16 April 2014

Findings on Bird-Building Collisions Issued

Information from my personal database of bird-building collisions in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, were used in the evaluation, published in Condor in February, 2014. This is the article abstract.
Building collisions, and particularly collisions with windows, are a major anthropogenic threat to birds, with rough estimates of between 100 million and 1 billion birds killed annually in the United States. However, no current U.S. estimates are based on systematic analysis of multiple data sources. We reviewed the published literature and acquired unpublished datasets to systematically quantify bird–building collision mortality and species-specific vulnerability. Based on 23 studies, we estimate that between 365 and 988 million birds (median = 599 million) are killed annually by building collisions in the U.S., with roughly 56% of mortality at low-rises, 44% at residences, and [less-than] 1% at high-rises. Based on [more-than] 92,000 fatality records, and after controlling for population abundance and range overlap with study sites, we identified several species that are disproportionately vulnerable to collisions at all building types. In addition, several species listed as national Birds of Conservation Concern due to their declining populations were identified to be highly vulnerable to building collisions, including Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris), Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis), Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), Kentucky Warbler (Geothlypis formosa), and Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum). The identification of these five migratory species with geographic ranges limited to eastern and central North America reflects seasonal and regional biases in the currently available building-collision data. Most sampling has occurred during migration and in the eastern U.S. Further research across seasons and in underrepresented regions is needed to reduce this bias. Nonetheless, we provide quantitative evidence to support the conclusion that building collisions are second only to feral and free-ranging pet cats, which are estimated to kill roughly four times as many birds each year, as the largest source of direct human-caused mortality for U.S. birds.

Public Works Drums Strewn in Omaha Park

About a month ago a managerial official of Omaha Public Works agreed to making certain there would be no increase in the footprint of their facility south of the western extent of Levi Carter Park.

Despite this statement, a different situation was present on the morning of April 15th at the very site of the original concern. There were several 55-gallon drums strewn about. They are obviously the property of Public Works, as they are painted in their manner. One of the barrels was several yards from the edge of the area recently filled by Public Works. Others were closer to the embankment.

It is not apparent how the drums got to where they were located, but they are certainly not situated where they belong. There were no other drums of this type in the vicinity, and including atop the fill site.

Pictures of the drums that are trash in Levi Carter Park. Note also the unnecessary and unwelcome trash.

If barrels are to be stored at this site, it should be done in a manner to make certain they stay were placed, despite miscreants or weather.

During the visit, it was also noted the presence of wetlands on the west side of the area filled by Public Works. Any jurisdictional wetlands are protected by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. It is not known whether the wetlands became established after the filling, or were there prior to any past action to increase the size of the facility.

It is illegal to fill jurisdictional wetlands without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Snow Hurricane - Thrilling Account of Storm in Nebraska

[From Our Own Correspondent.]

Omaha, Neb., April 21. — Those who judge of the climate in this section of the country by its position on the map would be surprised to feel the keen dry wind which rises on these high plains in a moment and furnishes a taste of the pole with tropical surroundings. But this wind of the plains is a matter of course, and people are prepared for it. Not so such a visitation as that of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, the 13th, 14th, and 15th. A storm of snow which is unparalleled in well-authenticated local history, coming after a particularly well-developed spring and almost on the threshold of speedy summer, is an event for which no preparation can be made and no satisfactory reason provided. For forty odd hours a wind blew strongly and steadily, frequently with a velocity of seventy miles an hour. It sufficed to carry houses bodily from their foundations, to overturn walls of solid stone, to blow cars from the track and land them beyond the ditches which drain the embankments on either side. The snow fell in sheets and masses, actually bridging over considerable rivers, and maxing at noonday an Egyptian darkness — a darkness which could be felt. The railroad cuttings were blocked up with masses of snow and ice, and so penetrating was the wind and so fine the drift at times that passengers within the cars, the doors and windows being locked, were covered with a snowy powder that forced its way in through the woodwork and round the window-casings so rapidly that the panels inside seemed to be smoking in a smouldering conflagration.

Of the windows with which the snow fell, some idea may be formed when it is said that on the Republican fork of the Kansas River, at Scandinavia, the ferry-boat sunk under the weight of the closely-packed drifts. At Wood River, 178 miles west of the city, the stream, which is some seventy yards in width, was choked and covered with snows that rose to the level of its banks, probably sixteen feet, and rendered the river bed indistinguishable from the country on either side. This incumbent heap of snow was not a mere wreath or trail arch, but so closely packed that a farmer is said to have driven a loaded wagon across the natural bridge. Many persons certainly crossed it on foot.

The snow fall did not present a less remarkable aspect in the matter of intensity. It not only swallowed up and destroyed all landmarks, but drew before the places where they had been so thick a veil that the keenest eye could not have distinguished them at a rod's distance. At Scandinavia the night was no darker than the day. For the two days that the storm raged the stormbound residents could not see the hitching-posts or garden fences which were only twelve feet from the windows. Strong men who were visiting who were visiting or who had gone to the post-office failed to distinguish the way home and were forced to remain where the storm found them till its fury was assuaged, thus adding intolerably to the anguish of their families, who feared them buried under the mountainous drifts. Residents round the public square could not, between the blinding drifts and the violent wind, reach the cistern in its midst, though the distance was less than twenty rods, and so were forced to melt snow for water. At Hastings people were forced to take refuge in their cellars and burrow there like rats, for the snow drifted in through the walls of the houses and formed piles round every article of furniture. At Grand Island, when the chimneys became choked with snow so that fires were impossible, whole families went to bed in their clothing and remained there for two or three days, without fuel, food or water. At Gibbon twenty-five men, most of whom had gone thither to open a lodge of Odd Fellows, were cooped up in a small house from Sunday afternoon to Wednesday noon, unable to even open the door. At Lone Tree, a man named Burton, who had gone to the woodshed to bring in some fuel for his family, found it impossible to return, and had to remain there from Monday morning till Tuesday night. At Kearney another man passed forty hours in a wooden privy in a backyard, to which he had wandered, thinking all the while that he was on the roadway. At Belleville a German named Koch is said to have groped his way from his house to the yard for wood, but to have been overpowered by the snow and wind and never to have returned. His wife, rendered desperate by his absence, at last ventured out to seek him, but lost her way, and, fortunately, brought up at the stable, where she remained from Tuesday morning till the same night, her two children, one three and the other nine, being left in the house all alone.

The brute creation suffered terribly. those that were corralled or out on the plains were suffocated by the snow; those that were in stables went mad with famine and thirst. Even the wild birds, to whom the storm is a parent and a playmate, were overpowered. At Wood River prairie hens were found under the snow so benumbed that they could neither fly nor run, and giving no tokens of life when men took them up and handled them save by the pulsation of their scared hearts and the upward glance of their inquiring eyes. At Grand Island they were picked up by dozens, dead, little lumps of ice and tousled feathers. At Stevenson the residents found birds that had broken their necks and wings against the houses and barns in the blind terror of their aimless flight, flung by the hurricane like stones from a sling. At Lone Tree almost every hog in a blockaded cattle train were lost. The weakest were trodden under foot and rent by the stronger. Many more were suffocated.

The loss of stock on the plains must be immense; probably a half of the unsheltered cattle have been suffocated or drowned. Some herds stampeded in the panic caused by the first gale; their members were scattered over the plains; some tumbled into ravines and broke their necks or legs, being killed outright or disabled to linger till they died of hunger or suffocation; others blundered into rivers and were drowned; others roamed about till they were exhausted and panting and sobbing, to be covered ten feet deep by snow before they died for lack of air. "At Gibbon, one man lost twenty head of fat cattle by drowning; another lost 200 head, of which only two were recovered." "At Lone Tree several hundred head are missing." "At Grand Island hardly a head is saved." "At Lincoln one man has lost seventy-five horses." So the reports come in from all points, indicating a loss of stock that will go up into scores if not hundreds of thousands of animals. "By George, sir," affirmed one dealer, "when this snow melts away, next August or thereabouts, Nebraska and Kansas will look like the vacant lot covered with broken chairs — the stiff legs of the dead steers 'll be so thick."

Many domestic animals were crushed to death by falling barns, which gave way under the weight of snow, or before the fury of the wind; some were suffocated in the snow; some died of hunger and thirst. But this loss and suffering of the brute creation become as nothing beside the sacrifice of life which this hurricane has been attended. Even now we can, make no accurate estimate of the number of lives lost. Along the railroad lines it has been considerable. It will be another month ere full reports can reach us.

Among the fatal accidents reported, the most terrible was one which occurred at Belleville, in Republic county, 100 miles west of Atchison. a prairie fire swept over the country on Saturday, the day preceding the storm, destroying many buildings, and a great deal of grain. Among the dwellings burned was that of a Mr. Crane. He was absent at Atchison, but his wife and four children were in the house. They escaped with their lives and the clothes they wore and took refuge with a neighbor named Burnett. Next day, from a sea of fire the land was a dessert of snow. The two families sought refuge in the cellar, fearing lest the house should be carried away. the storm drove in the solid stone gable as a man might drive in the side of a pasteboard box with his fist. the structure stumbled into the cellar, Mrs. Burnett being very badly crushed. On Monday morning his husband ventured out for assistance. Ere he returned the floors, bending beneath the incumbent weight of tons of snow, fell in as a dead fall-trap tumbles on the prey. Mrs. Burnett and her three children were killed instantly; so were Mrs. Crane and two of her little ones. Two others of the four survived, though terribly mangled, but one died a few minutes after he had been extricated. Of the ten inmates only one little girl survived. The child said, amid her sobs, "We were ally crying together, and then the house tumbled so (clapping her little hands); and that was all."

At Belleville several other buildings were wrecked by the storm, though no other lives were lost. At Gibbon a snowdrift forty feet high is the cenotaph which marks were a house once was inhabited by a newly-married couple, till the wind in a moment made a ruin of the house and corpses of the bride and groom. At Scandinavia a flour-mill, 60 by 40 was moved bodily about four feet from its foundations and tilted all askew. It looks like a stiff hat knocked all aslant by violent contact with a beam. Near by a stone stable was blown down, the roof being carried across the yard and flung upon a carriage-house. At Grand Island the wind blew the windows in one gable of a frame house, and lifted off the roof as if by the explosion of a barrel of gunpowder, though not a pane of glass in the sides of the house was cracked.

Among the many cases of death reported some are of a peculiarly harrowing or extraordinary character. At Cawker four bodies were found, one in front of a house, and so near the fence that the gate, when opened, smote against his corpse. At Lone Tree a servant in a tavern that went into the yard for wood, groped his way into the road, and died. Those who went out to seek him in a lull of the storm stumbled over a body within forty yards of the house. It was not that of the boy they sought but of a trapper, whose woodcraft had not availed to guide him a few steps further to safety. At Hastings a farmer named Marshall went to feed his cattle. The barn was about 200 feet from the home, directly in the rear, but the snow was over the fences, and he wandered to one side and was suffocated. At Grand Island two men were lost in a drift, about thirty feet apart. At Red Cloud Mrs. Bent and her child tried to grope their was to the next house, the wind and snow having rendered their own untenable. Five days after the two bodies were found in the road less than fifty yards from the refuge they sought. The child had given way first, and the mother died beside it. Near Tehama they found an unknown man with a dog keeping watch over the dead body. At Grafton Mr. Keeler, his wife and child tried to reach a neighbor's house. They struggled on — it was only half a mile — the feebler ones tired and sat down to rest, "it felt so warm." Only a minute, they said. A childless widower strove desperately through the drifts and reached the house, leaving all who bore his name buried in the highway. At Chapman's a woman is said to have left her two children in the house while she went for wood, and never to have returned. The children only know that she "went out there," and they "waited and cried so long and so hard."

So by every mail, from every quarter comes the death roll. It is natural that in the first excitement and confusion that there should be exaggerations and duplications, and that some of the alleged dead should prove to be still alive. Hopes are entertained that many of those known to be out when the storm set in will yet turn up, and that many of the missing are safe. It is cruel to dissipate such hopes, but they rest on only a slight warranty. The snow fall was so heavy, and the storm lasted so long, that there is no probability that any [two words not legible] the tempest descended escaped. When the list of dead is completed within the circuit of the storm, it will be found that several hundreds of lives have been lost. Ere that list, however, is made up all interest in the matter will have been lost. Life is cheap on the frontier, and existence busy. All are new comers, whom few have known long enough to miss much and mourn deeply. In the rush of immigration and settlement, the few dead will be forgotten. In the rapid development of the country the "great storm of 1873" will soon become a thing of the past — as remote and vague as the "great storm of 1856" of which we all hear so much and remember so little. Still many a babe that is unborn shall rue the dawning of that April day of snow.

April 29, 1873. The snow hurricane. Thrilling account of the storm in Nebraska. New York World 13(1319): 1.

Blackbirds as an Article of Food at Philadelphia

From the Philadelphia News.

There is a large trade in this city in blackbirds. Some years ago, when it first began, very few birds were sold; but the restaurants and private families found out that the birds could be made tender and palatable by par-boiling them and then baking them in a pie, and now dozens of bunches of blackbirds, twelve in a bunch, are sold at the very best game depots. The trade continues from April, when the birds come back from the south, until early October, when they leave this latitude; and all the season through there is one unvarying price demanded for this sort of game — viz.: Twenty-five cents per "bunch" of twelve birds.

The birds are shot by farmers' boys and other sportsmen within a radius of twenty miles from Philadelphia. As the birds fly to their feeding grounds in the morning and back to their "roosts" in the woods at sundown, and their line is straight, the gunners can fire volleys into their fluttering flocks whenever they come within range while crossing the country. At early morning and an hour or two before the sun sets the swamp and crow-blackbirds, two very different species, seem less wary and feed in the plow-furrows in the field or along the banks of creeks and rivers, where worms and fresh-water shellfish abound, and then the volleys of No. 6 shot decimate their sable ranks.

Theoretically, there is no reason why the flesh of blackbirds should not be used for food. They feed on cherries, currants, fruit, grain and worms, just as reed-birds, doves, wild pigeons, and plenty of other palatable game birds do. Blackbirds don't eat carrion, and, although they are polygamous, don't mate, and lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. They are not otherwise different from other species. They are noisy, cheeky and great pests of farmers who have cherry orchards or graperies, and those who know blackbirds best will set it down as an invariable rule that if they can steal ripe cherries they will not touch any other kind of food.

No country people eat blackbirds any more than they eat crows. They look upon both warblers with about the same sort of feelings. There is a tradition in the neighboring counties that blackbirds eat carrion, but it is not true, though their flesh is rank enough before being parboiled. A blackbird roost, that is, a place where hundreds or thousands of the stable-feathered pests flock and scream at night, is regarded by the tillers of the soil as a local misfortune, and it often happens that a dozen farmers, with their sons and hired hands, all armed with guns, will lie in ambush evening after evening, for several days, in order to shoot the birds as they fly in, in small black clouds at night, to a harboring place of this sort.

May 15, 1886. Blackbirds as an article of food. Washington D.C. Evening Star 68(10307): 2.

14 April 2014

Ranch Map Graphics Win Nebraska Award

Graphic ranch maps prepared for stories issued by the Grant County News, Hyannis, have won the first place award presented by the Nebraska Press Association. The category was "Use of Computer Graphics - Produced in House" by a "Class A Weekly." This award was based upon recognition in a statewide contest, involving numerous state newspapers."

These are some examples of the ranch maps prepared for the article, based upon at atlas of the indicated year. They were originally issued in black-and-white. The land indicated was all in Cherry county.

Davis OLO Ranch.

Dumbell Land and Cattle Company.

Fawn Lake Ranch Company.

Historic Hanna Lake and Cattle Company.

Historic Metzger Ranch.

All map graphics Copyright 2012 James E. Ducey. All rights reserved Maps may not be reproduced in any manner without written permission.