Readers 2000

(This column was first published in the January 15, 2001 Buffalo News.)

    I write belatedly to thank all my year 2000 correspondents and to share with readers a few of their interesting communications.

    Jim Duffey, who accurately describes himself as "a (winter) weather buff," corrected my column about the early area snowfall records. He forwarded a copy of a front page "West Seneca Herald" story about an October 18, 1930 snowstorm that buried the Southtowns and the Southern Tier under an estimated four feet of "heavy wet" snow, collapsing roofs, damaging orchards and stranding motorists.

    Marjorie Hilger sent two excellent photographs of an animal she had never seen before with the accompanying description: "Last summer I had the wonderful good fortune of discovering a beautiful flying squirrel that was living in my backyard. If I gently tapped on his tree trunk home, he would come out of his hole and pose for a few seconds." I have posted one of her pictures on this website.

    Terry Fleig sent along several interesting notes about animal intelligence. Among them he told of woodpeckers drilling "an identical double row of holes" in an old birch where "hornets, hummingbirds and squirrels would steal drinks" of the leaking sap. He went on to compare the woodpeckers' care of their young to his own with his first child: "For the first couple of days the birds were a wreck. They acted nervous and frantic in their attempts to feed the babies. After two or three days, their behavior was much more relaxed." Mr. Fleig also stopped a raccoon from defecating on his deck: "I bought a bottle of the smelliest cheap perfume I could find and marked the entire deck as 'mine' with it. After that, the raccoon never dumped on our deck again."

    Many letters told of out-of-season birds like the winter robins that are occurring more often here; others communicated their observations of rare species: Carl Carbone's October shrike in South Wales that might have been a loggerhead and Jay Hurlburt's possible varied thrush in East Aurora.

Jack Gorman described his solution to ants at hummingbird feeders: "Take one of the plastic caps like those on the top of aerosol paint cans, punch a hole with a small nail and run a straightened section of clothes hanger through the hole. Bend a loop in each end of the hanger. I usually run a little hot glue around the hanger on the inside and out to stabilize it and keep it straight. Put some water in the upturned part and refill if necessary. It doesn't take long for the ants to figure out that they can't reach the nectar." But he added, "Now if I could only figure out how to keep hornets away from the feeders, I'd have it made."

    Math teacher-artist Corky Say passed on a number of stories including a second hand one about crows cooperating with coyotes. The crows flew at tree-roosting chickens, causing them to fall to the ground where coyotes caught them. The crows then waited patiently for left-overs.

    The O'Donnells wrote to tell of giant swallowtail butterflies on Buckhorn Island and Maryann Dawson sent striking pictures of this rare species in Niagara County.

    Several correspondents disagreed with me. Former Buffalo physician Doris Rapp wrote to claim homeopathy benefits and research evidence "hard to refute." Having seen refutation of that evidence, I remain unconvinced by her position.

    And my criticism of the PETA advertisements that urged college students to drink beer instead of milk drew strong reaction from animal rights enthusiasts. I can only wonder what they thought of the subsequent PETA ad associating Mayor Guiliani's cancer with milk drinking?-- Gerry Rising