Thanks to 2007 Correspondents
(This 876th Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on January 6, 2008.)
Once again it is time to write a think you note to readers, this time to the hundreds who contacted me during 2007. Those communications have brightened many of my days.
Often this mail speaks of experiences with wildlife that indicate how close we all are to nature:
· A mink visiting a backyard where it is so bold it stops to pose for photographs;
· Unexpected winter birds like robins, bluebirds and turkey vultures;
· An owl making its home in a bird nestbox;
· An albino chickadee and an albino squirrel;
· Unusually large flocks of blue jays;
· A pileated woodpecker regularly visiting a suet feeder oblivious to two excited house cats inches away pawing the intervening window in a futile effort to get at it;
· Thousands of crows roosting in mid-Buffalo;
· A weasel in its handsome white winter coat regularly visiting a suburban yard;
· An osprey hovering over Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park;
· Several majestic bald eagles;
· Orioles and hummingbirds reluctantly sharing liquid feeders;
· Deer dodging cars on city streets.
Saw-whet Owl photographed by Tom LeBlanc,
who bands many of these diminutive birds
Many readers send photos and I try to use them whenever they fit a story line. I cannot list all of these contributors but I especially thank Bonnie Bowen, Carl Carbone, Willie D'Anna, Jerry Lazarczyk, Tom LeBlanc, Mike Levy, Mike Noonan, Betsy Potter and David Ruppert for their remarkably high quality photographs.
A useful role my column plays is opening communication lines between occasional bird observers and serious ornithologists. Many readers contact me to tell of their sightings and I forward their reports to those who keep records for this region. There are other ways observers can do this. One is by calling "Dial-a-Bird" at 896-1271, a phone line manned by Dave Suggs. You can also contact Suggs by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. But I am always happy to intercede.
Perhaps the best recent example of this occurred when I received a message from Bob and Joan Barry in Cambria. They had a strange bird coming to their backyard. It looked somewhat like a robin but, among other markings, it had a black bar across its chest.
The Barrys, although not otherwise active birders, maintain a number of feeders and enjoy watching their avian visitors. This bird was, however, outside their experience. I was convinced from their description that it was a varied thrush, whose normal range is the far northwest. The Barrys invited me to come and see it for myself and I took advantage of their hospitality. Within minutes of my arrival, the varied thrush put in another appearance.
I told the Barrys that I would report their visitor, but I also asked if they would be willing to have others come to their yard. After a brief discussion they agreed to welcome visitors and indeed they did. When the word got out, dozens went to see the rare thrush. Although all were excited about seeing the bird, all came away equally impressed with the Barrys' hospitality. One comment summed up birders' responses: "What a beautiful couple."
Many readers wrote in response to the three posthumous tributes to regional naturalists Bruce Kershner, Tim Horst and Herb Burgasser. I again thank Randy Kaplan, Jim Pawlicki, Garner Light and Bill Michalek for their major contributions to those columns.
A column mention of our society's preference for sports over academics brought many confirming and equally concerned responses. One school was cited for balance between the two: St. Francis High School in Athol Springs. I salute the St. Francis administration and officials of other schools who give academics something approaching "equal time."
Whenever I write about evolution I receive letters from readers who believe that this central concept of modern science contradicts the tenets of their religion. The first time I met this position was in my high school biology class when a fellow student announced, "The nuns at my church told me that evolution was false doctrine." Only later did I learn that two of the Scopes trial defense's proposed witnesses were priests who taught biology at Loyola University. I agree with reader Edward Caggiano who wrote: "For me faith and science coexist harmoniously."
Thanks to all who have written and called. I look forward to hearing from you and many others in the years ahead.-- Gerry Rising