversation.

During many years of watching, this is the first year known for a crow roost in Carthage. These grand birds are regularly about, but usually spend the night elsewhere, including, notably, at the cemetery at 50th and Leavenworth streets, as noted in past years.

The dark setting made it nearly impossible to get a suitable photograph, though there were some pics taken, especially including a broad perspective that provided enough illustrative light.

While walking along the sidewalks, or streets where there is no places for pedestrians, the antics of the crows, calling, with flying from one tree to another brought forth a singular chord of thought. There will be crows at Carthage many years after their primary fan of 2014 is long gone...

Indian Legend of the White Owl

From the National Intelligencer.

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 palpable 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 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 them 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 it 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 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 geese soon afterward became abundant in the land.

Many season 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 he had now endured, and, believing that his enemies had given up the 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 son, 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 now 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 shooting 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 upwards, and lo! perched upon one of the branches of the tree under which he had 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.

July 3, 1849. Fredonia Censor 29(18): 1.

Historic Indian Names for California Condor

Note. — The Condor, or Vulture, was known in the different Indian languages of California, as far as we have been able to gather from Vocabularies, by the following names — (the reader bearing in mind, its common terms among the Spanish-Californians as Buitre, Auron, and Gallinazo):

The Indians at the rancheria of Cas-cen, or Cascel, the site of the Santa Ynez Mission, in Santa Barbara county, called it Slok-ka-wa.

Those of the San Luis Rey Valley, in San Diego county, called it He-pa-va-roo.

The Indians of Orleans Bar and vicinity, on the Klamath river, in Klamath county, called it (or the largest bird) Cheweve-Cami.

The Indians of the Valley of San Miguel Mission, in Lower California, thirty miles below San Diego, who speak very nearly the same language as the Yumas of the Colorado, called it Ish-pa.

The Indians of San Gabriel Mission, or its valley (the Tobis-Cangas), called it Lo-woo.

The Eslenes of San Carlos de Carmelo, or those of Monterey, called it Wa-sack-a.

Those of Campas Seco and Dent's Ferry, in Calaveras county (the Tan-kins), called it Bui-tch.

Those of Petaluma and vicinity, in Sonoma county (the Yo-hios), called it Ka-hey.

The Condor, or Auron, is a bird of great celebrity among all the Indian tribes of California (as we have been informed), and its immense feathers used in their head and waist dresses for warriors, and in their dances and gala times.

Alexander S. Taylor. July 1, 1859. Addendum to a Summary of Accounts of the Condors of Chili and California.California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences 11(22): 170.

Jays a New Article of Commerce at San Francisco

We observed in the Washington Market yesterday a lot of California bluejays exposed for sale, and on inquiry learned that the birds are killed for the wings only, which are used for ornamenting hats for children, young misses, and those who desire to be credited with a few less years than they are entitled to.

December 23, 1864. A new article of commerce. Daily Alta California 16(5407): 1.

Feathers in Fall Bonnets of 1874

One of the most distinguished bonnets is of steel blue velvet trimmed with loops and torsade of lighter blue. The crown is covered with black net, dotted with blue steel spangles. The brim flares upward all around, is faced with the darkest velvet, and against it rests a vine of blue steel leaves. At the back of the bonnet is a pink rose cluster. A second of deepest sea blue velvet and gros grain has a soft cap crown of velvet, with a high rolled coronet of gros grain; below the coronet is a roll of velvet tied behind in a tiny bow without ends. A spray of blue steel leaves in front is the only ornament in this compact and tasteful bonnet.

An olive brown bonnet of the darkest shade of velvet has around the crown a scarf of wide ribbon that is salmon-covered satin on one side and olive gros grain on the other; this laps behind, and has short square ends raveled as fringe. A wreath of tinted geranium leaves is in front, two long nodding cock's plumes on the left, and a cluster of pink and scarlet roses behind.

The prettiest bonnet is of chestnut brown velvet, with brown satin crown, and velvet brim turned straight up in front. Three pink and yellow roses are directly in front, with some upturned sprays of white velvet forget-me-nots. Still above this are pink and white heron feathers, while behind is a long looped bow of the velvet and satin.

A black velvet bonnet is made youthful-looking by a scarf of wide double-faced-ribbon — poncean satin on one side and black gros grain on the other — being tied around the crown; a red and black bird, with head down and spread wings, is on he soft pleats of the crown in front. Another black velvet has pink and black ribbon, with dangling oats of jet all around the crown.

A mouse-colored velvet has a crown of pearl gray gros grain; the brim is pointed high in front, and supports a wreath of shaded scarlet geraniums. A scoop bonnet of myrtle green velvet has the crown formed of the green satin side of a double-faced scarf ribbon. A second of green velvet has the brim covered with leaves that are beaded with green; white heron's plume and three large full rose-buds, scarlet, pink and salmon, are the trimmings.

August 22, 1874. The fall bonnets. Putnam County Courier 33(16): 1.

Return of a Pilgrim Turkey Vulture

During the summer of 1870, Col. S.T. Sult, of Sultsville, Prince George's county, Maryland, a few miles below Washington, D.C., as 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 this suggestion, a good sized old-fashioned sleigh bell was procured and fastened about its neck with wire, and after a christening the bird "Maryland," it 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 noonday devotion 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 much conjecture among the farmers of that neighborhood who remember the occurrence. Colonel Sult 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 those poor creatures think that the Judgement Day and Gabriel with is horn were near at hand.

For the above facts I am under obligations 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.

October 18, 1878. Return of a pilgrim. Hudson Evening Register 13(124): 3.

Meadowlark Poem from California

Written for the Rural Press by Hope Haywood.
Hear, oh hear, that meadow lark trill;
Is it not clear and sweet?
As he whistles so soft, and trills and thrills,
With his happy bursts of song.
His evening song — in the pastures green,
Where he has rested to-day;
For every good,
Since his toil for his food,
In the morning's gold to-day.
His heart but waits for the morn,
To come with its strength and power,
To help him to sing, to carol, and bring
New love to the fleeting hours.
Within, within, is the kingdom of heaven —
Within your patient heart;
Bide through the dark, and then the lark
Shall join in your glorious song.
Oh hear him trill, oh, hear him trill,
His happy, happy song;
His thrilling, thrilling, thrilling joy,
His glorious thought and song.
His thanks, his burst, his love
For the meadows there,
That he so fair,
And listen to his song.
Meadows so rare,
In the sun's soft air;
All speckled with gold
And purple fold,
Of little flowers fair.
I will build me a nest
Of the brightest and best;
Why should I not
Gather this gold
That the sunbeams hold,
And the pearly pearl
The soft winds twirl.
He plays on his harp with sunbeams —
His music is so rare;
He sets it where the diamonds fall
From fountains of living springs
That leap in the air,
And the drops that fall
Make music in his ear;
And he sings, he sings,
He rings, he rings
His joy forth, pure and clear;
Ah, life is a dower of love, and of beauty;
Ah, life is a hope, and joy is a duty!
Hear him, hear him!
Hear that bark —
Like the light
Out of dark;
Oh, his glorious happiness
Is so sweet, he must confess
The power it brings
To his soul as he sings
Hear him! hear him!
Hear him sing!
Oh, he makes such music ring,
To my ears and heart
They almost ache
With the thrilling dart
Of sweetness wrought
From love's own heart;
And I could almost sing
His hymn divine.
Oh, bird of the golden breast!
Thou sheddest a ray
Over my way
This summer day;
And I receive
The song and its happiness.
El Cajon, San Diego.
June 21, 1879. Pacific Rural Press 17(25): 406.

Swan Captured at Washington D.C. Street

A few days ago, while Mr. Albert Gaines, of the quarter-master-general's office, was passing Louise Home, he observed a large white object flying over that building, when, suddenly striking a telegraph wire, it fell plump to the ground and proved to be a beautiful white swan. It was rather stunned by the collision and the fall, and fluttered vainly in an attempt to rise again; but after a struggle, in which on account of Mr. Gaines' slight proportions, it was doubtful whether the swan would get away with him or vice versa. It was captured unhurt, and is yet alive and thriving heartily. In the tussle, it flapped its wings viciously against Mr. G.'s head, demolishing a new Dunlap tile won on the Maine election and making severe scalp wounds. It is supposed that the swan, flying southward, missed sight of the wire, on account of its similarity in color to the expanse of snow beneath.

January 12, 1881. Washington D.C. Evening Star 57(8663): 1.

Electric Tower a Regular Game Trap

The electric tower at Fairfield is a regular game trap. One night recently ducks flew against it steadily for four hours, and dead birds dropped to the ground during all that time at the rate of one a minute. Another night the flight of birds was so great that the light was endangered, and it had to be shut off. The feathered victims were not all ducks, for snipe, snow-birds, etc., also dash into the light, and are either killed or maimed by the hundreds. The boys do a flourishing business in gathering up the slaughtered fowls.

November 24, 1882. [Electric tower a regular game trap.] Spirit Lake Beacon 12(52): 2.

Bird-killing Business in Louisiana

The Lake Charles (La.) Echo says: "R.A. Sibley, of Edgerly, is shipping about 2500 bird skins per month to Newark, N.J. This is an industry which has lately been inaugurated in these parts, and promises to be of some importance. Mr. Sibley ships the skin of the jay, lark, snipe, crane, hawk, owl, black and other birds. The prices range from 5 to 12½ cents each. Our readers are aware that of late years bird feathers are being used much more than formerly for trimming purposes, hence the increased demand. As these birds are very destructive to the rice crops in injuring the stands, it is not such wanton waste as it would be were they killed alone for their plumes."

June 5, 1886. Bird-killing business. Sacramento Daily Record-Union 55(90): 1.

Goose Killing Atrocity by Carter Lake

At the end of another bird survey on one of the final days of December, while riding my dependable bicycle along the north side of Levi Carter Park, a surprising and completely despicable setting was seen. The place was on the north side of Levi Carter Park, on the east side of 9th Street, at a spot where the trees were black from illegal burning only days earlier in association with discarded tires.

The newest atrocity was dead birds. There were six carcasses of the Canada Goose, thrown along the street in an apparently careless manner.

Looking closely, the underside of the big birds had bloody marks which seemed to indicate they had been shot while flying. This was only an interpretation since my personal experience has not included any sort of goose-shooting. But blood on the feathers was prominent.

Six goose carcasses were enough of a situation to elicit further consideration. The first phone call was to a biologist of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a Saturday afternoon. Then there was a followup call from the regional F.W.S. law enforcement woman, but she would not be able to visit the dead goose site as it was five hours away, and it was a weekend.

Option number two, after many minutes on the phone talking to one person or another upon contacting the Omaha Police Department, was to ensure there was a report of the event. Two officers that arrived at the reportial scene were given a map of the locale. At least Omaha law enforcement was aware of the shooting situation.

Another option which worked best was contacting the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, after bicycling to the library to find a phone number.

Eventually, a conservation officer gave attention to the situation of the dead geese. One of the agency officers dealt with the matter on a Saturday evening, December 28th. My first realization of a response was a phone call that meant many words in a discussion to guide the officer to the place where the carcasses lay. It was dark at the scene, but eventually the spot was found.

Officer Rich Berggren found the goose carcasses and did his work, there near 9th and Browne streets.

In a followup phone call, Berggren indicated that the geese were definitely killed by a shotgun blast(s).

At my request the geese carcasses were not thrown into the trash for disposal, but were thrown among a natural setting along the Platte River. Thanks to officer Berggren for doing this.

It's possible, based completely on conjecture, that someone in the neighborhood north of the lake — where numerous flights of these geese come in low as they approach the oxbow lake — thought they'd blast a shot at a flock, and then had to deal with the deadly result. Such a miscreant may not have had any license for possession, so dumped the carcasses along 9th street, at a place where trash is commonly thrown.

What a tragedy for the birds. And what a waste of life.

This is the second instance of a bird shooting at Carter lake. A resident of the city of Carter Lake, from their home on the south side of the lake, shot and killed an American Coot on October 27th. Although this event was seen as it occurred, it was not possible to determine the source of the gunfire. This event was also reported to proper authorities though no outcome is known.