2009 Readers


(This 980th Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on January 3, 2010.)


This brief summary cannot do justice to last year's over 300 pages of emails and thick folder of letters, but here is my review.


The year began with Mike Vendura's somber "bit of nature's drama in an unlikely place": dueling house sparrows at an Orchard Park Tim Horton's: "All of a sudden one got the better of the other, pinned him to the ground, and was working his neck in a death grip. By the time I came back out, the loser was dead on the ground. I didn't know they fought to the death."


Other winter reports: robins, peregrine falcons, bluebirds, bald eagles, mockingbirds, a summer tanager (rare here at any time of year), a towhee, a garter snake in the snow, redpolls, great blue herons, white-winged crossbills, pine siskins, an albino woodchuck, a turkey posed on a birdbath, snowy owls, one in downtown Buffalo, a possible bobcat in West Seneca.


Bob Gadner wrote about constructing the Niagara Power Project: "State Troopers escorted us onto the Tuscaroras' land and stood guard while we worked. I became good friends with some of the Indians and felt their hurt but I still had to follow company orders."


The loss of friends: Win Brockner, Millie Niss and Magilla Schaus. Shortly before he died Magilla wrote exuberantly about his surfer friends who "rode waves under the Buffalo Canoe Club pier in that recent 70 mph storm that bent Rich Stadium goal posts."


Angelo Coniglio told about his proposal for an Erie Canal museum on the waterfront. While I strongly support his idea, I would want it associated with the Buffalo Museum of Science and not a competitor.


Inquiries I could offer little help with: What does a gooseberry taste and smell like? How do you rid your bird feeders of squirrels or rats? How do you prevent cardinals, robins and even bluebirds from attacking their reflections in your windows?


Interesting reports: chukars (certainly escapes) in Sanborn and Lockport, a white pelican in Cuba Lake and a brown pelican in the Niagara River, a possible loggerhead shrike, red-tailed hawks nesting next to a Tonawanda Fire Station, an Orchard Park backyard fox den with four kits, 646 snails in a single garden, robins applying formic acid from ants to their feathers.


Best description: Diane Silestro's centipede: "like Groucho Marx's mustache skittering across the wall near the ceiling."


Most appropriate event: a pheasant hitting a window on Pheasant Run Lane in Lancaster.


At the new Lewiston Plateau Restoration Area, David Muller, Ichiro Nakamura and Dave Cooper found two rare butterflies: a Silvery Blue and a Dreamy Duskywing, "firsts in the past 15 years for this region."


Those roadside purple boxes are insect traps set for invading emerald ash beetles.


Many readers wrote, most but not all supporting the East Aurora open land initiative that later failed. Several asked why "fiscal watchdogs" oppose such measures that have been proven elsewhere to save money.


Several readers identified additional Indian trail trees.


The proposed gas drilling in Allegany State Park was withdrawn but the proposed quarry that would likely drain Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge remains unresolved.



Joe Gill and I continue to argue about Florida vs. Western New York: WNY for me by far.


Andy Hart's suggestions about stone boundary markers will lead to columns about Joseph Ellicott and the Holland Land Company, whose museum in Batavia I highly recommend.


A request led me to try to identify the most common birds here. Buffalo Ornithological Society censuses suggest that they are: starlings, Canada geese, ring-billed gulls, red-winged blackbirds, robins and crows.


Joseph Barrett continues to press to have the ice boom removed. A central aspect of his claim: the Niagara River bottom needs to be scoured.


I missed the new book "One Child, One Planet" by Bridget McGovern Llewellyn, who grew up in Williamsville. It is a perfect ecology starter for a primary grade child.


My favorite among so many delightful letters: Nancy Cassick's about plastics and many other things. Her letter ends: "Are you a journalist or do you work in the science field?" The fair answer: neither; I am a retired math teacher with a lifetime avocational interest in natural history.-- Gerry Rising


Please continue to honor me with your messages.