Silver Feathers  December 1997

Silver Feathers is a production of The Senior Group, an
informal group of older netizens.

Silver feathers describes journeys, pleasures, plans, and musings
about birds, nature, and environmental issues.

Silver feathers  also has a World Wide Web edition located at



    From the Nest on the Chippewa (editorial)

    News and features

    Messages from Readers

    Webbing with Judie

     From the Nest on the Chippewa

We missed getting out the November issue due mostly to my
operation to replace an earlier knee joint replacement of left
knee, but I am recovering nicely and we will get back on track.

Please note that the report from the Canadian Northwest
Territory  by Gary Beattie has a striking photo of the area
described posted in our web site.

We are sorry we had to abridge Mike Houle's interesting China
story but I imagine if you e-mail him, he could supply more

    News and Features

Field Trip Friday, August 15, 1997 Near Campbell Lake, Inuvik,
    N.W.T. by "Gary Beattie" 

On Friday night, August 15, I wanted to get away from things so I
took off about 20 miles out of Inuvik and climbed a ridge of
rocks that at one time formed the banks of an ancient river
system which drained water to the north.  They are not too steep,
until the last 60 to 80 feet, where you have to find an easy way
to the top. Part way up, at the lower plateau just before you
start climbing the cliffs, I rested on a rock pinnacle. I could
see this place was probably visited by birds of prey because of
the bones of mice and other small creatures.  I was in the shadow
of the ridge of the opposite side of the valley, which was across
the lake that filled the lower reaches of the land.  The air was
cool but refreshing as the breeze and gusts of wind  kept away
the mosquitoes and the bugs that follow me up from the swampy
ground near the road.  You could hear the wind pushing itself
around and up the plateau and over the cliffs. I had a quick
snack and a drink of water from my canteen.  My dog and I rested
a while and looked  at the last stretch of climb we had to make,
the cliff.  Finding an easy way was done with no difficulty and
we continued on our way.

By the time you are up on top you are about a mile away from the
road. The view is great.  You can see a large lake which forms a
drainage system between the two ridges of rock, over  a couple of
miles apart. The sun had passed below the horizon on the other
side, but the sky remained a clear dark blue, clear of any clods.
Up top there are some flat treeless areas backed with some trees
as you head inland. The cliffs pose a dramatic effect to the site
and you feel like your Odin over looking the cliff where he
discovered the Runes.  I slept up there a few feet away from the
80+foot drop. I had just a sleeping bag, no tent and with my dog.
 The winds and coolness of the late August evening, along with
the steep climb  quickly provided the tonic for sleep.

As we still had 24 hour daylight it was difficult to figure out
what time it was when I was waking and when I was sleeping.  I
got up once in a while and walked around. I went and sat on a
large rock outcropping. I kept still and just looked at the
valley below me. A bird soared down from the sky and landed on
tree near by.  It was a young peregrine falcon.  I stayed still
and soon afterwards a second immature falcon came and landed
close by.  We respected each others space and only looked at each
other, me perhaps staring more than the bird. We exchanged
glances for a good ten minutes. They later flew away.

Later that day a pair of ravens came by and circled over head,
very curious by our presence.  I think it was interested in the
sandwich I had in my hand.  I offered the ravens some and one
almost came to my hand except for my dog which barked and ended
the change of quick friendship.

That evening I was awoken by my dog barking and I just had time
to look out of my sleeping to see a bird diving at about two feet
above cliff ridge level towards me.  It was the parents of the
falcons, I had seen earlier in the day. It was the first time I
have ever been attacked by such precision fliers.  Because of my
position on the cliff plateau they flew parallel to me from out
the lake direction some couple of hundred feet from the ground.
till they hit the rock bluffs. It was truly awesome, and some
what scary to be attacked in this way.   They were obviously
upset by my presence and after several dives I moved away from
the cliff edge closer to the trees. That seemed to satisfy them
and they left.  The following morning I packed my bags, and after
a couple of hours of taking in the beauty of this site, headed
back home.  The falcons flew high and kept their distance,
checking on my departure.  A wonderful experience.

editors note- The web edition of SF has a photo of the spot
that Gary describes here.


Birding in China (abridged)
Mike Houle, Houlem@aol.com, La Crosse Wi

Shanghai        Thursday 09 Oct 97 80F The crisp, clear fall
weather is here but the heavy haze of China's Industrial progress
is omnipresent. Shanghai is like plowing and planting in the
spring, sprouts by May, blossoms by June, fruit by July and
August, and full grown plants by Sept & Oct. Buildings keep on
springing out of the ground everywhere. Woke up to see Eurasian
Tree Sparrows out of the hotel window. Also saw a B&W Wagtail?
and a Long Tailed Shrike. Walked over to the Shanghai Zoo and saw
large numbers of Light-vented Bulbul (Formally Chinese Bulbul),
Eurasian Blackbird, Spotted Dove, Azure Winged Magpie and flocks
of Great Tit (lifer). Saw a single Common Kingfisher (they
operate from branches just inches above the water). Saw a pair of
Black-crowned Night Heron fly in at dusk and one juvenile.

Monday 13 Oct 97 80F At the Yuyuan Gardens, Shanghai. The only
bird seen was a lifer, a Eurasian Siskin working in a tree above
the gold fish pond. No other birds.

Thursday 16 Oct 97 47F, windy, spitting snow. Harbin is the
Capitol of Heilongjiang, the most North Eastern Province in
China, at the 46th parallel, north of the north end of North
Korea, north of Vladivostock, Russia. We walked the Riverside
Park along the Songhaua Jiang River in Harbin when the river was
quite low. In four hours, there were no gulls, ducks, shore
birds, nothing. The lack of birds along the waterways is
disturbing. We finally saw a single bird which was difficult to
id. It had a russet colored crown and nape with two parallel,
black lines, exactly like a horned lark, which stopped where the
horns should appear. After a space, the two black lines continued
down the hindneck. The single bird flew down from a tree to the
bottom of the steps along the river, and secretively pecked away
at the sunflower seed shells found there. We finally concluded
that it was a Rufous-backed Bunting, formally the  Jankowski's
Bunting, a definite lifer. At dusk a flock of Eurasian Tree
Sparrows flew in to the shore and six rock dove played on the
island. No other birds!

Monday 17 Oct 97 72F clear crisp Oct weather. The weather in
Beijing was clear blue skies for the eight days I was there. We
stayed at the Grand View Garden Hotel in Beijing, next to a
wonderful garden with five acres of trees, ponds, plants  and old
homes from an ancient Chinese story. I did not get to see this
garden, but could be an oasis for a short stay in Beijing. This
Monday I took a cab to the Fragrant Hills, 12 Km west of the
Summer Palace of Beijing, arriving at 6am. It was still dark. The
cab was about one hour drive for $5.00. The park is 2000 acres
and rises about 2000' to a temple. I started up the wide stone
pathway, but it was crowded, so I walked up thru some gullies.
The natives bellow out in a form of Congee, an exercise to clean
the lungs of CO2. It is quite disturbing and can be a big
surprise if you are watching a bird and someone shouts about 10'
behind you. The shouting goes on until about 10am. I immediately
saw large flocks of Azure-winged Magpie and small groups of
Black-billed Magpie which went on all day. The Eurasian Tree
Sparrow were down at the entrance in good numbers. I saw lots of
Yellow-browed Warblers and Great Tit.  Not one bird on the water.
This is migration, where do they go? We did finally see some
water birds on a brief visit to the Beijing Zoo in one of their
open ponds, the clipped swans, cranes, ducks and etc.

Thursday 23 Oct 97 Went to the Badaling Gate of the Great China
Wall, about 70Km north of Beijing, as a group. The road is one
way up at the moment, but they are completing a super highway to
the spot to bring in more tourists. The wall is a great sight,
but it has already seen as many people on the wall in the past
ten years as had been on the wall the previous 2,200 years. We
saw Eurasian Tree Sparrows, Large-billed Crow, Black Billed
Magpie and Azure-winged Magpie. The sky remained clear and blue,
but it was 45F with a 50mph wind which made both the climb and
the birding nearly impossible. About 10 miles north of the
Badaling Gate there is a fortress on the top of a large hill
which the farmers made into a fortress to hold their sheep.

We saw a pair of what I was certain to be Golden Eagles hovering
over the fortress. We saw mules pulling stone wheels to work some
of the shells off some of the grains and on several occasions,
the farmers spread the grain on the highway and let the traffic
do the job. You can witness the future and the past at the same
moment in China today. The single, two lane road back to Beijing
gets clogged with trucks and we sat in one spot for over two
hours while the gridlock was untangled. Do not plan on a last
minute trip into the mountains. Some of the tour missed their
plane this day. In all, the Chinese are very helpful and
friendly. They have few driving rules, and no one follows those
rules. It is chaos, but you never see them shouting or cursing at
anyone as everyone cuts in front of everyone.

Saturday 25 Oct 97 I found a quiet spot for birding in China. Go
north thru the Badaling Gate of the Great China Wall, and another
20 miles is the Songshan Mountain Natural Reserve, a 2000 acre
mountain preserve which includes an ancient virgin forest, hot
springs, hundreds of springs and waterfalls, and a 6,600'
mountain peak with thousands of valleys, ravines where you can do
some serious birding.

On Saturday, it was 25F in the mountains and windy, warmed to 40F
and dropped below freezing again by early afternoon. I was
prepared and I climbed from the hotel starting at 2,200' to the
6000' level where the 100 falls springs is located, in seven
hours, then two hours to return. I spent a lot of time with the
Tit, seeing a lifer, the Marsh Tit (20), about 12 Great Tit
including a juvenile, and Coal Tit (25), crows, only 2 Eurasian
Tree Sparrows, heard then flushed two Common Pheasant (a nice
experience to see these birds in their native mountain habitat),
Black-billed Magpie, lots of Blue Magpie (Red-billed) with those
long tails, a flock of 50 Vinous-throated Parrotbill which seemed
to follow me down the mountain, and two Common Rosefinch, another
lifer for me. The Rosefinch were stunning sitting in the open for
a good long look. With the Rosefinch was a dull, olive green,
plain finch of the same size, with the only color, a bright
yellow rump. I thought it must have been the female, but by
reference, it definitely was not. I would love to id that yellow
rumped bird. I saw one small falcon like bird near the top of my
climb and I could see two large raptors soaring above the hotel
on my way down.

Sunday 26 Oct 97 From the Songshan Reserve Hotel, I walked up a
dirt road about two miles along a large running stream to a small
village of about 20 families. It was bitter cold with the north
winds roaring down the canyon walls. I was dressed for winter and
needed all of it.  One word of caution. I had intended to stay
four days, paying for everything by credit card or change some
$US dollars. These remote places in China only take Chinese
money. I did not carry that much and had to leave one day early.
This was a big disappointment. We drove thru the mountains on the
way back to Beijing and stopped at the Ming Tomb Reservoir. These
drivers are daredevils from hell. On a two lane highway, with a
shoulder, jammed with trucks carrying coal, corn, rice, and
little motor scooters, and mules pulling carts, it seems that
there are always at least three lanes going in each direction.
Everyone passes on the tightest blind curves, just ducking in at
the last second, keeping all passengers in a near panic

Do not rent a car/interpreter/driver if you have a weak heart.
They have just learned how to drive, they are always talking on
the phone during these harrowing scenes, and they do not know how
to drive. I just lay down in the back seat and pray. At the dam
there were three Common Merganser hens diving for fish. These
were the first birds seen on the water since the common sandpiper
seen 16 days ago in Shanghai despite my diligent search at every
opportunity. We drove along the reservoir and made several stops
but did not see another water bird. This is astonishing. The
surrounding woods, however, do provide a quiet, private area to
bird, and is only 30 minutes north of Beijing. It was 48F in

The horrible haze in China is not the result of the fires in
Indonesia. It is the result of their industrial revolution
powered by coal, their traditional means of heating with coke,
coal and charcoal, and their tradition of burning leaves and
fields at years end to rid the fields of insects. The
disappearance of birds on the waterways is due to industrial
waste and pollution. But the industrial revolution also brings a
mixed environmental blessing. At the moment, China has begun to
dam both the Yellow and the Three Gorges of the Yangtze. This
will bring a clean power equal to more than thirty nuclear power
plants. It will change the sedimentation of the "River of
Sorrows", as a trade off for clean power and flood control. China
has closed 100 rice paper mills on the Yangtze to reduce
pollution. The Crested Ibis had disappeared from the Soviet
Union, Korea and Japan in the 70's. A small colony was found in
Yangxian County, Shaanxi Province, a remote mountain area far
from industrial spots and big cities. Japan has provided funds to
China for their survival thru the Japanese Bird Protection Union.

The Tibet Autonomous Region has vowed to limit environmentally
destructive industries to maintain the region as one of China's
cleanest places. They have placed the promotion of clean
industries such as tourism and ethnic handicrafts as the top of
its list. Tibet has created a green belt area which has cut the
wind by one half, while creating reserves for birds and animals.
In the Xingiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China, a land of 50%
desert and wasteland, they have planted farmland forests which
now protect 80% of their farmlands, planted a 5000 acre forest to
provide a renewable resource of firewood for the residents and
have established 20 reserves of forests and grasslands for a
total of 6% of their total area to protect rare animals and

The effort has slowed the relentless desertification of the
region and reduced the winds by nearly 50%. This is but a small
step, but quite remarkable for a developing country where
professors and doctors make about $180 per month. In fact, most
tour guides are professionals who make far more as guides than
they do as professionals. It is nice to know that even in China,
there is a recognition of the need to provide habitat for our
wild friends. On the trip home we flew over the snow capped
mountains of Eastern Siberia and as we crossed over Nome, Alaska,
we were treated to a giant display of the Northern Lights with
the big dipper lying on the horizon completely covered by the
northern lights. What a memorable scene.

   Feathers (messages from Readers)


I just got back from a trip to Ireland and England.

Lots of good birds at both locations, including Dusky and
Radde's, Cetti's, Warblers, Bluethroat, Spoonbill, and American

I'll be going to Ireland next March and again in June. The later
trip will be with a group interested in birds, wildlife and
flowers of the Irish West Islands. We will have a naturaalist
from Killarney Natural Park along. Looks like it will be
interesting indee., We can expect to see thousands of Gannets,
Puffins, Shearwaters, Petrels and Guillemots.

Any one interested in joining in will be welcome. Just get in
touch with me, Rich Guthrie, P.O. Box 46 New Baltimore NY 12124
or at HudsonPuff@AOL.COM.

There is still a few spaces left for a trip to Senegal and The
Gambia this January. This is a trip with the author of Tbe Birds
of The Gambia. As above, contact me for details.

Thanks all & good birding.

Rich Guthrie

    Webbing with Judie
by Yjudie@aol.com

Hello, everyone....it's been awhile; however, I'm really happy
that our fearless editor, Jim Olson, has recovered from his

Last issue, I told you we would visit The Baltimore Bird Club web
page.  Here's the address:

This site is chock full of links to interesting places to visit
on the Web--all related to birds and wildlife.

If you're from the Northeast, there are links to sites
specifically for RBAs (Regional Rare Bird Alerts) in
Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, etc.  You can also
browse back issues of the club's Chips Notes newsletters, also
chock full of information about our winged friends.

Further down you'll find "What Else is Out There" and I highly
recommend Dennis LePage's "Birdlinks to the World",
http://www.ntic.qc.ca/~nellus/links.html.  This is one web site
where you can spend a year and still not cover all the
information LePage provides.....outstanding.  Scroll all the way
down this site and find links by state....just a wealth of

There's a real sense of humor that runs through The Baltimore
Bird Club's page.  Just check out the title masts: "What Are
Birders Talking About;" "Bird Fun and Games" (want to know about
how birds steer around obstacles?; then catch, "Boids" by Craig
Reynolds---fascinating and fun - http://hmt.com/cwr/boids.html);
"Enough with Birds, Already;" and, "Who Dealt This Mess;"  those
that think birding and birdwatching is for the birds (you should
pardon the pun), should only browse through this web site!

Hope you enjoy visiting this site.  I'd love to hear your
comments and suggestions.  That's me at the top of the page.
Next month we'll go back to backyard birding.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO