Thanks to 2008 Readers


(This 928th Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on December 28, 2008.)



A very rare summer tanager was photographed in Delaware Park

in November by reader Darrell Stevens


This was another busy year responding to reader comments and inquiries, one of the pleasant perks of my responsibility for this space. Many of the letters, calls and emails began by apologizing for "bothering" me: quite the contrary, I enjoy the personal interactions and even my severest critics at least enliven my day.


In no way can I cite and thank you individually. I can comment here on only a few messages.


At the same time that Ken Cathers and Beth Casseri worried about the few avian visitors at their feeders, Debbie Lemaster reported "a huge variety of birds visiting our feeders. We have a Baltimore oriole family (my neighbor feeds them grape jelly), hummingbirds, all varieties of sparrows and woodpeckers including pileated, a rose-breasted grosbeak family, tufted titmice, wrens (they have nested twice in my yard), chickadees, bluebirds, waxwings, cardinals, finches and a Cooper's hawk."


In February Diane Patterson wrote about her experience: "I went out to refill my birdfeeders and found lying on the snow, a little brown bird, seemingly dead. It was stiff, as if frozen, or rigor had set in. I picked it up to dispose of it respectfully, and omigosh, it moved its feet. Holding it assured me that those weren't involuntary spasms. I brought it in the house to warm it.


"After a few minutes of gentle blow-drying, the bird did not respond so, assuming it was dead, I left it lying on a cloth. When I returned ten minutes later, I found the bird sitting up. That's when I realized that it was a redpoll. Assuming it was sick, or injured, I placed it in a cockatiel cage to observe it.


"Again I left the room. When I came back, it had escaped and was sitting on a curtain, pecking at the window. It seemed well enough, so I took it outside and opened my hand over a picnic table. He hopped onto table, sailed to the ground, and began pecking at seeds. But an hour later it was in the same spot, so I brought it back in the house, fed it hulled sunflower seeds and water from an eye dropper. It then drank from a tiny bottle cap of water.


"Once again, it flew to the window. Obviously this bird wants to be outside. Good. I set it outside and it soon flew off.


"This little redpoll has been back many times since that day. It seems to have no fear of me: that's how I know it. It travels with a flock of mostly house finches and is the last to fly when I open the door."


In response to my column about ornithologist Bob Andrle, Frank Mocho wrote: "In the early 1970s I was a high school student in Lancaster. I was an avid birdwatcher, and wanted to visit the museum to see the collections. I took the bus to the museum from Depew. I was very excited when I got there but unfortunately I was turned away: 'Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.' I was devastated. No doubt they were having problems with kids but my intentions were strictly scientific. Anyway, I went home, and wrote Dr. Andrle a note telling him what had happened.


"Three days later the phone rang. My mother says, 'It's for you, Dr. Andrle from the museum.' He made arrangements for me to get in without a parent. I showed up at the time he suggested, but he didn't just see that I got in. He took me on a guided tour of the museum complete with a peek behind the scenes into the storerooms and introduced me to one of the taxidermy technicians working there.


"That was a day 35 years ago that I will never forget. I wound up with a degree in biology, and am in my 25th year of teaching science in a rural school in the Finger Lakes region, and am still very interested in birds. Thanks Dr. Andrle for helping me decide the road my life would take."


Thanks again to all my readers as well. I especially appreciate the photographs you have been able to send as attachments. Some have added significantly to our local ornithological, entomological and other natural history records.-- Gerry Rising