31 August 2009

Festival Celebrates Tallgrass Prairie of Nebraska

The second annual Prairie Festival sponsored by the Audubon Society of Omaha was held at their prairie preserve on Sunday, August 30th.

Well attended, several hikes were taken, led by ASO members describing different features of the ca. 13-acre prairie located north of Omaha. A new, large metal sign identifying the property had been installed in time for the festival.

During one of the hikes, Glenn Pollock talked about prairies and their natural values. Eleven people participated. One important topic was the value of grasslands in capturing and storing carbon underground. He indicated that newly established grasslands were especially beneficial in sequestering carbon. Tidbits on the natural history of different plants was also a prominent part of this activity.

Participants in the "talk on prairies" hike led by Glenn Pollock, in the green cap in the center of the group. Note on the right side of the view, on the opposite side of the fence, the extensive lawn mown by the neighbor. What a contrast in habitat for flora and fauna.

Participants in the bird hike, led by Clem Klaphake, with the beard on the left side of the group.

Pollock has been involved for many years in the management of the ASO prairie preserve. Burning is the predominant tool used, but there has also been some removal of invasive cedar trees along the border fence. The extent of the grass habitat has been increased by establishing typical prairie plants via seeding of formed crop land.

Pollock would like to introduce pocket gophers and ground squirrels to help increase the prairie diversity.

Clem Klaphake led the first bird hike. Although the extent of birds was limited in the prairie due to the late time of the season, many of the species were associated with the woody habitat around the grassland.

There were about 16 species of birds noted.

Typical breeding season residents are the Dickcissel and Common Yellowthroat, Klaphake said. In the two years he has been keeping track of the area birds, he has compiled a list of about 45 species.

The Audubon group has owned this relict-prairie for about 11-12 years, Pollock said, and the tract also includes a couple of acres of property owned by the adjacent landowner, which are also managed to provide grassland habitat.

Canada Goldenrod among the prairie grasses, with soldier beetles doing their thing.

A seedy head of indian-grass against an August sky.

It was a beautiful day to be among the tall grass and other flora of this protected bit of native prairie. The cookies were tasty and the lemonade especially refreshing under cerulean skies with mingling puffy clouds.

27 August 2009

Martin Houses Prominent News in Past Decades at Omaha

Purple Martins antics and activities have been significantly noted in feature stories since about nine decades ago in Omaha, along the Missouri River in eastern Nebraska. Stories reported varied in the local newspapers, including the Omaha Bee and Omaha World-Herald, but these special bits of history convey how this species has been a part of the river city's history decades beyond any former personal recollection or interest.

[Belle Ryan and martin apartment house]

Faithful Summertime Tenants Are These Families of Martins.

In July 1918, a contributor to the Bee, Ruth B. Whitney, conveyed how Miss Belle Ryan was the sole proprietor and manager of an apartment house with eight separate compartments, with '"seldom a vacancy" during the summer. The place she provided was a "way-up" affair. Friends and relatives of the feathered tribe moved in if the former residents did not partake of a vacancy, upon returning from their winter residence down south beyond the equator.

Tenants returned to Omaha, and took residence on the "apartment house." It was "a frame structure, securely fastened to the sill of a window" for an office in the fifth floor of city hall.

"'I consider it a great honor to have these birds make their home in my bird house,'" said Mrs. Ryan. "'They are very particular as to where they locate their homes, though I do not know just what are the requisites. A friend of mine place a martin house on her lawn, with trees and fountain near it, and everything else a bird could want, and introduced a martin family into it, but they refused to stay, yet here they remain year after year in this alley."

Young were raised at this martin house, and the birds' habit of eating bugs was noted in Whitney's article, and conveyed as a means of paying rent for their domicile.

"In payment for their apartments the martins furnish not only amusement but floods of beautiful and cheerful song. They have voices much like pleasant laughter, and their mellow notes may be heard at almost any time of day, echoing between the gray walls of city hall and Bee building."

The activities of the martins were appreciated by a number of people, according to the newspaper story.

"Many of the bird lovers of Omaha visit Miss Ryan's office and sit for hours near the windows watching the comedies and tragedies of bird life that are played out before them. The martins do not mind these visitors at all, but go on with their home keeping and baby raising affairs as calmly as if no one were present."

Dad and Mrs. Martin and Their Family Life.
Bird Happiness and Domesticity as Seen From the Fontenelle Window.
Beautiful Specimen of the Swallow Family in Douglas Street Domain.

These titles were from an article by Sandy Griswold. He described the birds and their antics in another of his Sunday columns. The following is a bit of what he mentioned in his writings as an Omaha sporting news man:

"Monday last, in the golden glow of eventide, I watched, from my window high up in the Fontenelle, a pair of purple martins giving their four awkward, half clothed little fledglings, their first instructions in the art of aerial navigation. They had all alighted, papa, momma and the four kiddies, on the topmost railing of the iron sign on the roof of the Strand picture theater. It was evidently their first time abroad, and while we did not know where they came from, we knew that it must have been from the martinry up under the northern eaves of the City Hall, where a colony of martins have spent the summer, with the exception of one year, ever since the erection of this stately old castle, for I have kept note of them with unremitting care every season."

The article continued, written in the distinctive manned of a sports writer unsurpassed for his use of words and means of presenting details in vivid prose enjoyed by a myriad of appreciative paper readers.

"Again the male bird sailed out into the open and as he swept in graceful curves around and over his timorous flock, they all set up a petulant clamor, and finally the old male suddenly dove and flicked the tip of his burnished wings in the very face of one of the babies, it tilted awkwardly forward, settled back, tilted again, and then launched its little form into space. Old daddy Martin saw it, and was quickly by its side, and so, did the mother, too, from the Brandeis roof, and while she also took to wing, she wisely left the pilotage to her liege lord. Down he curved, light as a zephyr, over the street, gamely followed by the youngster, down to within a few yards of the pavement itself. But this was too venturesome for the little one. He was too near the black asphaltum roadway, and the hurrying automobiles and pedestrians. The glare and blare and general movement disconcerted him, and appreciating his embarrassment the mother darted to his rescue. She checked him up short, and as he turned to rise, she mounted quickly above him and chirruped him up higher where he could see better and have more room.
"For quite a long time they sat there, looking down over the dizzy cornice to the animated thoroughfare below, finding the great nestling street, and the passing pedestrians and vehicles, and the glinting of the first lit electrics on the pavement, and the luminous facade of the theater and the new athletic club edifice, marvelously enthralling, if one could judge from their attitude and incessant little seepings of confidence and content. Suddenly, as by some intangible magician's wand, they were gone, and I felt it was up to their rookery under the eaves of the city hall, for it was time to go to bed."

The entirety of Griswold's writing about the martins, is, in this instance, readily available for perusal.

What is the Bird-Truth.

Miles Greenleaf, a relative newcomer on the scene as a writer about natural history found the martins were an interesting aspect for a story. When he wrote a bird editorial in June 1923, the basic premise was:

"As for the Purple Martins, we would fain belief that education has had something to do with their increasing numbers in and about Omaha. Up until a few years ago, Martin houses were very rare in Omaha, but now there are many of them, reared on their tall poles in folks' backyards. The martins apparently appreciate this service, and there are now hundreds of families resident here, where there used to be but three or four.

If there is a bigger or better bird house than this martin mansion, Mrs. W.F. White, 3617 Nebraska avenue, would like to be told about it. Her husband and a friend built it for her last winter.

"Such strange visitations and deprivations make the study of our birds tremendously interesting - to you!" Greenleaf said, using a writing style meant to illicit the interest of the readers and get them to personally relate to the birdly details, while using typographic emphasis to convey importance to his words.

Bird Inn - 112 Rooms, and It's Insured

A wife's request provided a prominent home for martins ready for their spring arrival in 1932 on Nebraska Avenue.

Starting in the autumn of 1931, F.W. White, superintendent of the Tenth Street postoffice, and "muscle man" Joe P. Thompson, a lodger in the White home, constructed a "gigantic martin house whose new copper roof glistens so that it may be seen for miles around. It is a veritable lighthouse."

The house was christened "Martins' Retreat."

"This martin residence has 112 rooms all ventilated and insulated against lightning. From each room leads smaller wires connecting with the main ground wire which runs deep down the telephone pole upon which the house is perched.
"'There isn't a nail in that house either,' said Mr. White proudly when the structure was finally anchored. 'Not a nail in it - but more than 2,000 screws, and it's made of selected white pine all through, with exception of copper roof and facings.'
"The house was built in seven sections on floors, and then assembled. Thompson, a plumber, made the copper roof and weather vane, and did all the metal work.
"Mrs. White insured the house for $400 against wind damage, for it weighs 650 pounds."

In addition to the martin house, more than 20 wren and bluebird houses were constructed.

Separate Apartments for the Martins
But Charlie and Florence of the City Hall Tribe, Don't Let Modern Ways Interfere with Rearing of Family.

Here are "Charlie" and "Florence" of the city hall martins, at the respective doors of their respective suites.

An unusual "apartment" was noted downtown in June, 1933. "Charlie" and "Florence" had separate "suites" in the brick facade of city hall.

"This unique bird home was established when some careless workman left out a couple of bricks in the alley wall of the hotel de ville. There is no communication between the two 'rooms,' and scarcely enough space to enable the two martins to turn around without going overboard.
"Yet 'Charlie' and 'Florence' seem to be very happy in their abbreviated semi-isolated marital apartments, and in the inner recesses of one of the rooms there seems to be an offspring, judging from the amount of food that is lugged."

The story continued with interesting details of other martins using a nearby house.

"These two martins are probably part of the famous colony that has been living in a bird-house outside the school superintendent's offices on the sixth floor for years on end. This martin house has become too small for the increasing colony - hence the private little 'penthouse' on the alley."

The famous duo were said to go out for breakfast at 8:30 o'clock, luncheon at 11 o'clock and "have an early dinner about 4 p.m."

"Tuesday, during their absence, a squab - a young mongrel pigeon - blundered into 'Florence's' bedroom - and then was there a how-de-do! 'Charlie' raised the birdland cry of 'Hey, Rube!' and in a jiffy all the city hall martins were at the rescue work. The racket was fierce and the poor squab was finally tumbled out of his soft spot. He tried to climb the side of the city hall like King Kong, but the martin tribe beat him off."

Prize-Winning Bird House

First prize bird house, built by Jack Moy, Y.M.C.A. It tilts up as shown for cleaning.

When the Omaha Bee announced the winner of their contest for the best bird-house in spring 1936, the winner was a teen. "After several hours of deliberation," judges announced 15 cash winners. "The judges admittedly showed a marked preference for the 'rustic' rather than 'ornamental' types."

Jack Moy won the $25 first prize for a "martin house built in the Y manual training shop," where he lived.

"Simply, but strongly constructed, the judges pointed out it has a vacuum space between each compartment, air vents on all sides and in the cupola, drain grooves and a hinge top to permit easy cleaning."

Omaha's Martin Legacy

These interesting bits convey some of the first known history for purple martins in urbane Omaha.

The legacy of these birds in the city has reborn with the discovery of the magnificent roost present in midtown, first found in 2008 and now still occurring in just a few trees they prefer for their own known reasons, in the urban landscape amidst buildings in a completely city scene.

25 August 2009

Severe July Weather Reduces Tern and Plover Success on MNRR

A severe weather event on July 8, 2009 had a significant detrimental impact on breeding Least Tern and Piping Plover, as the storm went eastward down the Missouri National Recreation River in northeast Nebraska.

"The storm hit some of our constructed sandbars pretty hard," said Greg Pavelka, a wildlife biologist with the Army Corps of Engineers, and program manager for their tern and plover effort.

The constructed sandbars were recently created below Gavins Point dam, and provide essential breeding habitat for the tern - an endangered species - and the plover - a threatened species.

"Three of our five major sandbars saw substantial reductions in the number of chicks counted by our survey crew before and after July 8," Pavelka said. The following differences at several sandbars are based on the findings of regular surveys throughout the breeding season:

* River Mile (RM) - 791.5 the number of chicks went from 37 to 7
* RM 775.0 - from 41 to 22
* RM 774.0 - from 88 to 30.
* RM 795.5 - there was a small decrease from 55 to 48 and
* RM 777.7 - was an increase in chicks from 38 to 45 before and after July 8.

"Weather was also the leading cause of nest losses for both species below Gavins Point with 29 of 67 plover nests that failed being due to weather and 15 of 25 tern nest losses."

Archived weather reports for the severe weather indicate the extent of winds and size of hail for reporting stations in the immediate vicinity of the river.

Details from the interactive Local Storm Report Viewer, provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration give particulars. Information given here is:

Location from Nearest Locality, County, State ~ Latitude-Longitude; Weather event (Reporting station)
* 1 SE ST. HELENA, CEDAR, NE ~ 4280 – 9724; 40 TO 50 MPH WINDS ALSO. (OAX)
* N MASKELL, DIXON, NE  ~ 4269 – 9698; QUARTER TO HALF DOLLAR SIZE HAIL STRIPPING LEAVES FROM TREES. (FSD)
* WYNOT, CEDAR, NE ~ 4274 - 9717 CROPS; DAMAGED IN THE WYNOT AREA DUE TO HAIL AND WIND. TIME ESTIMATED. (OAX)

Further reports, provide additional weather details for the July 8th storm, with reports from several different times, as archived by the Iowa Environmental Mesonet, provided by the Iowa State University Department of Agronomy.

Location, County, State – weather event and notes
* Cedar, St. Helena, NE - TSTM WND DMG, extensive crop damage due to winds and hail from St. Helena to Wynot to Obert.
* Cedar, 1 Se St. Helena, NE – HAIL, 1.75, 40 to 50 mph winds also.
* Cedar, Wynot, NE - TSTM WND DMG, crops damaged in the Wynot area due to hail and wind. Time estimated.
* Cedar, Wynot, NE – HAIL  1.75
* Knox, Crofton,NE – HAIL  1
* 13:05 GMT: Cedar, Hartington, NE - TSTM WND GST 62, according to local cable tv weather instrument ... time estimated.  Rainfall of 2.16 inches also.
* 13:13: Cedar, Hartington, NE – HAIL, 0.88
* 14:00 Cedar, Wynot, NE - HEAVY RAIN 3.55, storm total through 9 am ... water reported over county roads near town.

Severe weather reports from the Omaha office of the National Weather Service.

Severe weather reports from the Sioux Falls office of the National Weather Service.

Radar view of the severe weather on July 9, 2009. Image from the Sioux Falls office of the National Weather Service.

"Despite the losses, it was not a catastrophic year below Gavins Point," Pavelka said. "Productivity was close to the goals set forth in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's biological opinion for the Missouri River. The Service set a fledge ratio goal of 1.22 fledglings per adult pair for the plovers and 0.94 for the terns. Below Gavins Point the fledge ratio in 2009 was 1.09 for the plovers and 0.95 for the terns. In 2009 below Gavins Point there were 239 plover adults, 130 plover fledglings, 220 tern adults and 105 tern fledglings."

Nests of the Piping Plover and Least Tern on the upper Missouri River. Information courtesy of the Missouri River Recovery Least Tern and Piping Plover Data Management System, maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Piping Plover 2009
SegmentTotal NestsSuccessful Nests
Fort Peck Reservoir61
Fort Peck River00
Lake Sakakawea7511
Garrison River16684
Lake Oahe 96 28
Lake Francis Case00
Fort Randall River105
Lewis and Clark Lake8055
Gavins Point River17088
Region Subtotals
Missouri River603272
Interior Least Tern 2009
Fort Peck Reservoir 00
Fort Peck River3324
Lake Sakakawea2211
Garrison River8843
Lake Oahe7539
Lake Francis Case 10
Fort Randall River 135
Lewis and Clark Lake 15993
Gavins Point River 12393
Region Subtotals
Missouri River514308

The overall impact of the severe storm event depends on the scale being considered, Pavelka said.

"For the 59 mile section of the Missouri River from Gavins Point Dam to the channelized river, no matter how spread out the habitat is along this section, a major storm will wreak havoc on the nesting birds. In the context of the entire Missouri River, least terns nest on parts of the Missouri below Fort Peck Dam in Montana, Garrison Dam in North Dakota and Fort Randall Dam in South Dakota and the terns nest on major tributaries such as the Platte and Niobrara Rivers in Nebraska. The plovers likewise nest along the same sites and also utilize beaches on Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe. If you look at a region wide basis, the least terns nest on the lower Mississippi, Red, Arkansas Rivers and their tributaries. The piping plovers also use the alkali lakes of North Dakota and Montana and habitat in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Obviously the greater the range the less vulnerable a species is to weather events.

"Both species also have strategies to counter losses due to weather events and predation. Both will re-nest early in the breeding season if they lose a nest or a young brood. Also, both are considered ‘boom and bust’ species whereby they can make up for a year of low productivity with high productivity in the following year. Of course, too many bad years and too few good years can cause a species to spiral down towards extinction.

"Where the birds nest below Gavins Point Dam is highly modified, both in the lack of habitat and the lack of a natural process (spring flooding from snowpack runoff) to restore habitat," Pavelka said in an email. "The Corps' solution to artificially construct habitat has provided nesting and brooding areas for the two species. However, the birds' preference for this constructed habitat has lead to a concentration of adults, nests and chicks that leave them vulnerable to weather events, predation and density dependency issues among the birds. It also has caused the birds to not use habitat that is marginal, but has been used in the past before the constructed sandbars were built. The solution would be to continue to construct sandbars and to rehabilitate existing sandbars that have become marginalized."

24 August 2009

Outdoor Enthusiasts Appreciate Lancaster County Saline Wetlands

A languid day of late summer presented a fine time to get out and about to visit a variety of those especial saline wetland places of northern Lancaster county, about Lincoln.

Birds were naturally about, silent in their ways, ignorant about foreign visitors, as they foraged and continued their blatant daily routine of birdly existence.

Landscape view of the Little Salt Creek environs, as seen from Little Salt Fork preserve. The north side of the fence is the Hermone Tract.

Each wetland place visited gave a different presentation for this particular time of the season.

The first of the morning showed fog along northerly Little Salt Creek along north 27th Street, especially at the renowned Arbor Lake. Further to the northwest, beyond the pale light of the rising sun, dew adorned the plants and made for wet conditions during a walk about at the forks of the creek.

In their aerial realm, birds were subtle and contrite. Just a few of them proclaimed their usual song of the early breeding season. Instead, subtle calls or chirps revealed the relevant place for a species. Blue Jays were readily raucous over in the sparse woods where resident had homes and other buildings. The dickcissels chirped from atop a heighty bit of a plant. Further up the small creek at the marsh preserve, a pond was a haven for a bunch of ducks that were not going anywhere else. Saline marshness was appreciated by some shorebirds, with the yellowlegs readily loud, while some sandpipers cared only about finding a nourishing tidbit.

Cattle being used to graze the lowlands and grassy lands on the hills, cared about nothing other than munching on a bit or green finely suited for chewing.

August is a quiet season for birds as the nesting season continues to wane. A closer look was needed to determine there were wrens. Killdeer were so obvious - an exception to any subtlety as they loudly expressed the presence of a human intruder. A family of kingbirds were bunched about on a tree they certainly appreciated.

In the early hours after a dynamic dawn, the hiking was through moist, hindering bunchings of plants, expressed as drenched jeans to see and survey the birds of the day. Places visited in the morning were up there on Little Salt Creek. Proper names included the Little Salt WMA and the Little Salt Fork Marsh Preserve. Driving during the day meant visits to the Lincoln Saline Wetland Nature Center where a couple bicycling were taking advantage of the fine conditions, and onward to Oak Lake Park, for a brief visit where miscreant kids were harassing the geese, as their uncaring mother ignored the situation.

Mark Vanek and his kids after their hike about Frank Shoemaker Marsh.

There was an early afternoon interlude indoors, to avoid the blaze of the midday sun. After a time, as the day waned, the outside time continued. First with a scan from the fast-food parking lot west of the Whitehead Saline Wetland, and then northward to the wonderful scene at Frank Shoemaker Marsh.

A family had been enjoying what they had seen. Mark Vanek, a Lincoln resident, and his youngsters had enjoyed a time at a place they learned about in 2008 when the place was among the sites included on the Safari Lincoln event. Shoemaker Marsh is now "one of their favorite spots," they agreed after the visit on Saturday afternoon. Each of them appreciated something different:

Mark: "getting out with the kinds on a beautiful day";
Emily: a "new trail overgrown and fun to explore where it went";
Ryan: "a digger wasp"; and
Nick "loved the walk and the yellow rock."

Each of the kids had a walking stick for the family hike around nature's scene. The marsh was a place to get the kids "curious about nature," Mark Vanek said.

A bit of time later, as the day was drawing to a close, there were five vehicles in the Shoemaker marsh parking lot ... it seemed as if there was a party. The explanation was images were being captured for promotional purposes for a Lincoln photographic business, according to a person waiting at a van, with the remainder of the bunch were out and about along the trail to the overlook platform perched above listless Little Salt Creek.

Shorebird habitat along north Little Salt Creek. The sandpipers can be seen in the background.

There were a number of species noted during the hours afield. The tally for the day? Consider that there were to a varying extent, the: Canada Goose, Blue-winged Teal, Ring-necked Pheasant, Northern Bobwhite, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Mourning Dove, Common Nighthawk, Red-headed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Kingbird, Blue Jay, Barn Swallow, House Wren, Sedge Wren, Marsh Wren, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Dickcissel, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird and the American Goldfinch. Those troublesome sparrows of late summer were probably present, but not seen in an obvious manner conducive to viewing well enough to identify.

This is a tally of more than 30 species, each ignoring any census, but essentially attentive to their day's routine of survival.

In a presentation of subtlety, these birds of the day did convey a presence to appreciate by some looked giving attention to the natural features of saline wetlands and what species find these habitats are a haven. The glory of the flora was colorful and expressive, set against the clear cerulean skies so bold.

On the bare relics of truly saline flats, diminutive beetles were still active, yet hardly noticed, expressing in a sublime yet essential way, the reason for these places having been bought and managed for their nature.

Black Swallowtail on a thistle at Little Salt WMA.

Showy Snow-on-Mountain, also at Little Salt WMA.

During this Saturday at the saline wetlands, nature continued its fundamental ways ignorant of it being some day of the week or a date on the calendar, but there were a number of visitors that appreciated the fine weather for them to enjoy and appreciate being outdoors at the prairie and wetlands that endure.

20 August 2009

Worldwide Events Planned for International Vulture Awareness Day

An international effort in recognition of the diversity of vultures around the world and their natural history is being held on September 5th.

International Vulture Awareness Day aims to create greater awareness of vultures, highlight the important efforts underway by the world’s vulture conservationists, and to illustrate the plight of some species.

The event is being sponsored by the Birds of Prey Working Group of EWT in South Africa and the Hawk Conservancy Trust in England.

Organizations in Africa, Europe, the Americas and South-Asia are celebrating this day with a variety of events. "The aim is for each participating organisation to carry out their own activities that highlight vulture conservation and awareness," according to the website for the event.

For Johan van Rensburg, of South Africa, an "Awareness Day for vultures is long overdue," he said. "Personally I think specifically the South African bearded vultures are doomed to become regionally extinct! With 92 known breeding pairs and well less than 400 birds in the country and the battle I have had as someone deeply interested in the plight of these birds to get information about the event at this late stage

"I am trying to get contact information of active vulture restaurants in South Africa. The idea is to join the effort to identify and count vultures (and other raptors) feeding at a local restaurant as proposed between 6 A.M. and 2 P.M. on the 5 September 2009," he wrote in a posting on the South Africa bird forum. "I know of a number of lesser connected birders who would love to get involved. It could be a great fun day out during which lots can be learnt from the more expert observers that should be present at these sites.

"Unfortunately these procedings have been largely low-key whereas, in my opinion, it should be very high on die general birding agenda in order to achieve the objective of raising awareness of the plight of these magnificent birds.

"Since making the posting, I have had a number of emails with suggestions and directions on how to join the day's events in various centers around the country. Maybe the people concerned will crawl out of the woodwork after this reminder?"

Examples of other events of the day include:

Bird Explorers of Thailand
"We will feature a vulture section on our blog with photos of Asian and African vultures from our Bird Explorers photographic library. If anyone needs Asia vulture photos, we are happy to share."
Dhartee Development Society, of Pakistan
"To organise exposure visit by journalists to observe the feeding center set up by DDS at desert zone outside Nagar Parkar Town of Tharparkar District, Sindh province of Pakistan, which is located near the Pakistan -Indian border. Wildlife conservationists and local community activists will also be invited to express solidarity with the world conservationists to save the prey bird, which is under threats."
Nature College of India
"Awareness campaign and talk"

The extent of activities varies, with a list of participants and their efforts is available on the IVAD website.

As part of event activities, there will be a "blog festival" on September 5.

"IVAD09 invites you to blog about vultures. Write, film, draw or photograph Old or New World vultures and share your post with the world."


IVAD09 - the Kempenfeldt Farm Experience

Johan van Rensburg prepared a wonderful web-post on the events of the day in South Africa. He presents a story about the day and some pictures of vultures at the bird-hide at the farm.

19 August 2009

Partnerships Continue to Complete Habitat Projects Along the Missouri River

Cooperative partnerships continue to create a variety of habitat beneficial for fish and wildlife along the Missouri River in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa.

Project results were dramatically evident during a look at projects at Middle Decatur Chute and Bullard Bend where wetland and shallow water habitat has been created from what had been upland habitat just a few months ago.

Middle Decatur Bend, southeast of Decatur, Burt County in Nebraska

This just completed project - designed to primarily benefit river fish - was carried out by the Nebraska office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Omaha District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE), and Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District (NRD). Additional funding was provided by the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

Officials at the project site.

View of the completed chute.

This project entailed the following, according to the NRCS: "The NRD purchased a 200' wide strip of land along the river where the COE conducted revetment lowering in an attempt to regain additional channel meandering by sloughing the slopes through normal river flow action. The NRCS obtained a perpetual easement – through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) - from the edge of this strip landward on an additional 98 acres. This is the area where the NRCS allowed the COE to construct the chute through a compatible use agreement. The new chute – a former river channel that had been filled with silt from a 1952 flood - is over one mile long and created an additional 20 plus acres of new aquatic habitat on the site. Activity allowed the old river channel to be reconnected to the river which will increase the use of the area by fisheries as well as aquatic, upland and threatened and endangered species. Water will be present for longer periods of time thus increasing the use of the area for shorebirds, migratory waterfowl and other wildlife species. Activity will increase the diversity of the site and improve the area creating biological/ecological benefits for both upland and wetland dependent species.

"In addition the NRD purchased 200' wide strips along the river downstream of this site from two other landowners and was donated another parcel from the Iowa DNR where additional bank sloughing was conducted by the COE along with another small chute that was constructed. In all approximately four river miles of bank had shallow water areas constructed adjacent to this site. The entire area encompasses about 900 acres of land under easement and fee title ownership that has been devoted entirely to wildlife habitat. Two other owners have WREP easements in this complex - one site being ca. 300 acres and the other being 118 acres. The remainder of the area is currently owned by the Papio Missouri River NRD."

Don Doty, Wetland Team Leader at the Syracuse NRCS Field Office, was especially pleased to see the completion of this project, as there had been about a dozen years of planning to get the project underway. The NRCS has been actively involved in projects along the Missouri River since 2004.

Western Contracting Corporation, of Sioux City, Iowa, did the dredging and site preparation work, which required removal of trees during the winter and early spring season, so no trees were removed from April 15 to July 15, to ensure compliance with provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The $1.3 million project was approved by ACE and NRCS officials at an on-site meeting and project review on August 14.

The chute will provide shallow water beneficial for the Pallid Sturgeon, according to Luke Wallace, a Corps' biologist. Other native fish including chubs, and the paddlefish are also expected to benefit. A sandy side-slope created on a newly created riverine island, may also provide nesting habitat for turtles, he said.

Bullard Bend, Harrison County in Iowa

Bullard Bend is a "cooperative project between the NRCS and the COE with funding from NRCS, COE and the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund in cooperation with the Papio-Missouri River NRD and The Nature Conservancy. The site under the WREP easement is 194 acres and the work consists of a backwater reconnection to the river that is approximately 5600' long and varies in width from 200 to 600 feet. There are several deeper areas of approximately 15' to help sustain the fishery throughout the year which also increases the potential use by threatened and endangered species due to water being present on the site for longer periods of time."

A dredge operating 24-hours-a-day since the first of April has been removing the sediment to create the backwater. Other heavy equipment is being used to move the earth to form the banks and create the setting detailed in project plans. The initial project effort was opening the river bank, done in October 2008. Big River Construction is the contractor for this project, planned to be completed by the end of September.

This tract is Iowa land on the western side of the river, and is accessible via land only from Nebraska because meanderings of the river mean the Iowa property is actually on the Nebraska side of the primary river channel, which is the obvious, though not legal boundary between the two states.

A project approval meeting is planned for later in August at the Tyson Bend Project, which is the third major project being completed this year in this section of the Missouri River.

"Cooperation among agencies is vital to get projects of this magnitude funded and completed," Doty said. "Each agency brings a different level of expertise to the table which is needed to get through all of the issues on sites and projects this large. Benefits from the projects influence the need of all agencies to reach some type of common goal in habitat restoration. But the real important link in all of this is the landowner. If the landowners were not involved the projects simply would not happen!"

Representative Late-summer Birds

During the day's outing along the river, notes were kept on the bird species present along the river. The 23 species noted - based on cursory observations - were: Canada Goose, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper (obviously benefiting from a bit of sandy habitat along the edge of the channel), Mourning Dove, Chimney Swift (most notably at Beck Memorial Park at Decatur), Belted Kingfisher, Red-headed Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Blue Jay, American Crow, Bank Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, Field Sparrow, Dickcissel, Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch, and House Sparrow.

This list presents just a glimpse of the variety of birds which occur during the summer along the Missouri River. The notes made during the day's foray were kept in order to document the occurrence of some species because of the lack of information available for these places. There is an obvious lack of knowledge of bird species distribution and occurrence at different mitigation sites and other public habitats along the middle Missouri River.

Biological Opinion Mandates Mitigation

These three projects - and many others - have been done to comply with the legal requirements of a biological opinion issued in 2004 that required that the Army Corps of Engineers mitigate for habitat losses incurred from the channelization of the formerly meandering Missouri River.

The Missouri River Mitigation Program has been underway for a number of years, and numerous projects have been completed to provide a variety of habitats conducive for fish, wildlife and other native critters.

Other project partners have included the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additional mitigation projects have also been completed in Missouri.

There will be a five-year evaluation of mitigation efforts conducted by the Omaha District in 2010, according to Michael Sandine, a natural resources specialist with the Corps. The evaluation will consider how efforts such as those at Middle Decatur Bend and Bullard Bend have achieved the acreage restoration goals stipulated in the biological opinion.

Martin Mecca Midtown a Maelstrom for Media

About a dozen people were present at the midtown Omaha martin roost to enjoy the flight of the birds on the evening of August 18, 2009. Included in the bunch, was a reporter and videographer with KETV news.

And most importantly, there were more than 20,000 martins. The birds arrived before 8 p.m., whereas the night before, they were not present until about 8:15. After swirling above the gathered watchers, the birds eventually began entering the trees and "jetting" in from the west as dusk settled upon the scene.

It was the usual grand show by the birds.

A view of the roost site - note the skywalk in the lower center where the banners and decals have been installed to deter bird strikes - as taken from the west, on Farnam Street.

Emergency helicopter passing over the roost site just before a large number of birds began to gather.

Dennis Devine welcoming two martin watchers, and he also provided them further information about the birds. These two watchers were obviously ready for the show, and brought along the chairs to do so in comfort.

Two of the three martineers on the scene, with Justin Rink getting some video of Dennis Devine.

The KETV videographer getting a close up of the Purple Martin Man, after his shirt - appropriately colored - had been "martinized" by a bird dropping. The umbrella was also hit twice. It was interesting to note that these were the only known instances of droppings hits from the birds. The purple umbrella had been purchased just for the occasion. In the background, the news station reporter is taking a picture with his cell phone.

A view of the aerial realm, showing some of the myriad of gathered martins.

The group of people watching the martin activity, and also chatting.

An Omaha fire department truck stopped for a few minutes to inquire about the birds. Tom, shown on the right, is a retired fire-fighter.

The martins had all roosted by about 8:40 p.m., and while the skies were empty, the trees were full and the sounds of the birds was loudly obvious. It was another fine time of martin watching at the Martin Mecca Midtown!

18 August 2009

Nominate Sandy Griswold for NPA Hall of Fame

The legacy of a sports writing is truly exemplified by newspaper man Sandy Griswold. He started writing when a teen of 15, and continued to hone his skills, scribing a number of thrilling and expansive dime novels while at New York City, then reporting sports at Toledo and Cincinnati.

On a editor's challenge he wrote the "first real baseball story ever printed in Omaha" which included a box score, being the first in the Midwest known to give this with a story about a game. He got the job as sporting editor, initiating a prolific sporting era in Omaha which lasted for him for more than four decades of writing about the myriad of sports at Omaha, the Missouri River valley and round and about Nebraska, first for the Omaha Bee and then for the Omaha World-Herald for a vivid period of time.

He wrote about the typical outdoor sports, as well as birds and other animals, flora of the seasons, and shooting sports on the sprawling, historic Platte River. His poetic prose evokes forlorn days during the four decades he visited the Sand Hills to shoot fowl. His renowned coverage included legendary bouts of boxing.

In May of 1898, Griswold moved to a desk at The World-Herald, as sporting editor, columnist and feature writer. Nearly each Sunday he had the "Forest, Field and Stream" column story, some with lengthy installments in several issues. There was usually also a feature story. He managed Questions Answered by the Oracle where reader submitted queries were submitted and published with a suitable answer. In later years his column was titled "Leaves from the Notebook of an Old Nature Student," the subjects changing through the years and illustrating a changing, personal view of the outdoors and its variety of denizens and thrills.

Have you ever read Sandy's Creed? After his tenure, a bird sanctuary was designated at the Omaha portion of Carter Lake, though this recognition has long been forgotten. Many prominent Omaha businessmen helped promote this effort.

Griswold's writing is wonderful poetic prose, rich with linguistic twists and having an expansive vocabulary to pique the reader's interest, and is a richly distinctive and profound presentation of Nebraskan history. He was still a grand outdoors writer at the paper while in his late-70s, with distinctive contributions until a few months before his death in April 1929. This legacy is still readily available for reading and appreciation on microfilm copies of state newspapers.

Many of his early bird stories - spanning three decades at least - have been transcribed and are available online at the Birds of Nebraska Project archive maintained by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Sandy's work deserve immediate recognition in the annals of newspaper history. Sandy Girard Veals Griswold should be nominated to the Nebraska Press Association hall of fame, and become a member, and the sooner the better as his work is unsurpassed.

Sandy Griswold should be nominated by his last employer, the Omaha World-Herald which presented decades of his writings, and his final efforts from a decade of dedication to providing stories readily enjoyed and which so many readers consistently looked forward to each week.

Sandy Griswold needs to be nominated for his tireless efforts to promote sports and then he should be resoundly voted into the Nebraska newspaper hall of fame!

Jocund Days of Sandy Griswold - A Premier Sports Writer

In a room above lower Broadway Street in New York city during 1874, Sandy Griswold wrote steadily with his pencil pushing across the paper, word after intent word. He started at 4 p.m and continued until 10:30 a.m. the following day to finish a 30,000 western story called Border Fugitives. It was sold for $100 and subsequently read by many enthusiasts of the genre.

The release of this dime novel of the "Wild West," was a distinctive and unique effort for a writing career started many years earlier, and which went westward to eventually become a distinct legacy for the sports and history in Nebraska.

Samuel Girard Veals Griswold was born in Marion, Ohio in February 1849. The family had a newspaper tradition in the state, as his grand-father was founder of the Ohio State Journal, and his father was once owner and publisher of the Lancaster Gazette. Sandy was writing sketches at fifteen and in his early twenties, moved to the nation's publishing capitol on the east coast. He put his pencil to work for the New York Sun in 1873, then soon at the New York Weekly, when he also started writing the dime novels.

The Frontier Fugitives: A Tale of the Minnesota Massacre was also published in 1874. Titles were written to excite the reader with a vivid portrayal of the still wild, western frontier: The Lost Hunter, Along the Mohawk, A Tale of 1877, or The Rival Tribes of the Desert: A Wild Tale of Arizona and Wild Man of the Plains. In the 1870s, Griswold produced more than 65 dime novels. Some of the stories were reissued with new titles, 10-15 years later.

[column sketch of Sandy Griswold]

Sandy Griswold, dime novel writer and sporting editor for decades in Nebraska. This image was used to illustrate some of his weekly columns in the Sunday newspaper.

Being proficient and prolific with words, kept Griswold in a newspaper career. One of his first big assignment's was the Sullivan and Ryan boxing pugilistic bout of 1882. He was city editor for the Toledo Commercial and sporting editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer before arriving at Omaha in 1886.

His writing for the papers of the River City started with The Bee in 1886. During a railroad stop-over in the city, he visited the paper's office. On a challenge he wrote the "first real baseball story ever printed in Omaha." He became sporting editor, being the first in the Midwest to present a box score of a baseball game.

In the fall of 1887, The Bee featured a story on the nature of the outdoors: "One Day in the Country. The Pretty Legend of the Indian Plums. A Visit to Horseshoe Lake. A Picturesque Place - an Attractive Retreat for Rest and Recreation - Duck Hunting and Fishing." It vividly portrays when Griswold and a companion had "an excursion of exploration to overlook the prospects for fall duck shooting" at the lake, north along the Missouri River. "The blue vault was of that tender transparent tint through which we seem to penetrate into the unbounded depths," he wrote about the early morning, Sunday sky.

The area around Omaha had untamed lakes with wild fowl, prairie for the prairie chicken, timber and forest, brush lands for quail, and wet low-meadow, home of the indomitable jack-snipe. A multitude of other birds dwelled in the diverse habitats. Wild game was so abundant, especially fowl and prairie-chickens, it was sold as food in historic downtown stores.

In May of 1898, Griswold moved to a desk at The World-Herald, where he was sporting editor, columnist and feature writer. Nearly every Sunday he had the "Forest, Field and Stream" column. There was often also a feature story, some with installments spanning several issues. During his tenure as sporting editor, he managed "Questions Answered by the Oracle," where readers submitted questions about sport-related topics, with suitable answers provided. During the later years, his column was titled "Leaves from the Notebook of an Old Nature Student." The first paragraph of most columns were adorned with a decorative sketch of a scene with the letter of the first word. Sport reports and columns were done for other days of the week.

Some of his favorite topics were the game birds upland plover, prairie chicken and jack-snipe. He enjoyed writing about habits of the robin, the flicker or celebratory yellowhammer, diminutive warblers, the forlorn bluebird, the bluejay and other birds about the state's fields and woods. The colorful and showy spring flowers in the forest's of Florence were eloquently detailed in prose, the words faithfully set in type columns for the reader's of the coming edition of the newspaper.

He wrote on occasion about the "frowsy" coyote. His stories include details about "Old Limpy" and "Old Black Snout," two of the infamous gray wolves of the Sand Hills. The "legendary" Elkhorn was the place for a December day's ramble over woods and fields. Griswold enjoyed watching the bird-life of Turner Park, across the boulevard from his home near 30th and Dewey Street.

Among his favorite places for a duck shoot were the "ghostly" Sand Hills. At the Merganzer Hunt Club, owned by Charles Metz, owner of the Omaha brewery, Griswold went on spring and fall hunts at the Three Springs Lake north of Cody. His first trip to the "Lugenbeel marshes" was in 1893.

The club members also journeyed to the wetlands along Lake creek at the northern edge of the sandhills in on the southern edge of South Dakota. An Indian of the Pine Ridge tribal reserve showed some hunters "Lake Creek's haunted hole."

"Sunset in the sand hills! A golden light, as if transmitted through the windows of topaz, kindles a gentle slope upon the eastern borders of the Lake Creek marshlands; one sweep of yellowing verdure covers the remainder of the scene," Griswold wrote in November 1898. The hunters tents were in the foreground at a primitive camp in the wild lands of the northern sandhills. Transportation at the time was a steady, horse-drawn wagon that slowly rolled across the sand dunes.

He went hunting at the prominent lake district south of Valentine, enjoying a hunt with son Gerard in 1903. He stayed several times at the Hackberry Ducking and Fishing Club, where George Brandeis, "the dry goods prince," and brewer Albert Krug, were among the members, all which were Omaha business men. Twice he enjoyed a hunt on the Gentry ranch northwest of Whitman. Miles Maryott, the prominent naturalist and artist of Oshkosh, was part of the hunting party in a fall 1925 excursion to the lakes nestled among the hills of northern Garden county.

Griswold used fine words representative of a rich working vocabulary; jocund for one, with synonyms of gay, merry, jovial lively or mirthful. He'd write, for example, "Jocund days" to start a sentence of his dialogues with the reader. His first story from Horseshoe Lake used "revivifying." In 1893 he wrote about "farinaceous seeds" eaten by the upland plover. He talked about the "phantasmagoria of the past" when he wrote about "scenes that make the blood tingle" in January 1905. A spring 1910 outing near Brownlee was a "saturnalia of joy." His descriptive story dialogues poetically conveyed the nature of a hunting excursion or a walk afield where nature was something to just enjoy.

A notebook with pencil-written notes was obviously an essential part of notable outings by Griswold. He wrote in the summer of 1905: "A camp diary need not be prolific or detailed. The briefest mention and barest record will be sufficient to revive recollections of forest, field and stream incidents, to snatch one up from the surroundings of every-day life and transport them back to the old ducking days."

Some of his most notable adventures were recalled again and again in columns of the Sunday World-Herald. He consistently recalled events of the forlorn days hunting seasonal fowl on Prairie Creek near Clark's, along the fabled old Platte river. Hunting sandhill cranes and missing a shot at the rare and majestic whooping crane were subjects recalled from his treasured notebooks. The disappearance of the prairie pigeon was described in reminiscences.

During the years Griswold also contributed occasional sporting notes from Nebraska to Forest and Stream, a weekly outdoors journal. His writing was very popular.

The Wild Man of the Plains, a "story of the mysterious wild west" dime novel, was reprinted by the Sunday World-Herald starting in February 1910, and then weekly for several issues. The paper called it a story of novel and thrilling interest. Sketches to portray the story events were part of the newspaper version.

In April 1910, Griswold was at the Hanna ranch on Big Creek on a hunting trip. A prairie fire burned 25 miles from in Thomas county up to the Brownlee country. The ranch men went to help, while Griswold went to the "little prairie hamlet" to watch the "bedlam" and assist where possible. He wrote an exciting news account of the "demon fire" that jumped the North Loup river and threatened people and buildings until a shift in the wind's direction blew the fire past.

Nebraska's land changed drastically during the years Griswold did his writing. His lament was for the dramatic reduction in wild habitats and their flora and fauna. He was a champion for ways to protect birds, including an end to market hunting and spring hunting seasons. Many Forest, Field and Stream columns promoted game laws to help wildlife conservation.

In 1922 a profile of Griswold, then 73, was written for the eastern journal, Editor and Publisher. The story listed "big scraps" in the boxing ring from 1889 to 1904 for which Griswold had filed reports with detailed and distinctive blow-by-blow action. "Throughout the section covered by Omaha newspapers, Sandy's dope, his nature stories and his opinions on all kinds of sports, both indoor and outdoor, are sought by thousands of readers," said the article's author, Basil G. Rudd. "By means of the written word, he has established a personal journalism on the sports page like unto that which characterize some of the great editorial writers of a few decades ago." Griswold was a "virile, poetic, kindly, picturesque and prolific sportsman and sports writer," the article said.

Carter Lake - also known through the years as Horse-shoe Lake, Cut-off Lake - was created as a wildlife refuge in 1924, due to its regular use by migrating wild fowl. The city of Omaha passed a resolution calling it the "Sandy Griswold bird sanctuary." Griswold and a companion had enjoyed this lake decades earlier. During the years, different outdoor recreation resorts were established to take advantage of the lake. The water's value to bird-life continued to a greater or lesser degrees during the ongoing changes of the area.

[newspaper image as farewell to Sandy Griswold]

Goodbye, Sandy!

Sandy Goes

"I am ready to go at the tap of the gong" were characteristic words of Sandy G.V. Griswold, who not many days later passed to the beyond. Somehow, we had not thought of Sandy as an "old man" of 80 years. Of course he was not the writer he was in his prime, but his quick movements and his old impetuous way, his natty slouch hat or cap, his "cracks" at the world about him, marked a man who in many ways seemed destined never to grow old. And his zest for his daily task in "Sandy's Dope," his undimmed enthusiasm for the out of doors, kept him writing of "forest, field and stream" right to the end. On his sickbed he was dreaming of April days to come and in his mental wanderings returned frequently to the thought that he must hurry his copy into the composing room for the afternoon newspaper. In the hours of his illness he said with dismay to a caller, "Why, until last week, I was bursting with life and health, not conscious of the burdens of years, coming suddenly and smack into this bed."

Sandy's work days of considerably over a half century were to him mostly pleasant days. Beginning as a newspaper man in Cincinnati, writing fiction for New York weeklies than much in vogue, coming west, to locate accidentally in Omaha, he ever took a boyish delight in life. He won his first laurels as a writer of baseball news, his articles for many years being a feature of this newspaper. He was an authority on many branches of sports and his figure was as familiar at the ringside for a half century as that of any man in the sport world. But the work that he loved the best and which therefore reflected the best that was in him as a writer was his newspaper department in the Sunday World-Herald descriptive of the out of doors. He was not a hunter who went out merely to kill. His ventures into the fields and woods of the lake country and the plains were grand tours in which he was enthralled by the charms of nature in her wild and untamable moods and environments. he loved the wild flowers, the flags, the sedge along the lake shores, the crisp early morning light and the glory of the sunset sky. It was his experienced observation with the enthusiasm that was undimmed even into his later years, which, transmuted into his descriptive stories of field and stream, made them appeal to the hearts of thousands of newspaper readers. Although he was an authority, with few if any equals, on the out of doors in the middle west, he was not ambitious to write a book about it. His contributions to out of door magazines were much sought, but all too rarely attempted. He was a newspaper man writing for his day until his eyes failed and finally closed.

Impetuous, quick tempered, with a bluff exterior which ill concealed a kindly heart, Sandy was a man's man. He was a fighter, a man with seams in his armor, but a royal figure in the circle of his comrades who were many and notable in the years long gone. "Hard boiled" he seemed to many, but he was sensitive as a girl to his friends, grieving deeply as they fell around him while he moved on to the goal of eighty years of human life. We are reminded now of his farewell, printed in The World-Herald, to W.D. Townsend, a pal on many hunting trips, on which he said:

"Many golden days did we spend together, in the fragrant stubble after quail, on the river where the black bass leapt, and on the sunlit marsh where the ducks were, and that little sprite - richest rosewood in color - and the bird we both loved above all else - the jack. 'Skeape!' There he goes now, Billy, over the faded flags; can you hear him where you are - for you don't seem more than across the slough from me, this glorious wintry morning? Yes, I can wait - we all can - in time we will hail the hallo of the boatman, and then we will know what you know."
April 22, 1929. Omaha World-Herald editorial.

Laws in the 1920s rigidly restricted the pursuit of game, but sporting was still important. Migratory flights of fowl were dramatically changed - Griswold considered bird migration a big mystery - but there were still times for going afield. In his latter years, many of his columns were about the yellowhammer, junco, martin, fox sparrow and vesper sparrow, the blue jay and other bird life common to the parks and places with some wild character around Omaha.

In April 1928, Griswold wrote some recollections - "taking a long glance backward" - about his more than a half century as a sportsman writer. He was starting his 33rd year "on the good old World-Herald," he wrote in "Leaves From the Notebook of an Old Nature Student," the name of his Sunday column. He expressed lament for days with times that were gone forever - a glorious morning of long ago, when prairie chicken were abundant on the prairies about Omaha. There had been times when antelope and deer were abundant. He remembered magnificent mornings at a wild blue lake with a myriad of flying ducks and other fowl. His notebooks kept the details for so many experiences among the land, watching fowl and other wildlife. The memories were later wrought in words issued by the newspaper.

In one of his final series, newspaper writer Griswold scribed several installments of a recent outing with the "Boy" to the lingering wildness along Big Pappio creek, west of Omaha.

A last fowl hunt for the endurable sportsman was a final duck shoot in the sand hills for ten days in the fall of 1928. "Camp Gumaer" was among the lakes in northern Garden county. His story "Off in the Oshkosh Hills With the Lordly Canvasback" started in the paper the first Sunday of November, 1928 and continued for some weeks until the end of the fowlers times. In his characteristic style of describing each day's doings, a number of weekly installments described the times and events during the ten-day outing. In pursuit of ducks, they traveled among Black Lake, the Herman Ranch, Maverick Lake, Canvasback Lake and Wolf Lake, near Pawlet.

The last story written by Sandy for the Sunday World-Herald was left unfinished. A sketch of the writer with some little aspects of nature, stylized with the capital letter R were used to start the first paragraph of the last weekly column on February 3, 1929. At the end of his World-Herald legacy of decades was the sentence - "It was plumb dark before we went in to hash," - the final words of his story of the last outing after ducks for a lifetime of a man with such a multitude of experience in so many different sports.

On Saturday evening, April 20, 1929, the local edition covered the death of Griswold that morning at his house on Dewey Street, when 80 years of age. A picture of him covering a baseball game was on the front page with the headline: "His Pencil Won Him Fame as Dime-Novelist, Prose Poet of the Out-of-Doors and Dean of Sports Writers." A photo montage of the man with renowned sporting figures was on the front page of the Sport's section.

The Sunday World-Herald sports section featured a sketch with a caption that simply said "Goodbye, Sandy!" as Griswold, shown with his rod and gun, was passing to a glorious sporting world depicted with broad skies with flocks of birds over the river, hills and woods. A fond farewell from three figures in the foreground are the myriad of sportsmen, boxers and ball players that this sporting editor knew during a career of more than 50 years. The Sportolog had other reminiscences of a distinguished career.

Friends packed the chapel at the Griswold funeral on Monday as reported in the Omaha World-Herald. "It was peculiarly fitting that the funeral should be held on Arbor Day," said the article. The Omaha Bee story said more than 200 people "paid tribute" to Griswold.

Bishop George Beecher - Griswold was a "close friend" - gave a "touching eulogy." More than 50 bouquets and sprays of flowers decorated the casket. Beecher commented, according to the OWH article:

"His path was marked by smile and good cheer. ... God judges men by their motives. It is a pleasure for me to bear witness to the high quality of Sandy's mind, and the purity of his motives.

"Nobody who loves birds, the trees and the streams is unacquainted with God. Sandy, by nature, had a love of beauty, a passion for the harmony of nature and its lullabys. His was an artistic soul, and the products of his pen were never lacking in the spirit of high ideals.

"So long as men are men there will be a love of sports. But it is men like Sandy who carry into the sports wholesomeness and cleanliness."

There was also a special tribute to the writer, placed upon his desk at the newspaper: "And while the services were in progress, Sandy's desk at The World-Herald office was adorned by a single beauty rose, sent by 'An Old Pal," together with instructions that the rose be placed on the desk. Such a flower was often to be seen on the desk during Sandy's lifetime."

Burial was at the historic Prospect Hill Cemetery in Omaha, where his marker had a simple inscription - 30 -, the journalistic lingo for end of story. The family plot, off the crest of a hill-top, has a broad view of the bluffs and flats of the Missouri River valley to the east.

Sandy's Creed

"The love of nature born in me has had plenty of time for evolution. The ways and habits, cries and calls of the folk of the woods and fields, were my heritage, a part of my childhood, my whole early training. What I liked most was to be alone in the woods or open fields listening to their ceaseless voices, and the silent whisperings of my soul.

"Rod and gun have been my boon companions in the years that have past, but the greater pleasure has been the communion with God's creatures enjoyed with open heart and hand. In this glorious state of ours, Nebraska, and in those round about it, this companionship has been most wonderful.

"To hunt and fish are still my pleasure, but greater than these, is to seek, find cherish and protect them all — the birds, the beasts, the flowers, the trees and creatures of the waters. These are OUR heritage, which now I pray I may help pass on to those who follow."

Sandy Griswold was gone but not forgotten because of the fans of his notable newspaper legacy. Some Omaha sportsmen afterwards worked to establish a lasting memorial to a comrade of the outdoors. A bird sanctuary at Carter Lake was first recognized by an Omaha city ordinance. Prominent town men George Brandeis and Thomas Kimball, were on a committee of 50 folk that raised funds to place a memorial monument or marker in the city park now at the former Missouri River oxbow.

The people wanted to remember "Sandy's Creed." A tribute in the April 1930 Sunday magazine told the story of Griswold's "pot shot" of 11 geese from two shots of his trusty Parker doubled-barreled shotgun. Eugene Mayfield told the incident from fowl hunt on the Platte river near Clarks in the early 1880s. It was written to remember nationally famous Sandy Griswold, one of "America's finest sportsmen" and a pioneer in writing about nature, birds and other outdoor wonders of Nebraska.

This man may have been forgotten, but his legend is unsurpassed and denotes a myriad of reminiscences, so many recollections and such a vast array of history that his unsurpassed work is a pinnacle for a writer from Nebraska.

Griswold had two sons, including Gerard Coburn that worked at The World-Herald, and Rev. Latta Griswold. At Prospect Hill Cemetery, Griswold's widow, Gundie Coburn Griswold was buried in December 1940, two days after her 70th birthday. Katherine Griswold had been buried when 6 days old in October 1898.

Song of the Thrush in the North Woods - Leaves from the Notebook of an Old Nature Student

By Sandy Griswold.
Just this side of Silentland, the highway leading down
Rounds a bend beside a brook and winds through Dreamland town.
A place of mist and memories - where bare and there we see
Quaint, half-forgotten little scenes from days that used to be
Sweet pictures from long vanished dreams that swiftly fade away,
Dissolving in the misty sheets like stars at dawn of day.
If we try to catch and hold them, we may stretch a wistful hand,
But never stop along the road that leads to Silentland.

With sucre sentiment possessing me on this gentle late May morning there is a sound, a bit of a wild song, that comes with almost the same refreshing sweetness with which it filled my hearing, one glorious June sunset on the shores of a dimpled lake, way up in the north woods, "in one of those days that used to be."

Have You Ever Heard It?

Wonder if you ever have listened to the good night chanson of a vesper thrush on a heavenly May of June evening in the music halls of that favored state to the north of us - Minnesota? If you have been so fortunate than you have heard the goodnight arietta of the most gifted avian songster of this section of the world - an exquisite ecstasy as the twilight falls.

And if you have heard this touching little ditty, then so have you thrilled, by the pastoral passion of his rare lyrical achievement in the moonlight, or lain awake in tent or cottage, as I have, many's the time, on my summer fishing trips and enjoyed his are melodies that he is so fond of offering beneath the stars.

Often, too, I have heard the romance of those favored nooks, while skulking amidst their greeneries after the illusive black bass, made vocal with his sweet tunefulness, often no more than the whiff of a subtle fragrance in the nostrils, and which, with the Father's sanction, I hope to hear ere again the last of the present glorious month.

None Can Praise Too Highly.

I cannot be too lavish with my praise of this bird and his operatic power. All that love can hope and dare and dream of is melted into a harmony that but seldom greets the ear, and neither am I forgetful of our own sweet robin, our bluebird, brown thrasher ad our dazzling oriole, for the tenderest of all combined, is embodied, particularly in the vesper's evening spiritual carillon. In that low, sweet score echoes and re-echoes through the fading daylight over the quiet land of locust, crabapple, grape and dogwood, the rarest and clearest melody of all bird song; a silvery chime inimitable.

While the most of the bird lover's are familiar with the song of our commonest birds, there are comparatively few of them who get to hear, or recognize when they do hear it, the songs of the rarer ones, and in explaining the extraordinary character of the vesper thrush's song, I will say in the confusion of its range is the lonely, faraway call of the bluebird, the cooing of the turtle dove, and then, again outrivaling the most ecstatic flights of the grosbeak, catbird, oriole, meadow lark, redwing, chewink and robin, mingled with a delightful myriad of notes distinctly its own and which, in my humble esteem, has made it the leading musician of the American woods.

The True Woodland Minstrel.

The vesper thrush, I add, is the one true woodland minstrel in the opinion of many of the best know authorities and as anomalous as it might seem, has both the wildness and the sociability of the rarest of our birds.

It is called by many the hermit thrush, which is probably the preferable name, but I like that of vesper best, as on his lute he often warbles in arpeggios, or it might be said in different keys. As to voice, however, unless one would consider the certain tones of a high pitched silver bell, it is absolutely musically perfect, notwithstanding the claim of learned professors that there is no music in any bird song, which you will agree with me is highly absurd.

Neither the brown thrasher nor the white-throated sparrow, two of the most gifted troubadours of all our woodlands, sing in arpeggios, nor in different keys, yet the notes of both are wondrously sweet, and in the thrasher, but not in the white throat, the quality varies and is often guilty of some really harsh sounds. All of the ways of this lovely bird are gentle, graceful and tender, suggesting the ethereal sweetness of his song, almost an embodiment, may I say it, of visible melody.

Heard in No Other Voice.

There is an indescribable wild woodsy quality, particularly, in his evening hymn, heard in the notes of no other avian chorister, and heard as I heard it will rambling amidst the devious wilds of the north woods, there is really something that reaches the heart in the flutings of this matchless songster - a lyric overflowing with the rhythm of a prayer of ecstasy.

When the eggs are laid, he establishes his concert hall very near his setting mare, and keeps increasing watch over her, and the song he sings to her seems to express the spirit of heavenly peace, with which it is truly imbued. When the little ones come his whole menage revolves about the nursery; he never goes beyond the reach of the call of the little mother.

In closing, I will say, the inspiration of poets and the despair of musicians have in vain tried to write the elusive and mystic melody of this birds' song into technical score and failed, as they have invariably with commoner and easier subjects, but yet, I repeat, in my regard, this little chestnut-colored sprite is the peer of any in the whole realm of bird repertoire.

June 3, 1928. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 63(36): 5-B. Leaves from the Notebook of an Old Nature Student.

Belated Arrival of Spring: Birds, Fish and Flowers - Leaves from the Notebook of an Old Nature Student

By Sandy Griswold.

That the flicker and the red-headed woodpecker did not put in an appearance in this immediate region until the past 10 days is proof enough of the belated dominance of spring.

While there were a few yellow-hammers seen at diverse near points as early as April 10, undoubtedly birds that had passed the winter in some protected nook of deep woods or tangly creek valley, there were no red-heads reported prior to May 1, and even just not they have not arrived in their normal numbers.

The oriole and wren are also laggard, the first of the orioles were noted in the early part of last week and but few wrens have been seen or heard at any time previous to the close of the month of showers, which consisted this spring of snow, instead of gentle rain, and these facts all go to prove that the individual who has postponed his bassing trip is, in the picturesque argot of the day, a wise gasaboo.

While we have been granted with precious little of the legendary gladsome springtime and sweet old summer hereabouts this year, there remains no longer any doubt but what we are going to have plenty of the kind of weather the optimistic fisherman dreams of an longs for from this time on to the sweltering dog days, and thence into autumn's golden reign. The right feel has at least crept into the air, the birds are about all here, even unto the shyest of the warblers, and in safety you can now get out the old fish-box and set your faces toward the wide open spaces.

Almost uninterruptedly, up to date, the spring has been little less than one long siege of wintry conditions, with brief interruptions of promise, but hardly a day of good old-fashioned angling weather.

Happily, however, the dawn of a change is here - things meteorological are properly shaping themselves and the coming weeks will, without much chance of failure, be prolific of happiness for the basser, the bird and flower lover.

But speaking of the proper season for fishing, while as I have, probably for the thousandth time, told you in these columns, the early springtime, in normal season, is the best period in the whole twelvemonth, for catching fish, of course, these conditions do not obtain when the sun is slowly climbing high in the heavens, and pelting hail and rain delay vegetation and roil streams and lakes, and the sport is meager indeed, and now days in most states unlawful. Such a season we have just gone through, but now that the atmosphere has assumed the proper fervor in these early summer days, they are certainly preeminently adapted to the wants and whims of the angler and the student of our flora and fauna. We are having now the weather that we should have had one month ago, and now is certainly the clover days for both bass and trout catcher, wherever it is permissible.

Leafy and odorous have the days at least become, and we can well afford to forget the disappointment that came to us in the true vernal season. Woods and fields and waters are now life-giving and animated with the countless insect forms that should have arrived with the first sultry days of April and will be multiplied and intensified long through June and July. But there is little to be gained in comment or regret, the weather is here at last, so be wise and enjoy it. You can catch bass in Nebraska, absurd as the fact is, at any time that suits you best.

This year, anyway, as I intimated above, these late May days are proving the real days for not only the angler, but the lover of wild flowers and the birds, too.

In this connection, let me say, that nowhere in this broad land of ours is a more inviting field offered the student of our woods and waters, hills and streams than right here in Nebraska. The woods, particularly, at this late date, are at their most charming state, and the fields at last redundant with beauty. During the latter days of April the first flowers of the sweet vernal season, in normal seasons, open their bright faces on an awakening world, but in May they appear, as if by the wand of necromancer, in their richest profusion. The birds, too, are all here usually, at that time, but were unwontedly delayed this spring by unfavorable conditions, as noted above, but all are on hand now, from the rhythmic catbird and the flirtatious chewink to the gaudy oriole, and in their gay finery vie with the inflorescence of tree, vine, and bush.

Within the chlaro-obscuro of the river road woods the delicate flame of the wake-robin, in purple and white, is now to be seen everywhere lighting the way. These lovely blossoms are of the Trillium family, and are partial to the dark crypts under the shade of elm, linden, or maple. The wake-robin is far more pleasing to the eye than it is to the nostril, for while it is a lovely flower, with its white or purple petals standing out from a background of he deepest emerald, its dull yellow pollen emits and odor anything but delicate or delightful.

In some few favored but well hidden dells, the Hepatica, which also came late, still shows its maiden blushes, but this is a rare flower with us, indeed, and but few would know it should they be fortunate enough to discover it. In old-fashioned language, this tiny flower is the squirrel cup, from belief of primitive people that from these little white and cerulean bells, bunny, in the golden morning, sips the nectar that appeases his thirst. The squirrel cup is a moss, distinguished only from the mosses by having a fourleafed capsule. With all the anemones, it is a ranunculaceous plant; some are flowering, others not, like those of the polymorpha species, which have an irregular lobed, spreading and forked frond. In April it is usually to be found crawling over the surface rocks, anywhere along the river road woods, although there are some botanists who thin I have confounded this plant with some other class. I have not. It includes in its varieties many medicinal plants, the crowfoot, buttercups and others. A cultivated relative has double flowers of various colors.

Along the gulch north of where the Big Spring used to gush so bounteously, but has gone forever, on the resplendent old river trail, is to be found the Green Dragon, and its cousin, the Jack-in-the-pulpit, with their ecstatic bizarre of blossoms, highly colored in purple and sea-green, which, in the hazy fall time, are succeeded by deep scarlet berries. Here, too, are the violets, both light and deep azure, and yellow, too, in intoxicating abundance. So seize your book, and get thee hence - this delightful epoch will be found all too short, and you will miss an opportunity you will never know again.

May 20, 1928. Sunday World-Herald 63(34): 5-B. Leaves From the Notebook of an Old Nature Student.