Readers in 2013


(This 1188th Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on December 29, 2013.)


Slate-colored Junco watercolor by Kateri Ewing


For the 22nd time I devote my end-of-the-year column to reader responses. Again this year much mail related to cats.


In 2012 most of the mail was about the mountain lion that passed through our Southern Tier on its way from South Dakota to its eventual demise in Connecticut, while most of this year's communications were to my column about bobcats. In that column I invited reader responses since western New York has been considered out of the range of this species. Dozens of you wrote and it seems clear that at least a few of these wild cats make their home here.


Among those responses: Bill Kretzer saw one on the 9th hole green at the Peek'n Peek golf course in Clymer. Paul Bozard and his wife realized that the animal they saw along Bucktooth Run Road near Salamanca, which they first thought was a coyote, was really a bobcat. Steve Pawig sent his friend Vincent's photo of one in an open glade just south of Zoar Valley. Dorothy Clarke saw one stalking deer (they can take a fawn) along the Thruway west of the Lackawanna Toll Barrier. Brad Schottin found large feline tracks in sand at his Boston Hill Nursery; he is convinced that they represent a bobcat or possibly even a puma. Ed Miner had two encounters: one he came upon in a shed in his Hinsdale yard. It "leapt at least 15 feet and then ran across the yard into the woods." Another was hiding behind a gravestone in a cemetery on his property. A bobcat with two kittens was reported in Letchworth Park.


But there were also reports from the Buffalo suburbs. Bill Fitzsimmons saw a bobcat from the cab of the Falls Road Railroad along the Niagara Escarpment near Lockport. Jim Pace saw one along the Cazenovia Creek gorge in West Seneca and Mildred Chonka another on Grand Island. Larry Pace saw one near Clarence Center and heard it scream. David Colligan's was in a tree along Vermont Hill Road in Holland, John Chudy's along River Road in Tonawanda and Ralph Grotke's near Main Street between Youngs and Transit Roads in Amherst.


It seems clear that the bobcat range map needs revision.


Following my column on juncos, Kateri Ewing of East Aurora sent me the watercolor that accompanies this column. More of her attractive work, so rich in detail, is at her website.


Many readers told of the dearth of birds at their feeders this fall, but some have written since our recent snowfall to report that they are now having better luck. We found passerine numbers about normal on the early Christmas Bird Counts despite heavy going through that snow.


I do have one complaint this year. I reported on the state Department of Transportation's policy regarding reduced cutting of roadside grass. No sooner was the column published when that grass was mowed once again. So much for bureaucratic initiatives.


Early in the year I reported on two comets, the second of which I said might "prove truly spectacular." Unfortuately as Karl Battams puts it, Comet ISON (aka comet Nevski-Novichonok) "fell apart in the hours surrounding its close brush with the Sun and now exists simply as a dusty cloud and some warm fuzzy memories." There is a remote possibility that its debris cloud may provide us in mid-January with another meteor shower like the Gemenids and Leonids we experience each year.


I conclude this year's feedback by returning to the world of felines. I received this communication about my recent column comparing turbine deaths to, among other things, kills by cats: "I would like to point out that the loss of 50,000 birds per year also means that much less bird droppings falling on us, our homes, our vehicles, our deck furniture - and other things. I was once sitting under a tree at Niagara-on-the-Lake eating a hot fudge sundae when a bird dropping fell plop into the middle of my sundae. I think cats should be applauded - and protected - for the public service they do." When I pointed out that the bird deaths due to cats each year is nearer two billion the reader said she was even happier.-- Gerry Rising