(This 718th Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on January 2, 2005.)
For those concerned, as I am, for the welfare of the unidentified soldier who maintains the Birding Babylon website, birdingbabylon.blogspot.com, all appears well. He recently wrote: "This evening on another run to drop someone off at the helipad I saw a little Ruppell's Fox by the side of the road. As we passed, it turned and ran off into the bushes flashing its very fine tail. Our force protection guys are constantly cursing all the holes that the foxes and jackals dig under our perimeter fence. There's too much good stuff inside the wire; nothing is going to stop them coming in." Let's hope they're all that sneak in.
Many also asked to be informed about Andy Skurka's progress hiking across North America. He recently e-mailed: "Arrived in Michigan last week, finishing 2004 just north of Battle Creek. The crux of this trip is now before me. Looking forward to it." And from the website www.andrewskurka.com: "The weather has been terrible. The temperature has been about 35 and it has been raining. Andy reports that his gear has been performing perfectly. This is rewarding, because he spent many hours thinking and planning for this. His spirits are good. Total miles hiked: 3106."
Several letters and pictures came from Jack Hurley, the Dwight, Ontario canoe builder. This past year one of his canoes was dedicated to Al and Helen Chestnut of Camp Pathfinder in Algonquin Park. That brings back pleasant memories as, many years ago, I joined Al on two canoe trips through the park. I can imagine no finer couple to be so honored.
year several readers ask what to do with a dead bird they have found. It is
difficult to respond adequately as state, national and international
regulations are involved, some of them even appearing to me to be
contradictory. I turned to ornithologist Art Clark for guidance. Here are
excerpts from his response: "Basically, it is illegal (without both Federal and
State salvage permits) to have in your possession any protected bird or its nest or
eggs, or any part thereof. So, what can you do?
This concern was complicated recently with bird deaths caused by West Nile virus. That disease appears to have run its course, however, so dead birds needed for autopsy to chart its spread are no longer desired. For those readers who miss the antics of their now absent local crows, the birds most often killed by WNV, I predict an early return as their population is recovering rapidly.
During our wet 2004 summer Arthur Hoekstra wrote: "I made a vow when I was thirteen years old and surviving the Dust Bowl days, that if it ever rained again I would never complain." He continued: "I'll never forget the day when the rains came. There was no living vegetation and the ground was like powder, which blew in the wind. I reveled in the soothing feeling of rain on my face. I also remember that the first vegetation that appeared was white clover. Those little seeds had survived and were ready to go when water appeared. All over, there were beautiful clover blossoms. I'll never ever put weed killer on white clover."
In response to my comment about Perry's good fortune when "for some unknown reason, the British withdrew to Port Dover," a Canadian reader wrote, "The British commander had a romance going with a Port Dover widow at the time." Clearly a case of first things first.
An increasing number of readers report seeing large white-headed birds that they think are eagles. Those almost certainly are eagles for, like the osprey, this species has made a remarkable comeback since DDT was banned. Last spring eight were seen sailing above Navy Island in the Niagara River and recently 24 were found around the Allegheny Reservoir. Their big nests will, I predict, soon again be common along the Lake Erie shore.
My favorite communication last year came from Rita Thomas of Hamburg. She told about the jay that rings her wind chimes each morning to remind her to put out peanuts.
Please keep your messages coming as they mean a great deal to me. I try to respond to all, but occasionally I'm sure I fail to do so. To those readers I apologize.-- Gerry Rising