Silver Feathers   Summer 1998

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.



    From the Nest on the Chippewa (editorial)

    News and features

    Messages from Readers

     From the Nest on the Chippewa
I have taken down the web page for Silver Feathers as there are
numerous birding web pages. If you are looking for links to some,
go to Birding on the Web at


It has links to many birding sites of various types, and a new
feature is a digest of a wide variety of mailing lists and hot

We have gone to a quarterly schedule for the Feathers newsletter
and our next edition will be out Sept 1. Meanwhile have a good
summer, enjoy the outdoors and take to heart the story from the
1917 third grade reader reprinted here and maybe read it to your
grandkids. (act it out a little)

    News and Features

The Birding Column  (Journal of Minnesota Ornitholigist Union)

If you are one of the MOU members who reads this newsletter for
the sex, gossip, and funny jokes, perhaps you missed the story
about the July meeting of the board of directors. It was
announced then that Tony Hertzel and I are writing an MOU birding
column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. We tackle questions
which readers leave on an answering machine.

I am the one who listens to the recorded questions. I pass notes
to Tony. He drafts answers. I buff and polish. They go to press.
Chop chop. This sounds simple. I thought it would be simple.

This is Monday night, Nov. 3. I just finished collecting
questions from the phone line. I have been neglectful, there
being 41 messages tonight, some dating to mid-October. The usual
retrieve is about a dozen calls.

In tonight's catch are six calls about woodpeckers. This is not
an unusual number of woodpecker calls, and not because
woodpeckers are popular birds. On the contrary. We mentioned
woodpecker (again) in an October column, triggering these calls
from yet more people whose houses are under serious woodpecker
attack. "Eating my house up" is how callers describe it, week
after week. What should they do? Read last week's paper, I say.
Tony and I have cut our thumbs and pressed them together,
pledging aloud, as our blood mixed, never to mention woodpeckers

We have seven calls from children making funny mouth sounds,
including one who does a lousy imitation of farts. On previous
tapes, we've had calls from other bored children who needed
closer supervision. Thursday is the day our column appears, and
school holidays which include Thursdays make us vulnerable. I
blame the MEA holiday for the fart fanatic and his friends.

We have one call tonight where all I hear is what sounds like
furniture being dragged across the floor. Perhaps a heavy child
was being pulled from the phone. We've had heavy breathers. We've
had barking dogs. I picture the poor animals being pinched
viciously by children who have Bronx-cheered themselves dry. We
always get a hang-up or two. This time we have five. Cold feet?
Observant mom?

Once, a sweet young female voice asked for a date. I think that
call was for Mr. Hertzel.

We have two calls tonight from persons telling us that we were
wrong when we said Purple Martins eat lots of mosquitoes, and two
from persons telling us that House Sparrows do thrive on black
oil sunflower seeds, our information to the contrary
notwithstanding. We couch our answers in qualifying words. We say
"likely" a lot. We need to begin saying usually, sometimes,
maybe, often, might, possibly, and perhaps. Life is uncertain.

We get many questions about crows, including one tonight. Well,
it's the same question, actually, over and over: How do you get
rid of crows? Personally, there are days when I would like to see
all the crows eat all the woodpeckers and then die of

This week, one lady calls to say thank you. She enjoys the
columns very much, she said, without leaving a name or address.
Thank you, nice lady.

A gentle woman calls with five questions about albino squirrels.
Among other things, she wants to know if they are more easily
intimidated than their gray counterparts. She asks good,
thoughtful questions, often a rare quality in this
question/answer business.

Tonight I heard good questions about painting bird houses (should
you?), the value of dribbling a few seeds in the feeder tray when
you fill the feeder (should you?), and attracting birds to a
balcony on the third floor of an apartment building (can you?). A
man wants to see swans during their fall migration (where?). A
woman wants to join the MOU (how?). A woman sees pelicans but
never pelican babies (why?). As I transcribe these questions, I
nod my head in approval as best I can with the phone receiver
tucked hard to my shoulder. Good questions are important. I
thought answers would be hard. That's not true. Answers are easy.
Questions are hard.

And children really should be seen but not heard.


Panama Canal Trip

I am back in God's Country again after my trip to Paradise i.e.,
the Caribbean!The trip through the Canal was a fascinating
experience and I highly recommend it. It took 9 hours to go 50+
miles but there was something to see every minute.

In Costa Rica, we took a tour which consisted of 2 hikes (each a
couple of miles) in the Carara Biological Reserve, a low,
mountainous area---11,000 acres of tropical forest. And,
EXTREMELY dry at the present time. No rain this year. El Nino??
One of the trails led to a river and that is where we saw the
most birds. FYI, Pat Wilson, we saw anhingas, egrets,
black-necked stilts, jacanas, and several very large birds
roosting in the trees along the river called boat bills.

In the forest we saw summer and golden-hooded tanagers. But, our
guide's crowning achievement was to find for us the scarlet
MACAW, which put on a big show in the treetops for about 10 min.
We were told that there are only 200 of these birds remaining in
Costa Rica, most of them in Carara. They are cavity nesters so
attempts have been made to put up a few nesting boxes, which have
been somewhat successful. Of course, they have no funds to work

When we entered one of the trail areas, 3 men were sitting by 3
containers and our guide went over and spoke to them and then
called us over. The "cages" held parrots and toucans and we were
told they had been confiscated from an illegal shipment out of
the country and were then sent to the Reserve. But the men said
they were too young to be released into the wild and they had no
money to provide food for them in the meantime. Of course,
everyone shelled out 5 or 10 $$ and we can only hope it went for
the birds.

One other exciting sight for me was watching flocks?? of m.
frigatebirds gliding overhead. I have seen them in Florida but
only one or two at a time!

Still, it was nice to come home to the robins and blackbirds all
over the yard and see that spring had really arrived in our

Joan Schrinner



  supplied by  HHoyt58289@aol.com

Here is a cautionary tale from a Third grade reader of the 1917
era. Maybe someone should update it for a modern school reader.
It is a little out of date but the story is still true in its
basic metaphor.

It was spring.  The apple trees and the cherry trees were pink
and white with blossoms.  They filled the air with fragrance. The
maples were red, and the oak and poplar the buds were swelling.
The brooklets were rushing and leaping on toward the sea.

It was spring everywhere.  The robin and the bluebird were piping
sweetly in the blossoming orchard.  The sparrows were chirping,
and hungry crows were calling loudly for food.  The farmers of
Killingworth were plowing the fields, and the broken clods, too,
told of spring.

A farmer heard the cawing of the crows and the song of the birds.
He said, "Did one ever see so many birds? why, when we plant our
seeds, these birds will take them all. When the fruit ripens,
they will destroy it.  I, for one, wish there were no birds, and
I say kill them all."

Another farmer said, "Yes, let us call a meeting of the people of
the village and decide what is to be done with the pests"

The meeting was called, and all came: the squire, the preacher,
the teacher, and the farmers from the country round about. Up
rose the farmer who had said he wished there were no birds.
"Friends," he said,  "the crows are about to take my field of
corn.  I put up scarecrows, but the birds fly by them and seem to
laugh at them.  The robins are as saucy as they can be.  Soon
they will eat all the cherries we have.  I say kill all birds;
they are a pest."

"So say I," said another farmer.    "and I," and "and I," came
frome voices in every part ot the hall. The teacher arose and
timidly said:  "My friends, you know not what you do.  You would
put to death the birds that make sweet music for us in our dark
hours: the thrush, the oriole, the noisy jay, the bluebird,the
meadow lark.   "You slay them all, and why? Because they scratch
up a little handful of wheat or corn, while searching for worms
or weevils.

"Do you never think who made them and taught them their songs of
love?  Think of your woods and orchards without birds!   "And,
friends, would you rather have insects in the hay?  You call the
birds thieves, but they guard your farms. they drive the enemy
from your cornfields and from your harvests.   "Even the blackest
of them, the crow, does good.   He crushes the beetle and wages
war on the slug and the snail."     And, what is more, how can I
teach your children gentleness and mercy when you contradict the
very thing I teach?"

But the farmers only shook their heads and laughed.  "What does
the teacher know of such things?"  they asked.  And they passed a
law  to have the birds killed.

So the dreadful war on birds began.  They fell down dead, with
bloodstains on their breasts.  Some fluttered, wounded away from
the sight of man, while the young died of starvation in the
nests. The summer came, and all the birds were dead.   The days
were like hot coals.

In the orchards hundreds of caterpillars fed.  In the fields and
gardens hundreds of insects of every kind crawled, finding no foe
to check them.

Harvest time came, but there was no harvest.   In many a home
there was want and sorrow.   The next spring a strange sight was
seen  a sight never seen before or since.   Throughout the
streets there went a wagon filled with great cages of birds that
were making sweet music.

>From all the country round these birds had been brought by order
of the farmers.   The cages were opened, and once more the woods
and fields were filled with the beautiful birds, who flew about
singing their songs of joy. And again the harvests grew in the
fields and filled to overflowing the farmers' barns. .

-------Adapted from Longfellow.


Zoo Docents

My wife and I were looking for a new way to learn and participate
in a volunteer situation. I had just retired and we answered an
add in the Tampa paper for volunteers at the Tampa Zoo.   We
volunteered and did not know what a docent was.  It is a teacher
or lecturer, we found out later.  The job will be speaking to
groups from Kindergarten to Seniors, about the animals and the
Florida vegetation in the Zoo.

We had to pay for the training of 6 weeks 1.5 hours on Wednesday
and 3 hours on Saturdays.  There is so much to learn about
presenting the information and about the Zoo before we start
learning about the animals. The instructor is a wealth of
knowledge and we are constantly challenged to learn.

It is fun and exciting to learn and just to be in the Zoo.  We
would recommend it to any senior that is looking for a way to
enjoy themselves and improve their minds.  I will write more on
this after we graduate and start  experiencing the fun of
teaching and being a useful part of society.

Ray Kraatz

   Feathers (messages from the net)

From: Bron King  bronking@pcug.org.au
Subject: [BIRDFEEDER] Intro, birds and butterflies

Hi! My name is Bron King, and I live in Canberra, in Australia.
I've been feeding birds in my yard for about 2 years, and have
attracted a variety of parrots with sunflower seeds: Sulphur
Crested Cockatoos, King parrots, Eastern and Crimson Rosellas,
and an occasional Galah. Since I added a birdbath this has grown,
with honey eaters and currawongs, golden whistlers and mudlards
to name a few.  I have the same problem as American writers -
sparrows visiting in large flocks.  I don't know how you have one
without the other.

By coincidence I had a letter from my son's school where the
staff want to develop a butterfly-attracting garden for the
children to study, so I look forward with interest to ideas on
how to do this.

I have watched birds in the wild for about 15 years, and as my
family and I are lucky enough to own 100 acres of bush and
rainforest 140 miles from here on the south coast, have kept
records of numbers and seasonal movements etc for that time.  We
don't feed our birds there, but have identified about 100
species. Swamp wallabies visit our camp and eat noodles and other
exotic tidbits!




From: Houlem 
Subject: Turkeys - Owls - Kingbirds

I went out on St Joseph's Ridge to a Farm arriving at 6:20am. A
big Tom Wild Turkey was gobbling about 200 yards down at the end
of a field. I watched it as another big Tom joined in. Both in
full display, with the sun shining thru their big tails. Six deer
showed up and two of the deer got up on their hind legs and pawed
at each other. The Toms strutted and gobbled. No one was excited.
A single hen came out and walked North with utter disdain. Then
five "Jake's" or yearling males came out and they displayed. This
action, with the deer, lasted almost an hour before they all
"disappeared." This all occurred in a space 50'x100'. I walked
around in the woods and accidentally flushed a hen sitting on a
brood of eggs in a large windfall.

Later, on an abandoned farm, I noticed a pair of Eastern Kingbird
in nesting behavior. They seemed to disappeared into a tiny bush.
In the center of the bush was a rough 2'x2' opening to an
abandoned dry well. The Kingbirds were building a nest on a small
pipe against the well wall down about six feet. This is a first
time that I have seen such a fortification for a bird nest.

Also seen were a pair of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Red-bellied
Woodpecker, a lot of Savannah (with distinct yellow lore),
Chipping, White-throated and Song Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark,
Red-tailed Hawk, Kestrel, Barred Owl, and Ruffled Grouse, 34
species in all. This occurred over two hours in the morning. I
returned in the evening for an hour, saw more turkey, and then
saw two Great- horned Owl sitting on the same branch about 10
yards off the road.

Quite a day!

* Mike Houle * houlem@aol.com * La Crosse WI * USA *

It's a great time to be alive enjoying fire, fossils, fungi,
flora, ferns, forests, frogs, fins, fish, feathers, fowl, flight,
fauna, fur, freedom, frontiers, Frey, feasts, fun, frivolity,
fermentation, froth, frolicking, friends, faith & family!


From: NOEL.CUTRIGHT@wemail.wisenergy.com
Subject: life birds

When you've been actively birding for more than 50 years (I'm not
that old - I started early!), adding life birds doesn't occur
that often unless you do some traveling. I don't remember my
first pileated woodpecker, mockingbird, red-headed woodpecker, or
Louisiana waterthrush. I grew up with these species in southern
Ohio and they have been part of me forever. However, they are now
a thrill to find again as they are lifers for my son who last
fall (at age 15) began a life list.

Rather than me asking him if he wants to go along on a bird hike
or trip, he's asking me when we can go. So, this week-end he's
added a pileated from the bathroom window - yes you can do more
than read there - a mockingbird in a poison-ivy laden fence row,
a La waterthrush along the stream where I fished almost every day
as a youth, and nesting red-headeds in the 15-acre woods near the
house my dad built after retirement 30 years ago. And the
red-heads didn't give up their brilliance easily. I heard their
calls from the house so a huntin we went. At first they were only
glimpsed flying and chasing in the tree tops while calling and
drumming noisily. Then a bill and a third of a red head from
behind a snag, AND finally a full head shot followed by a full
body shot in full sun as one emerged from a nesting cavity - AH -
total success and the thrill of the chase and sighting were
complete and another life bird notched on my son's life list.

I'll always remember it and with the passage of the years, it
will become my lifer as mine in my youth has been lost. So - if
you want to see some lifers, take your son, daughter,
granddaughter, grandson, or a friend bird watching and experience
the thrill.


Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 09:48:26 -0500
From: Drew Clausen 

Subject: A Most Amazing Sight

We were walking through Eau Claire's "Rod and Gun Park" this
morning doing a bit of birding, and came across an amazing scene.
A sharp "tok tok tok" of beak on hollow tree alerted us to the
presence of *something*...but careful scanning of all the trees
revealed nothing. And we had a hard time figuring out exactly
where the "tok tok tok" was coming from. We soon traced the sound
to an area right in front of us at ground level.

Except there wasn't anything in front of us but a small pond.
And, oh yes, a couple of rotting logs near the edge of the pond.
Then the knocking sound again, and it was clearly coming from one
of the logs. They were both small, about six inches in diameter
and maybe four feet long. And from where we stood, we couldn't
see ANYTHING pecking at them.

And then we saw it: a small hole in the side of one log, too
small for even a wren. And then suddenly the tapping sound, and
the beak of a bird appeared at the hole. A bird was knocking its
way through from the INSIDE! It was a chickadee, we could see
from brief glimpses of the head, and it was having a heck of a
time opening the hole.

We could see no way that the bird could have gotten in; no other
holes evident. But here was a clue, the log had recently fallen.
What was left of the rotting stump was right there.

One of our group slowly turned the log over and the entrance was
revealed. The Chickadee, however, was still intent on trying to
get out of the small hole, and didn't realize it had another
exit, so we tore off bits of the side of the log until the
Chickadee noticed, escaped, and flew away.

Inside the fallen log was a small nest with what looked like
eight eggs. The Chickadee had apparently been on the nest when
the log toppled over right onto the entrance hole, trapping her
inside. We leaned the log up against a nearby tree, hoping that
she might find her way back again and try to salvage her nest and
eggs. The eggs were still whole although scattered about, but the
nest was a mess from the fall (and probably a bit from our clumsy
attempt to free her).

Its too bad that the nest is a goner, but the Chickadee is free
to try again at least...



          the Mallards have come;
     corn stubbles flag the spring pond,
          the puddle of dreams