Readers in 2011


(This 1080th Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on January 1, 2012.)


One of the perks of writing a column like this one is the contact it gives me with so many readers. And over the years my mail has increased steadily. One reason for this is clearly the ease of using the internet for correspondence. In this column I will respond to only a few of those readers. I continue to try to answer your messages individually.


The columns that bring the most response are those that raise issues. Chief among those was my argument against spending money to modify a fence around a Williamsville Cemetery to protect deer from becoming impaled. While a number of letters decried my inhumanity toward deer, I am pleased to note that they ran 4:1 in agreement with my position.


Many wrote about the damage being done to their property by deer, others about still more general concerns. For example, Lewis Crowell argued, "Go to any forest in northern Pennsylvania. Instead of a rich variety of undergrowth, we usually find a monotonous sea of hay-scented fern -- or no undergrowth at all. Where would the many warbler species that require undergrowth have a chance to nest in this biological desert?"


But even those who opposed me offered views with which I agree. Margaret Spittler and Diedre Wilczak suggest that we shouldn't be killing coyotes, animals that provide natural deer control.


Another controversial column was the one about the Pat McGee Trail that included my recommendation that a trail following the abandoned railroad tracks from Hamburg to Springville be developed as well. Here again I received general support, but a number of the letters came from two groups: those living near an opened trail section and those living near a proposed trail section. The first group spoke unanimously about their favorable experiences with the nearby trail despite their initial misgivings, all of which never came to fruition; the second group detailed only those same concerns.


Norma Stevenson wrote in early 2011 about the possible reversal of global warming last winter: "I have been wondering about the long severe winter that we had all over the world. Has that severe weather affected the Arctic regions also? Has the ice cap regained any of its former coverage, giving some relief to the threatened polar bears and other cold weather animals? It would be only right that such long severe weather should provide some good somehow." Her letter is, of course, placed in perspective by our more recent experience, but the answer was the same even last year. Ice loss has continued and the lasting effects of long-term climate change are not ameliorated even by widespread weather extremes.


My favorite responses were those to two of my columns: the first about the decline in firefly populations. Readers set me straight. Last summer it seems was the best for regional fireflies of many years. The second was about the rarity of red-headed woodpeckers. Some readers even have them coming to their feeders. In both cases I am, of course, delighted.


I mentioned in one column wanting to retrace Joseph Ellicott's hike around the Holland Land Purchase in the fall and winter of 1797. A number of readers expressed interest in this endeavor but, despite considerable effort, I have been unable to find any record of this trip. If anyone can help with my search, please contact me.


Several readers commented on the number of turkey vultures around and indeed this year over 12,000 were counted during migration at the Hamburg Hawk Watch. Now their cousins, black vultures, are being seen in this region. Unfortunately, black vultures I consider the land version of cormorants, birds we will regret having around in a few years.


Some readers simply share with me their personal feelings about nature and the out-of-doors. One of my favorites among these was from Roberta Bluestein: "I personally find it not only physically invigorating, but also an emotional tonic to spend time outdoors, not looking for anything in particular but enjoying everything in general.  I have passed some of that on to my older children, and now am trying to teach the little ones."


I thank each of you for your interest. Please continue to send me your thoughts and especially your photos in 2012.-- Gerry Rising