(This column was first published in the December 31, 2001 Buffalo News.)
Once again I write to thank my many correspondents. I have space to comment here on only a few messages.
My moped tour of the Southern Tier brought several interesting responses. Dick Garfield sent photos of a large cement marker that stands in the southwest corner of New York in Chautauqua County. Why I didn't see it when I was there is beyond me. He also taught me something I never knew about New York. Our southern border originally extended west all the way to Ohio. Pennsylvania was only later deeded that triangle that gives them access to Lake Erie.
John Gostley wrote about the Seneca Indian "Forbidden Trail" that loops around Wellsville and Andover and extends south into Pennsylvania. He also forwarded information about it prepared by Alma village historian Norman Ives. The Senecas, "Keepers of the Western Door," established the trail to block the intrusion of colonial settlers into Indian lands. Despite the Seneca patrols and the imposition by colonial authorities of fines of up to 500 pounds and a year's imprisonment for "any person who enters or cuts trees on Indian land," early in the 19th century the pressure from the east could no longer be controlled, squatters spilled into the region and the trail was finally abandoned.
Several correspondents asked for help with identification of birds: for example, a possible Harris's Sparrow -- the field marks certainly fit this rare bird -- and an unusual hawk – despite my suggestion of red-tailed hawk, it turned out to be a harrier. I find it quite difficult to respond to those inquiries. We are spoiled by the wonderful bird guides that lead us to the best features for identification and those are often not what general observers note. Whenever I receive such inquiries, I'm reminded of a description given to a friend: a red, yellow, brown and black bird. It turned out to be a cedar waxwing, a mostly brown bird with a crest.
Several people wrote – before last week, of course -- to tell of wildflowers still blooming in December. Fred Urie found eleven near Long Point in Canada and I too came across a booming aster near Bond Lake two days before Christmas. It is hard now to think back to those times.
But what brought the most mail had nothing to do with what I wrote. It was, of course, September 11. Like so many of us, I heard from friends around the world expressing both sympathy and support. In particular, one of our finest regional birders, Kayo Roy of St. Catharines, Ontario, forwarded that wonderful Canadian tribute by Gordon Sinclair, "America: The Good Neighbour", which includes those final paragraphs: "I can name you 5000 times when the Americans raced to the help of other people in trouble. Can you name me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble? I don't think there was outside help even during the San Francisco earthquake.
"Our neighbours have faced it alone, and I'm one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them get kicked around. They will come out of this thing with their flag high. And when they do, they are entitled to thumb their nose at the lands that are gloating over their present troubles. I hope Canada is not one of those."
We are indeed a quite different -- I believe better -- nation than we were on September 10. And we now know that, although we have terribly threatening enemies, we also have good friends in this new world order.
Thank you for your communications. Please keep them coming in 2002.-- Gerry Rising