30 September 2013

Newspaper Story Conveys Park Habitat Situation

A story in the Omaha World-Herald by Nancy Gaarder conveys what has recently transpired at the northwest pond area at Levi Carter Park. The story was issued on September 30th, and included a photograph where clearing had occurred, focused on the south and east portion of the pond.

This is a version of the same story as reported by Leah Uko at KPTM.

The following photograph was personally taken on September 29th, at the same area, showing the west side of the pond. The temporary planting had not yet occurred.

The wooden structure on the left, has only been boarded up within the past couple of weeks, since it was shown to city Parks officials, and indicated as an obvious hazard, due to its having an internal depth of more than ten feet.

Intertribal Powwow Celebrates Tribal Culture

The resounding beat of the drum welcomed tribal members and quests to the 22nd annual Fort Omaha intertribal powwow held September 28th. On a languid Saturday afternoon under perfect blue skies, tribal dancers in their finest regalia danced to the beats provided by various drum groups for the different featured dances.

Tots to tribal elders participated in several types of common dances, including the men's traditional, the grass dance, the jingle dress (with its uniquely expressive sounds conveyed by the moving women), the men's fancy feather, and the women's fancy shawl where the draped fabric was spun and turned as if it represented the wings of a bird. The intertribal dances allowed every interested participant to step out around the dance arena.

As always bird material was an essential part of the regalia. There were grand bustles made of many feathers, appreciated bird-wing fans, and some thunderbird bead work. Other wildbird representations included a short staff topped by a raptors extended claws and a bird-bill flute.

One of the most significant features of the afternoon occurred when an eagle feather fell from a youth's regalia, and landed on the grass. A visitor noted the feather on the ground, and tried to return it to the dancer. What occurred next was a learning moment for the dancer and powwow guests.

All dancing activities were stopped, because the feather was "lost." It was then ceremoniously retrieved by a tribal elder, and in this case, a military veteran. It was a profound time, as the feather was given special consideration, with the tribal elder, along with others of the boy's family, "properly" returning the feather to its owner. Daryl Grant spoke to the crowd after he held the feather and "dedicated" it to the four directions ... east, south, west and north ... speaking unknown word at each of these four directions which are so prominent.

During this time, the master of ceremonies asked that no pictures be taken.

Once elder Grant finished, other tribal members approached the young dancer, shaking his hand, and in several cases, providing a monetary contribution. The youth and his grand-father walked around the dance arena, the feather held high so everyone present could recognize its significance. After the tribal actions to confer importance once again to the feather, a female elder present, brought forth the visiting woman who had tried to return the feather to its owner. A discussion ensued, and an explanation was given as to the action taken. There were more contributions made to respect what had happened.

It was primarily a learning/teaching experience. The result seemed to be that the people present had a better understanding of protocols and significance associated with the dance arena.

This was all done to respect the spirit of a single eagle feather.

Prominent at the announcers booth was a ceremonial totem staff, topped by the head of a adult Bald Eagle.

Regalia at the Wacipi that Included Items With a Bird Motif
Or were otherwise especially notable.

The women's Jingle Dance.

A vest showing Thunderbird bead work.

The theme of this powwow was "Paths of Courage" which included a presentation and dance promoting suicide prevention. Supportive funding was provided by Douglas County Visitor Improvement funds, and the Nebraska Arts Council.

The Swallow Tree - Historic Swift Roost in Vermont

Z. Thompson. Correspondence of the Traveler.
Burlington, (Vt.) June 15, 1852.

Editors of the Traveler: — Objects which are interesting to the curious and puzzling to the knowing ones, are coming to the light, almost every day, in various parts of the country. Of this class are the contents of what is technically called a Swallow Tree, which have recently been discovered in Middlebury in this State. — At the time the first settlements were made in the western parts of Vermont, these swallow trees were quite common here, and several of them are described by Dr. Williams in his history of the State. They were usually very large elms, or sycamores, having extensive hollows within and an opening in the side, at a considerable height from the ground, at which the swallows entered and made their egress. — Early each spring, and about sunrise in the morning, myriads of swallows were seen to issue from the boles in these trees and disperse themselves over the country, and, in the dusk of the evening, they were observed to return again to their common roosting places in the hollows of the trees. Thus they continued to disperse themselves in the morning and collect together in the evening, till they commenced pairing and rearing their young in the spring, and the same phenomena were also observed again just before the final disappearance of the swallows in the fall, and for a long time the opinion prevailed that they passed the winter in these trees in a torpid state. But it is now, I believe, well settled that this resort to particular trees, in early times, and to particular old chimneys in modern, as common roosting places, is only a temporary arrangement attending their arrival in spring and their migration southward in autumn.

These swallow trees, which were so common in early times, had, probably many of them, been resorted to by thousands of birds, year after year, for centuries. The natural consequence would be, for the cavities in which they roosted, to become gradually filled up with excrement cast off feathers, exuvia of insects and rotten wood, and, accordingly, trees have been found in this condition long after the swallows have ceased to resort to them. One of the kind, in Ohio, is descried in Harris Journal, and quoted in Wilson's Ornithology. The tree was a hollow sycamore, five feet in diameter, and had been blown down. Its immense hollow was found to be filled, for the space of fifteen feet, with "a mess of decayed feathers, with a small admixture of brownish dust and the exuvia of various insects."

The tree recently found in Middlebury resembled, in most respects, the one above mentioned. The tree had blown down, and had, afterwards, nearly all rotted away, leaving little remaining, excepting the feathery mass, which had filled its hollow, and which was now bedded in leaves and moss. The tree was, probably, an elm, and, judging from the size of the cylindrical mass of the contents, the diameter of its hollow must have been almost fifteen inches, which had been filled some six or seven feet. Of the materials which had filled it, about one-half consists of feathers, being, for the most part, the wing and tail feathers of the chimney swallow, (Cypsilus pelasgius Tem.). The other half is made up of the exuvia of insects, mostly the fragments and eggs of the large wood ant, and a brownish dust, probably derived from the decayed wood of the interior of the tree.

Now, while the discovery at Middlebury is, on many accounts, an interesting one, there would be nothing very remarkable in it, were the materials which had filled the hollow of the tree jumbled promiscuously and disorderly together. It would be just what we should expect to find in a hollow tree, which had been for centuries, perhaps, the roosting place of myriads of swallows. But this is not the case. As a general thing, the large feathers have their quills pointing outward at the surface of the cylindrical trees, while the plumes, or ends containing the vanes, point inward. This arrangement might perhaps arise from the nesting of small quadrupeds in the hollow, making the feathers their bed. But in addition to this, we find in various portions of the mess, in some cases all the feathers of the tail, embedded in the mass, lying in context, and precisely in the order and position in which they are found in the living swallow. In a mass of the materials, measuring not more than 7 inches by 5 and less than 3 inches thick, I could trace, at least, 5 wings and 2 tails, and on one of the wings the secondary quills were also plainly arranged in their true position with regard to the primaries. Now it is not possible to conceive that these feathers were shed by living birds in the order in which they are found. But if the birds died there, what has become of their beaks, claws and bones? We should think that these, or portions of them, would be as durable as the feathers; but I do not learn that a particle of any of these has been found in any part of the mess. How then have these been removed, while the wing and tail feathers remain in their true natural position? It could hardly be done by any violent means without disturbing them. But if done quietly, what did it? Would any insects devour the bones and not the quills? Does the formic, or any other acid, which might be generated within the hollow of the tree, decompose bone?

I shall not attempt to explain the phenomenon. I have endeavoured to state the facts, as they were kindly furnished me by my friend J.A. Jameson, Tutor in our university, who visited the locality in May; and, as ascertained by myself by a careful examination of a considerable mass of the materials, which were procured by him and presented to the University Museum for preservation, and shall leave it to others to secure for them.

July 9, 1852. Burlington Free Press 7(2): 1, new series.

25 September 2013

New Way of Killing Birds at D.C Capitol

The Washington Globe says: We are surprised to find yesterday how many little birds have fallen victims to Mr. Cruchett's large lantern on the dome of the capitol, and to the wires that support it. We understand that near fifty beautiful birds of different sorts, and of various plumage, were found dead yesterday morning. Started up in the night from their resting places in the square, they are, probably drawn to the light and dashed themselves to death against the lantern or wires.

New way of killing birds. May 17, 1848. Bradford Reporter 8(49): 2.

Annapolis Lighthouse Hazardous for Spring Migrants

We learn from Captain Roake, keeper of the light house at Thomas's Point, that in the height of a heavy gust of wind which occurred several hours before day on the 26th ult. a very numerous flock of birds, embracing many varieties, attracted by the light, flew against the lantern and building with so much violence as instantly to kill and stun hundreds of them. The Captain and his band thus taken unawares, were for a moment no little astonished, but quickly perceiving the cause of their surprise, recovered their presence of mind, and proceeded deliberately to select from amongst the dead and disabled assailants, such as they knew, from experience, would make a good broil, or could be converted into delectable pies. The flock consisted of wood cocks, red birds, yellow birds, Indian hens, swallows, owls, and other kind unknown to our informant.

Attack on Castle Roake. May 18, 1841. Gettysburg Star and Republican 12(8): 3. From the Annapolis Republican. Also June 3, 1841 in the Edgefield Advertiser 6(18): 1.

Birds Attack Cat that Caught Little Chipping Bird

A friend in the country, noticed a very singular contest a few days since. A good sized cat had caught a little chipping bird, and was rushing off with her prey, when a king bird, attracted by the cries of the bird, came to the rescue, and gave a loud alarm. This was answered by a whole swarm of king birds and swallows, who attacked the cat with such ferocity that she was soon compelled to drop her victim; but the feathered avengers were not content with this. They pursued the cat, continually pecking at her, until she found shelter under a barn, creeping through a crevice, where tormenters did not venture to follow her.

Anonymous. August 30, 1845. Boon's Lick Times 6(25): 2.

Robin Story - A Cat in the Garden

We heard a story of the performance of a robin in the garden of one of our citizens, on Friday last, which interested us not a little, inasmuch as the little creature and his mate exhibited a sagacity, amounting to human reason. The incident occurred in the garden of Mr. John Bromhan, which is a large one, reaching from his house in Olive street over to Warren street. While he was attending to some part of it, near his house, a robin flew about him apparently in great excitement. he took but little notice of it at first; but the bird persevered in every effort to attract his attention, and was soon successful. Mr. B. remembered that there was a robin's nest on a tree at the end of the garden, and thought there might be some trouble there, and started in that direction. The bird accompanied him, keeping close by his side, chattering violently all the way. On approaching the nest he found the female bird equally agitated, and on taking deliberate observation, discovered a very young robin sitting on the high fence, and a cat below intently watching it, and ready to pounce upon it on the failure of its attempt to reach the tree. Mr. B. drove away the cat, when the two birds instantly came to the assistance of their young one, encouraged it to try its new fledged wings for the tree, which it did, and safely reached its nest, to the great apparent delight of the whole feathered family. The bird had seen enough of Mr. B. to know that he would not injure it or its progeny — it knew that he could protect them, and knew how to attract his attention and lead him to the scene of danger — and it knew that it would not be safe for it to encourage its young one to make any effort to reach the tree while the dreaded enemy was below, ready to spring upon it in case of its failure. — Is not all this very near akin to human reason?

Robin story. June 13, 1851. Gettysburg Star and Banner 22(14): 2. From the New Haven Palladium.

16 September 2013

Kerrey Bridge Lighting Threat to Migratory Birds?

Intentional lighting of the Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge along the Omaha Riverfront is likely creating a hazard for migratory wildbirds.

The lights of the structure, which are appropriately turned off at 11 p.m., are turned back on at 5 a.m. by a lighting schedule maintained by the Omaha Parks Recreation and Public Property department. Not only are there bright white, constant lights upon the guy wires, but a "light show" atop the two support pylons. The latter flashes different colors and color mixes.

Improving migratory safety for birds is accomplished by turning "lights out." There are these types of programs in Boston, Chicago, New York City, Portland, Washington D.C., the San Francisco Bay area and Toronto. Omaha officials have chosen to do just the opposite.

It is the early morning period which establishes a hazard. About this time, during the spring and autumn migration periods, migratory birds are looking to find a safe haven. within this urban environment. With sunrise after 7 a.m. during mid-September, and then later, there is about a two hour period when the lights would be hazardous.

It is highly unlikely to find any carcasses due to their striking the guy wires or other features, as they would probably fall down into the Missouri River.

Pictures of the bridge lights early on the morning of September 6, 2013.

Lights are an obvious hazard to migrating wildbirds, as well documented in the scientific literature. There have also been known occurrences of window-bird strikes at adjacent Omaha buildings since 2008. This includes the adjacent National Park Service building and nearby CenturyLink Center Omaha.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through their responsibility associated with bird protection through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, has been asked to investigate this matter.

During the migration season, there should be a minimum of light on the Kerry Pedestrian Bridge. It is very likely that public officials will insist that public safety and visual presentation will override any environmental concerns.

Colors of the lights which flash and phase atop the pylons at the Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.
The birds sitting on the guy wires are European Starlings, which are not a protected species.

13 September 2013

Powerlines Kill Heron at Levi Carter Park

A dead Great Blue Heron was found on the mown grass west of the swings at the former beach area at Levi Carter Park. The carcass was found directly beneath the multiple powerlines on Friday morning, September 13, 2013.

It was a "fresh" carcass, as park maintenance staff had not yet removed it, and there was no prevalent bug scavenger activity noticed.

Rather than the carcass getting thrown into the trash as a means of disposal, it was instead placed among the nearby, shoreline vegetation of Carter Lake as a means of returning it to the world of nature in a more suitable manner.

This is the second instance of this sort within the same section of powerline corridor. A Canada Goose had been previously found no more than one hundred yards to the west. It also died within moments after it was seen hitting a strung line.

10 September 2013

Hiding Wind Turbine Bird Slaughter

How bad is the slaughter, really? What tricks does the wind industry use to hide it?

Contributed by Jim Wiegand.

A “green energy” wildlife genocide is depopulating wildlife habitats across the world where vital species once found refuge. Wind turbines have invaded these habitats and are devastating bird and bat species.

Rather than avoiding these critical habitats or taking steps to minimize impacts on important species, the heavily subsidized wind industry is responding by producing faulty, misleading and even fraudulent documents to hide the serious and growing mortality. This situation has continued for years but has been shielded by state and federal agencies and other supporters of wind power.

Having studied these installations and their wildlife impacts for years, I can say without reservation that most of what people hear and read about the wind industry’s benefits and environmental costs is false. However, buried in thousands of pages of wind industry documents are data, omissions and calculations that tell a wind turbine mortality story that is far different from what is portrayed in industry press releases, mainstream news stories and official government reports.

I have frequently said the wind industry is hiding over 90% of the bird and bat mortality caused by their turbines. This statement is supported by the industry’s own data and reasonable adjustments for its manipulations. These calculations will help people understand how the industry is using its studies to hide millions of fatalities; they will also help local residents and officials understand “wind farm” impacts and their role in species extinctions that could soon exact an irreversible toll in many regions.

My analysis focuses on two North American wind resource areas that are well known for killing raptors, other birds and bats: Altamont Pass in southern California and Wolfe Island in eastern Lake Erie, on the Ontario-New York border. While studies prepared for these two wind resource are quite different, both were designed to hide mortality. Indeed, hiding mortality is an industry-wide practice, and it is easy to discredit any mortality or cumulative impact study produced by wind energy developers.

The Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APRWA) provides an excellent introduction to this problem. Its environmental impacts have been well publicized, and the wind industry wants to replace small older 50- and 100-kilowatt turbines with huge 2.5-megawatt turbines that it claims are safer. This claim is without merit. Industry studies used to promote the plan are deeply flawed and the much larger 2.3 MW class turbines will add more than twice the deadly rotor sweep to Altamont along with much faster blade tip speeds.

Probably more studies have been conducted in Altamont Pass than at any other wind farm in the world. Unfortunately, however, the wind industry has used that information and lessons from the public relations firestorms those studies ignited to develop clever methods for hiding bird and bat mortality impacts.

One of the most effective methods is limiting searches for dead and injured wildlife to progressively smaller areas around increasingly larger turbines — thereby omitting increasing numbers of fatalities as larger turbines catapult birds and bats further, often into grass, brush and wooded areas.

For the relatively small 50-100 kW turbines at Altamont, roughly 85% of fatalities can be found within a 50-meter search radius, which suggests that this radius is appropriate if the missing 15% are accounted for. But even with these turbines, industry-paid researchers are able to hide Altamont’s true mortality figures by employing improper study methodologies, raw data manipulation and inaccurate methods for estimating annual death tolls.

All wind turbine mortality studies find bodies. It is how carcass counts are conducted and interpreted that renders the process faulty or fraudulent – while also enabling the wind energy industry to claim it has satisfied commitments to reduce bird and bat mortality, and thereby justify installing much larger (and potentially deadlier) wind turbines. Comparing earlier and more recent studies illustrates how this is done.

In a 1998-2003 study, raptor carcasses were found in searches conducted about six weeks apart. Analysts then developed and applied numerical factors designed to account for the fact that on-the-ground teams were likely to find only a certain percentage of all dead and injured birds and bats; some wounded individuals would crawl off and die elsewhere; and coyotes, ravens and other scavengers would remove and eat many turbine victims. Applying those factors to actual carcass counts, researchers calculated that Altamont turbines were killing 116 golden eagles per year (an average of 10.8 times the actual carcass count per year) Wind turbine mortality for red-tail hawks, burrowing owls and American kestrels were likewise estimated using factors of 7 to 28 times actual body counts.

The study demonstrated that Altamont wind turbines were having a devastating impact on Diablo Range populations of raptors and other birds. It explained why many nests were no longer occupied and why fewer and fewer of these species were seen in succeeding years around the Bay area foothills. As a result of this impact the wind industry realized it had to reduce the death tolls dramatically – or at least make it appear that the tolls were decreasing to minimize public outrage.

In 2012, Altamont Pass turbine operators released the results of their 2005-2010 study. They claimed they had achieved substantial reductions in raptor and other bird mortalities, and that part of this reduction resulted from the industry replacing small older turbines with much larger new units. The claim raised questions and eyebrows among knowledgeable bird researchers, who know that mortality searches at Altamont are still finding an increased number of bodies amid the turbines. They also know there are many ways to manipulate mortality studies to achieve the desired outcome.

For instance, industry-paid researchers arbitrarily reduced their golden eagle death estimating factor to one-fifth of their previous (10.8) body-to-carcass ratio (down to 2.2); otherwise their estimated mortality would have been an intolerable 200 eagles per year. They slashed mortality factors for the other raptors (originally 7 to 28 times actual body counts) to between 2.2 and 7.6 times. This was done even though turbine size, blade length and area swept by the bird-butchering blades had skyrocketed at Altamont.

The only way these changes make sense or can be justified is by recognizing that these bird populations have already been decimated so many times that the species are now rapidly declining in the area, and this wind facility is killing off a higher percentage of the smaller remaining population. Other realities are also involved, however.

On the largest turbines, researchers continue to use an undersized 75-meter search radius, even though the much larger turbines are known to catapult birds and bats much further from turbine towers. They may also be attributing mortality from the large turbines to the smaller ones nearby (see Figure 1). While the smaller 75-meter search area is generally fine for the 50-100 kW turbines, since some 85% of all fatalities are found within that search radius, the search radius must be much wider (200-250 meters) for the 2.5-MW turbines, to achieve valid results.

In addition, hundreds of carcasses were eliminated from mortality estimates, because they were picked up by wind farm personnel ahead of searchers looking for high priority species like eagles and hawks.

Researchers are also assuming higher search efficiencies; that is, a suddenly increased ability to spot bird carcasses. But the improved search efficiency rates are themselves based on studies that cannot possibly be considered credible. They used dead pigeons, gulls and ravens, whose white and black feathers make them easy to spot around turbines – instead of the primary species, whose camouflaged bodies are hard to see.

For example, a study intended to determine how many bird carcasses are removed by scavengers used Japanese quail bodies that were too big for Altamont’s most prolific scavengers (gulls, ravens and crows) to remove. This made it appear that scavengers are eating few of the turbine fatalities, which again lowers mortality calculations. In addition, an equally clever and far more sinister tactic is also being employed.

Instead of daily searches over a period of several weeks, mortality studies employ occasional searches conducted only every 30 to 90 days. This virtually ensures that small birds and bats are removed and/or eaten. Studies from across the country indicate that nearly 90% of small carcasses vanish in the first two weeks, and 97-100% are gone within 30 days. This is especially true for Altamont Pass, where thousands of gulls patrol for food. It also explains why Altamont searchers found only 21 bat carcasses, when probably thousands were consumed during their six-year study.

The 2005-2010 data from Altamont recorded an average of 372 small carcasses per year. However, by applying a .85 search area factor, a small bird searcher efficiency rate of 38-40% (based on other studies) and a 97% (.03 remaining) removal rate after 36 days of scavenger activity reveals that the annual death toll for small birds at Altamont is actually much closer to 73,000 to 76,840 for its current 500 MW of installed capacity.

This is why daily searches are so important. It is also explains why they have been avoided. With each passing day, the mortality data become less reliable and without a body, searcher efficiency and scavenger removal rates mean nothing if all the carcasses of a species vanish. There is no justification for 30-90 day search intervals when scavenger removal for small birds and bats are known to be 100% within 21 days at some wind turbine locations and without a body there is no data to extrapolate.

In short, the methods used at Altamont (and other wind energy facilities) violate scientific integrity principles. But they are perfect for hiding true mortality counts. The 24 hour search intervals are critical for reliable data, even mortality studies going back decades on communication towers used daily searches for the most reliable carcass data.

However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Fish and Wildlife Department, and supposed bird protection groups have given the wind industry carte blanche to write its own study criteria and kill countless protected birds and bats. That is something they have never done for any other industry. Wind energy gets a pass, because it is supposedly reducing America’s “carbon footprint,” these groups do not want to sully the wind industry’s eco-friendly reputation, and the industry in turn provides generous contributions to environmental groups and politicians that support wind energy.

The 48-hour Study

Altamont Pass researchers are well aware that they are missing thousands of birds and bats in their mortality studies. That is why they insist on using 30-90 day search intervals when looking for carcasses. They want these carcasses to disappear.

This conclusion is supported by a four-month study conducted at Altamont Pass several years ago.

Areas around roughly 24 MW of Altamont Pass turbines were searched using 48-hour search intervals. This 48-hour window is important, because thousands of gulls and other scavengers patrol the Altamont wind turbines looking for easy meals around the turbines (and often get killed themselves).

Searchers looking in undersized 40 meter search areas found 70 small bird carcasses. After adjusting for these undersized search areas, injured birds (which will die but are not counted by the wind industry) and carcass removal, I rounded the four-month total to a conservative total of 100 small birds. At first blush, this appears to be a tolerable bird kill (unless it is compared to prosecutions for the accidental deaths of 28 common birds in oil and gas facilities over an entire state during an entire year).

However, once these 100 birds are used to calculate mortality counts for Altamont's total installed capacity (2008) of 580 MW and a full twelve months, the small bird kill rate soars to 7,250 per year. Combining this body count with a reasonable searcher detection rate of 40% and a credible scavenger removal rate of 30% over two days results in an estimated total of 25,900 small birds per year! If the scavenger rate is boosted to an equally plausible rate of 60% over a two-day period, small bird mortality jumps to 29,500.

That’s 925 to 1,050 times more birds than resulted in the federal prosecution of seven oil companies in North Dakota in 2011 with no investigation or prosecution of wind companies. It is also ten to eleven times more small birds than the 2,700 fatalities that Altamont operators admitted killing per year, based on their “eco-friendly” research methods during the period when the 48 hour study was conducted.

Considering the critical analysis presented in this article, it seems very reasonable to conclude that new studies employing proper search areas, trained dogs, 24-hour search intervals and no culling of birds by wind energy employees would produce far greater totals – easily exceeding 25,900 small birds per year, plus thousands of bats, raptors, and other birds.

There can be no doubt that the Altamont mortality is far greater than what is being reported. In my opinion, Altamont pass is actually killing 50,000-100,000 birds and bats per year and has been for decades. And that is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg of wind turbine mortality, considering that more than 40,000 turbines are now operating in the United States, many of them in or near important bird and bat habitats. As Paul Driessen, Mark Duchamp and others have concluded, based on careful bird and bat mortality studies in Spain and Germany, it is highly likely that US wind turbines are killing between 13 million and 39 million birds and bats every year — including hundreds of bald and golden eagles, thousands of hawks, falcons, owls and other raptors, and dozens of extremely rare whooping cranes!

No wonder the taxpayer and consumer subsidized wind industry is so intent on rigging its mortality methodology and making sure that no meaningful or accurate studies are conducted. They would raise such a public outcry that nearly all of the 40,000 turbines would be shut down. Considering the trivial amount of electricity they produce (less than 2% of all US electricity output) and the vanishingly small amount of carbon dioxide they reduce, even a nearly total wind turbine shutdown would be justified and would hardly be noticed.

My next article will explain how studies of Wolfe Island’s 86 wind turbines are also concealing most of the bird and bat mortalities that occur there each year. Those numbers could easily be in the range of 200-300 bird and bat fatalities per MW per year — when the wind industry is reporting just 8.2 per MW at Wolfe Island.


Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area Bird Fatality Study, Bird Years 2005–2010, Prepared for Alameda County Community Development Agency, November 2012. Prepared by ICF International

ICF Jones & Stokes, Draft Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area 48-Hour Search Interval Bird Fatality Study, June 2009. M32. (ICF J&S 00904.08.) Sacramento, CA. Prepared for: Altamont County Community Development Agency, Hayward, CA. http://www.altamontsrc.org/alt_doc/m32_apwra_draft_48_hour_search_interval_kb_study.pdf

Smallwood, K. S., and C. G. Thelander, Developing Methods to Reduce Bird Fatalities in the Altamont Wind Resource Area, Final Report by BioResource Consultants to the California Energy Commission, Public Interest Energy Research – Environmental Area, Contract No. 500-01-019 (L. Spiegel, Project Manager), 2004. http://altamontsrc.org/alt_doc/cec_final_report_08_11_04.pdf

Insignia Environmental, 2008/2009_Annual Report for the Buena Vista Avian and Bat Monitoring Project. September 4, 2009 Prepared for Contra Costa County, Martinez, CA. http://www.altamontsrc.org/alt_rl.php

POST-CONSTRUCTION AVIAN AND BAT IMPACT ASSESSMENT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE WIND TURBINE IN LEWES, DE: May 2012. Jeffrey Buler, Kyle Horton, & Greg Shriver. Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology University of Delaware http://www.ceoe.udel.edu/LewesTurbine/documents/lewes_turbine_interim_report_2012.pdf

Longcore T, Rich C, Mineau P, MacDonald B, Bert DG, et al. (2012) An Estimate of Avian Mortality at Communication Towers in the United States and Canada. PLoS ONE 7(4): e34025. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034025 http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0034025


Video of birds at Altamont

Fatal Attractions: Birds and wind turbines

Cooper's Hawk Focused Upon Urban Pigeon Prey

While bicycling about downtown Omaha on Sunday morning, September 8th, a surprising observation was a Cooper's Hawk holding down a captured Rock Pigeon on the sidewalk of 15th street. The lesser bird wasn't moving and the hawk was seemingly successful in its capture.

Suddenly the hawk — due to the approaching pedestrian — carried the pigeon up into a nearby tree, apparently to eat it as breakfast.

The man yelled excitedly about seeing a hawk and its prey. It certainly isn't a regular event among the buildings of this metropolis.

However, within moments, the pigeon fell from the tree, landing seemingly intact, and having survived the sharp talons. It started walking about, and the raptor, obvious in the tree, was gazing downward at what had been within its grasp.

The pigeon walked around while the hawk was keeping a close look at it, from more than one perch. My view was intent upon how the hawk would respond.

The pigeon obviously could not fly, as it made no effort to do so, instead just walking around a small area, preening its feathers a little.

The hawk was watching it intently, while the raptor was also being closely watched.

A short time later, the hawk flew from the branch to the metal barriers for outside seating for a place at Hotel Deco, at the northwest corner of 15th and Harney Streets.

A short time later, the pigeon continued to walk, and eventually went around the corner. Once it was gone from view the predatory bird flew in the same direction, and landed upon a tree branch which provided a suitable view, though it was on the opposite side of the downtown street.

Perhaps, being a young bird, it was uncertain how to respond to what may have been a new experience. Rather than being aggressive, it was tentative.

After bicycling about to look for bird-strike instances, both birds were again seen on south 16th Street, near the corner bus stop and its trash. The pigeon was on the sidewalk and the hawk above on a tree branch. Both had moved more than a block from where they had initially been found.

The raptor sat in the tree while a pedestrian and dog ambled along below. He had no idea that this predator/prey saga was unfolding.

The pigeon kept close to the building facade. Another pedestrian noted the hawk and asked: "Is it okay?" she said. The hawk was certainly okay, but still pondering how to eat a pigeon. The stand-off went on for at least ten minutes, until my departure.

The final outcome is not known for this bird saga on the streets of downtown Omaha. It certainly added some excitement to the morning!

Bird Strikes Surpass 500 at CenturyLink Center

Sunday morning another tragedy occurred at the most dangerous building for migratory birds at Omaha. An especial Northern Waterthrush was flying southward, and arrived at Omaha, along the Missouri River. There were lights and glass enough to cause confusion. This bit of featherdom hit an expanse of barren glass on the west facade of the CenturyLink Center Omaha, formerly the Qwest Center Omaha.

This was record 501 for this facility. Earlier in the morning two other disabled birds were at the same spot. One was a House Wren and the other some sort of warbler which flew away before it could be observed in detail sufficient for an identification.

There were other subsequent and similar tragedies soon discovered about the city-scape of downtown Omaha. A new building was added to the many other hazardous places, upon finding a Northern Waterthrush by the corner of Hotel Deco at 15th and Harney Streets.

And a short time later while bicycling around while continuing to investigate other bird-strike locales, an anty Mourning Warbler was found on the west side of the Keeline Building, along 17th.

The hawk's antics and presence meant an addition of two more bird-strike records!

Examples of recent bird victims at the CenturyLink Center Omaha.

In subsequent days, additional strike instances have been documented, so the tally is now more than 512!

Omaha's Deadlist Building

The first instance's of bird death's at the Qwest/CenturyLink Center were found on May 8, 2008. There were two dead Clay-colored Sparrows along its west side, which is a huge expanse of reflective glass.

The deadlist year known was in 2012, with 157 known instances, Numbers per year vary because of interest and intent, so there is no grand list which might indicate a precise number. There are also architectural features which inhibit any comprehensive perspective.

Numbers keep increasing, and that is the reality of the situation.

On Monday, September 9th, there were six more records added to the tally. Only one of the warblers was still alive, and carefully removed from the open scene adjacent to the glass. The species impacted were the Mourning Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Tennessee Warbler and Ovenbird.

Hazards persist at the CenturyLink Center Omaha, despite the placement of supposedly deterrent decals onto the upper extent of the windows along the west facade. And the mortality has continued unabated! It's hard to say if anything effective has been done, though there have been efforts. The bottom line: nothing has been effectively done to reduce the number of birds which are dying at the Qwest/CenturyLink Center.

Success of any deterrent measure should be evaluated based upon documented, proven results. The opposite is happening at the CenturyLink Center, which is managed by the troubling board of the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority.

A special thanks to Justin Rink for his occasional help in identifying some bird carcasses.

08 September 2013

Scouts Improve Heron Haven - Autumn Festival Pending

Boy Scouts and friends were busy about Heron Haven Wetland on September 7th doing projects to get the natural area ready for an autumn festival next weekend. Several efforts being done to improve the nature sanctuary for the pending festival, included:

  • Cleaning up around the nature center;
  • Restaining the kiosk and some benches along the trails;
  • Widening a bridge and providing a hand-rail; and
  • Replacing the fence at the dragonfly pond.

Two Eagle scout candidates, and supporters along with others of Boy Scout Troop 395, were instrumental in getting the tasks done. Twin brothers Micah Waskowiak and Erick Waskowiak were doing the public service as a part of the requirements to receive the highest rank achievable by a Boy Scout. Helpers included their older brother, Justin Waskowiak (already an Eagle scout) and proud father Eldon Waskowiak.

Justin Waskowiak sawing lumber for a project.

This effort is greatly appreciated by Ione Werthmann, the matriarch of the haven, which she was instrumental in getting established 22 years ago.

Ione Werthmann and Erick Waskowiak at the nature center, discussing a project.

"I really appreciate the work today, as it so significantly improves our sanctuary!" she said, also noting that there have already been 35 Eagle scout projects done at the area.

Replacing the fence at the dragonfly pond.

The Heron Haven Wetland Festival on Saturday afternoon September 14th from 1 to 5:30 p.m., is an opportunity to celebrate the splendors of this 25-acre wetland in urban Omaha.

It is the big event of the year for the haven, at 118th and Old Maple Road, in western Omaha.

Events will include a close look at wildlife as presented by "Wildlife Encounters" at 2 p.m. At 4 p.m., live raptors will be shown by people from Fontenelle Forest Raptor Recovery. This will include an close look at wild birds of prey.

Other events are also scheduled to occur during the afternoon. Free prizes, admission and refreshments will be available.

A final highlight of the day will be a butterfly release at 5:30 p.m. of the butterflies which had been kept within a tent for a close look by visitors, and which will then be released into the wild.

The wetland festival sponsored by the Friends of Heron Haven. Members of the board of this organization will be present during the day to help, and to answer any questions about the sanctuary.

The event will be opportunity to continue to celebrate the special features of this urban nature haven, which most significantly has seen a recent renovation of the marsh, and improvements to the nature center.

Following the completion of the wetland renovation project during the summer of 2012, disturbed native vegetation has regrown this season. During recent months, the deeper wetland has become a place for previously unseen waterfowl to visit, including diving ducks such as the Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Canvasback and Common Goldeneye. Other new additions to the site's bird list include the Sora and Virginia Rail.

In the spring, Werthmann was excited to make her own addition to the tally. A different looking dove was present at the nature center, and she eventually determined that it was a White-winged Dove, species number 158 for Heron Haven. Since then, the Clay-colored Sparrow has also been added. Many other species occur among the waters and woodlands, and the site bird list includes 159 species.

A new heating and cooling system has just been installed for the nature center. The Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District, which owns the property, paid the cost. Propane is no longer required.

Presently, numerous flowers with their exquisite colors are blooming beautifully in the Butterfly Garden. Native grass species are ripe with seeds in the area where they have been planted.

It's a grand time to visit Heron Haven!

Seen and Heard at Heron Haven

By W. Bruce Warr, vice-president of the Friends of Heron Haven; the hike occurred on August 8, 2013.

I had no idea how eventful an evening we were in for as Verla Shaner and I went for our nightly visit to see if the Butterfly Garden gates were closed and to lock the parking lot gate. Since the weather was fine and there was still some daylight left, we decided to walk out to the boardwalk by way of Mulhall's grounds southeast of the garden.

Verla immediately noticed a White-tailed Doe and her half-grown fawn that was still exhibiting spots, grazing in the distance by the dam. The animals raised their heads in unison and with their ears focused on us, watched us intently before ambling off into nearby cover.

As we passed approached the Wetland Trail, I noticed a Fox Squirrel that had become ensnared in one of the aluminum frames used by Mulhalls to form plastic-covered Quonset huts. The critter must have struggled but only succeeded in wedging himself tighter into a fatal trap. His remains are now attracting flies and could eventually provide us with a skeleton for the natural history collection in the Nature Center.

As we approached the bench located beside the oxbow, my sharp-eyed companion noticed a Muskrat feeding vigorously at the base of a cattail. She says she sees this fellow quite regularly in almost the same place in the oxbow. On our way back that evening, there was also a deep-voiced Bullfrog calling from that same general area.

Moving on to the boardwalk, we surprised a Great Blue Heron that took off right in front of us and, flying south, landed in the water close to West Maple Road. Verla noticed that the heron was struggling to get control of a large Bullfrog, which it had impaled but had not yet succeeded, in sliding off its bill and into its gullet. (Sticky, those frogs!) Through my 10X binoculars, I guessed that the Bullfrog was a good foot long as it dangled by one leg from the big bird’s beak. In a flash, the Great Blue swung the frog up into the air, caught it in its open beak, gulped it down, and continued hunting in its usual stealthy manner. Seeing that big bird feasting on a bullfrog made us question whether the absence of fish in our pond, resulting from the dredging of 2012, was an impediment to heron culture, after all.

I was glad to see a clear reduction in the amount of floating green algae, which earlier in the season had been so abundant and atypical for the shallows near the boardwalk. I wondered what was eating the algae or impeding its growth. Also, close to the boardwalk, I was struck by the sudden abundance of several kinds of water plants, including arrowhead, smartweed (topped with bright pink shafts of blossoms) and cattails.

As we walked further out onto the boardwalk, we caused a mother Wood Duck and her nearly grown ducklings to scramble out from their shelter under the weathered decking. They simply flew across the pond where they resumed their leisurely cruise among the cattails on the south side.

Curiously, I spotted the anterior half of a Crayfish that must have measured 5 inches long when whole, on the decking at the bend in the boardwalk and wondered if it might be the handiwork of a Kingfisher, whose call we could hear clearly. That part of the boardwalk has always been the Kingfisher’s favorite place to perch and immobilize its catch by whacking it on the railing before swallowing it whole. Nothing worse than a squirming lunch!)

As we watched from the end of the boardwalk, a pair of Muskrats took turns swimming out from the shrubbery along the shoreline to our left to bite off arrowhead leaves at the stem and head back to their burrow carrying their harvest out of the side of their mouths and, despite the drag, swimming with amazing speed showing only the tops of their heads.

And, I almost forgot, the Butterfly Garden is still bustin' out all over! Take one look and the Hibiscus will be on your Wish List! Hey, it rhymes doesn't it?

04 September 2013

Nesting Bird Survey August 24 - Saddle Creek Project

Provided to Omaha Public Works; August 11, 2013. Presented here for archival and informational purposes. Surveys had to continue this late in the season due to conditions included with a permit received from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Pending tree removal by a contractor at the east Westlawn Cemetery site in association with the Saddle Creek CSO! project required that a survey be done in regards to any nesting birds, according to provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The following details are provided to the Public Works Department in accordance with an agreement to evaluate the indicated project site and determine if there were any bird nests present, or if there were other associated breeding bird concerns.

It should be noted that several previous bird surveys have been done around this area, which are helpful in understanding the conditions relative to the survey area features, and helpful in a recognition of species present.

Survey Methods

A survey for bird nests and/or young was conducted early on the morning of August 24th at the area indicated by the provided plan sheet and as marked on an aerial photograph.

Images provided by Omaha Public Works.

During the survey four methods were used to evaluate bird activity while the area was slowly traversed: 1) looking closely at both tree and understory vegetation within the immediate area; 2) watching and recording all birds present and evaluating their behavior; 3) listened for any bird vocalizations within the area and general vicinity; and 4) watched for bird activity that would indicate an active nest or adult birds feeding pre-flight young. Several stops were made at suitable vantage points to look and listen for bird activity. The majority of the survey was done before work activity associated with dirt hauling had started and which created noise that would make it more difficult to hear subtle bird sounds.

Survey Results

There were no nests or pre-flight young observed within the area of the indicated survey site.

General bird activity noted in the area did include:

  • American Robin: primarily adult birds, with a couple still retaining juvenile plumage.
  • Black-capped Chickadee: group of three foraging, with no begging behavior heard or seen that would indicate the presence of dependent young.
  • Blue Jay: foraging.
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee: only one bird, which sang for a few minutes but then was quiet; since this bird has only been seen along the creek on this and the last season, it is a bird which did not successfully nest, and so became transitory and arrived at suitable habitat at this site.
  • Great Horned Owl: flushed from a tree, with this birds nesting season done back in spring.
  • Mourning Dove: transitory, foraging in open areas, or flying over.
  • Northern Flicker: a single bird using snag trees.
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher: a migratory transient, perched atop a snag tree; the first time this species has been seen at this locale.
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker: a single bird using snag trees.
  • White-breasted Nuthatch: one foraging through the area.

There was more underbrush among this survey area, but no birds were seen or heard in these areas. Nothing at all was flushed.

Other species observed in the general vicinity also did not convey any nesting activities.

Birdly Notes

Additional cavity trees will be lost due to this tree-clearing; these trees have provided foraging, roosting and potential breeding activity. At one particular snag, with four or five prominent cavities, woodpeckers were at the dead tree. There was no use of the cavity observed, and no flurry of activity that would indicates adults feeding young, nor any noise to indicate young were present in the holes.

To provide a refugium for native flora and fauna, which can recolonize the project area once work is completed, any disturbance to the east branch of the creek should be minimized to the extent possible.

These pictures were not included in the report provided to Omaha Public Works. They indicate a snaggy cottonwood to be removed, as well as a "bum camp" and associated graffiti.

03 September 2013

OPPD Response to Tree Clearing Concerns

This email was the response received to multiple concerns regarding the tree clearing at the Northwest Pond Natural Wildlife Area at Levi Carter Park, and as conveyed to a representative of Omaha Public Power District at their downtown Omaha office. Among the questions asked were: 1) Who did OPPD contact at Omaha Parks and Recreation Department prior to the tree clearing?; 2) What is the specific legal mandate that allows OPPD to remove park trees?; 3) Why didn't the tree contractor remove all of the tree debris from the natural wildlife area work site?; 4) Why did the contractors take several limbs and shove them into two animal burrows; 5) Why was tree debris thrown into the pond?; 6) How come Omaha Forestry staff had to remove the debris left at the site?; 7) How does OPPD tree removal consider the potential presence of bird nests and/or young; and 8) How will OPPD mitigate for the trees cleared at the natural wildlife area. The response is presented in its entirety, and verbatim as received August 22, 2013.

"We appreciate your concern regarding tree trimming work done at Levi Carter Park. OPPD management and Forestry personnel also value the many benefits trees bring to our communities and the wildlife that benefits from trees. Since 1989, OPPD has provided approximately $1.08 million to fund OPPD’s Tree Promotion Program in our 13-county area, resulting in the planting of rightly 115,600 trees and shrubs. That program also helps educate the public about the value, selection, placement and welfare of trees.

"Many service outages and interruptions are caused by tree limbs that fall into power lines, causing damage to wires, short circuits and other problems. That creates potential damage for customers and customer’s property, as well as disruption of home and business operations. In 2012, trees caused 10 percent of the outages on OPPD’s system. OPPD proactively works hard to prevent such interruptions.

"Reliability is a key component of OPPD’s mission, which is to provide affordable, reliable and environmentally sensitive energy service to our customers.

"OPPD’s Vegetation Management Program is committed to controlling vegetation growth within power line rights-of-way to maintain the safe and reliable operation of the electric system. This minimizes adverse impacts on the environment. As part of the program, OPPD trims trees around power lines on a three- to five-year cycle. If birds are nesting in the area at the time trimming is scheduled, work is delayed.

"Additionally, federal, regional and electric industry regulations and standards require minimum safety clearances to ensure vegetation doesn’t come into contact with high-voltage overhead transmission lines. If vegetation located in the transmission right-of-way is not compatible with the safe operation of the system, it can result in widespread electric power outages or unsafe conditions for the public.

"Easement rights allow OPPD to enter the easement area to trim or remove vegetation and to trim trees adjacent to the right-of-way to eliminate danger trees that could potentially fall within 15 feet of the conductor. Right-of-way widths depend primarily on the size of the power line and typically range from 50 to 200 feet.

"As for the recent work at Levi Carter Park, an OPPD tree contractor worked this area last week. City of Omaha was notified and permission granted to remove brush and undesirable trees as needed. The contractor cleaned up after their work, and returned to pick up some logs they had to leave temporarily. The logs in the water have been there for quite some time, possibly years, and were not part of the recent trimming.

"Again, thank you for your concern."

John Buckley
Manager T&D Integrated Work Management

Follies of Oldtime Snipe Hunting in the 1870s

Snipe Hunting at Rocklin. — We have been furnished the particulars of an extraordinary snipe hunt at Rocklin in which a man prominently connected with the railroad office at that place, whom we will designate as "Stevey," played a prominent part. It appears that two or three of the amateur sportsmen of the town informed Stevey in a confidential way on Tuesday that they had found an excellent place for snipe, and confided to him what they represented to be the modus operandi of old hunters when they sought to capture a number of the birds, viz: to go out at night — darker the night the better — with a gunny sack, which, on arriving on the ground to be hunted, one of the party would hold open, after having a light conveniently placed to serve as an attraction for the game, which, on being aroused by the other members of the party, would run to the light as a moth to a candle, and directly into the sack! Stevey swallowed it all. It was agreed that the party should go out Tuesday night to try this system of hunting, and go they did. Arrived at the spot where the snipe were represented to be, the other members of the party kindly agreed that Stevey might have the easiest portion of the work — he should hold the sack while they trudged round and scared up the birds. Accordingly Stevey was placed in position and warned to exercise due watchfulness, as there was no knowing when the game would come it might be in a few minutes and it might not be for half an hour! The balance or the hunters then left him, and after going a short distance, ostensibly hunting, they returned to town, leaving Stevey, solitary and alone, watching for the snipe! He was faithful to his trust, and kept the light burning for about two hours, when, finding that the sport was inclined to be monotonous, he returned to town, where the broad smile with which he was greeted on all sides convinced him, if he had not felt any intimations of it before, that he had been badly sold. When his friends ask him now "How are you, Snipey?" he feels that they are making game of him.

Issued March 17, 1870. Sacramento Daily Union 38(5919): 3.

A Western Joke. — The Peoria Transcript tells this joke on one of the denizens of that place: two gentlemen recently went across the river, several miles, hunting snipe. One of them understood the business; the other did not, having only "herd tell or it," and dreamed about it. The man who was posted told the other that lie must take a bag, hold its month open, and stand quietly until the birds Hew into the bag, as they surely would do. So the uninitiated chap took his post to wait for the coming of the birds, while the other went into the woods to scare them towards the man with the bag. Instead of attempting to scare up any birds he walked leisurely back to the city and went to bed. The victimized individual came back about one o'clock at night, complaining that he had not caught a bird, and that his companion in hunting had been lost. When the story came out somebody was mad, but had to treat, nevertheless.

January 3, 1873. Portland New Northwest 2(34): 1.

The Snipe Catchers.

By Ed Eggleston, in Youth’s Companion.

The huge red brick building on the top of the hill was the County seminary. Everybody thought the location appropriate, because the building looked like the Temple of Fame on the Hill of Science in the frontisspiece to the spelling book.

When the seminary was opened the boys and girls from New Geneva had to climb a steep hillside three hundred feet up; and as the county boys and girls who attended it boarded in town, the school was like Jefferson's windmill built to saw timber on a mountain where it was sure to catch the wind from every quarter, but where there was not a stick of timber to be sawed.

And so it happens now that you may see the deserted red brick temple of education, standing desolate, without doors or windows, a monument to the stubbornness and wisdom of three grave county commissioners, about whom I have neither the time nor the inclination to write.

But for a year or two the seminary flourished, and during that time it was that the town boys taught some of the county boys how to catch snipes. One of these boys was familiarly known as Jack Thomson. The first day that he appeared in school he was asked his name.

"John Thomson, Judge Thomson's son." he replied.

The boys laughed at this. Judge Thomson had held the indifferent office of Associate Judge, and this parade of his father's title gave him the sobriquet of "Judge Thomson's son." He was a pompous boaster, also, and so came in for the title "Pompey Smash No. 3," two other boys having borne the title of Pompey Smash before him.

It was natural that the boys should hit upon Jack Thomson when they went "snipe hunting." They wanted a victim, and Pompey Smash No. 3 was just the sort of victim they wished for.

"Did you ever hunt snipes, Jack?"

"Many a time," says he. "I don't believe there's a feller in this county can beat me at that."

And Thomson drew his great strapping form up to its full height. He was full twenty years of age, and looked down upon boys of eighteen.

"No, but did you ever catch snipes with a bag," asked one of the other boys.

"Many a time," said lying Jack, though he could not for the life of him tell how snipes were caught in a bag.

But he readily accepted an invitation to go on a bag hunt for snipes that very night.

I must inform those of my readers who have never had the felicity of hunting snipes with a bag, that midnight is the true time for starting. A snipe will not readily run into a bag before he has had his first nap nor after he has had it, either so it doesn't matter. But midnight was considered by the boys the appropriate hour.

All the boys agreed to this, and Pompey Smash insisted on it when he found that the rest were unanimous about it. He had never, in all his life, hunted snipes in a bag except at midnight, and he didn't think it good to start before.

So just at twelve o'clock the boys who were in the plot sallied forth. One of them carried the bag into which the snipes were to be driven. The beech woods, in the bottom land above town, was unanimously concluded to be the best place.

On the way the boys pretended to dispute about which should hold the bag as though that were the post of honor. Each one insisted on his experience in the matter. But Jack declared that he knew better than any of them. He had always held the bag!

So the rest, affecting a flattering confidence in Jack's skill, agreed that he was pre-eminently the one to hold the bag. And Jack modestly agreed with them. So he stood by the water's edge and held open the mouth of the bag while his companions hastened off to wake up the sleepy snipes, and drive the confiding things straight into the open trap. Of course they went straight home and went to bed, and hunted snipes in the land of dreams, where one is quite as likely to catch them in a bag as any other way.

How long the expectant Jack stood there out the margin of the Ohio, listening to hooting owls and looking for snipes, will never be known. He did not appear in school the next morning, but departed for home, and Judge Thomson wrote an indignant letter to the Weekly Palladium. After that he threw all his influence against the levying of any more taxes for the benefit of County Seminary.

Nobody had much sympathy for Jack. It is one great evil of boasting that it loses the boaster all sympathy, even when he deserves it.

There was, however, one young fellow in the school who disapproved of such practical jokes, and who said so. Tom Graves had an old-fashioned notion that lying was not gentlemanly, and he said the snipe business was a lie. He said that getting fun at somebody else's expense was not much better than getting anything else at the expense of another; in other words, it was stealing.

Tom drawled this out in his good natured way, and it was not until he had said it that all the boys began to perceive how severe it was.

One of them bristled up and said that Tom shouldn't call him a liar or a thief. But as Tom showed no signs of "backing down," his antagonist thought it would not improve matters for "him to give Tom who was a brawny farmer-boy a chance to whip him.

After a few days another country boy, extremely poor and humble, came to town to "do chores" for his board, and to attend the seminary on the hill. He did not know anything, but was exceedingly anxious to learn. A big boy of eighteen, in a state of sublime ignorance, was a fine subject for fun.

Tom Graves, however, kept the poor fellow under his care, and warned him of all tricks; and as the boys couldn't think of trying to whip two such fellows at the same time, Dick Blain went unmolested, except that he had to bear the nickname of "A-b-abs," because he was just beginning his education; and a still meaner one of" Cross-eyed Coon," on account of an ugly squint with which nature had endowed him.

One evening the boys found him apart from Tom Graves, and persuaded him to hunt snipes with a bag, which they told him was much the best way. Dick was pleased to find his schoolmates friendly, and readily assented. At midnight they all set off for the beech woods, and after much adroit discussion, and not a little objection on the part of Blain, he was persuaded to hold the bag while the rest should drive up the gentle snipes.

The boys left Dick with many cautions about holding the bag close to the water's edge, and about keeping very still. They assured him they would bring up the snipes within an hour.

Then they scattered, and reunited again shortly, and went sauntering homeward, stopping now and then to laugh at the thought of Dick's weary watch at the river.

When they entered the village they saw, sitting in the tavern door, a figure which they readily divined to be Wash Tomkins, the toper.

They resolved to stir him up, and have some additional sport. But what was there consternation, on coming up, find that it was none other than Dick Blain himself, who had run around reached the town ahead of them.

"Got the bag chock full," he said, "they came up, and I low’d ef I staid thar tell you fellers come up you'd claim all the snipe. So I tuck my bag snipes home, and come and sot down here to wait for you. You didn't fine none I s'pose liker'n not. I low'd you wouldn't. I jest whistled Dan Tucker, and they knowed the toon, and all on ‘em come right in."

The seminary boys never took a bag to catch snipes after that.

April 8, 1875. Highland Weekly News 38(52): 3.

Snipe Hunting.

After the excitement or the day, a number of young gentlemen determined to spend last evening in the pleasures of a snipe hunt, and selecting their victim from among the numerous clerks or a popular Elm street establishment, proceeded beyond the Dallas branch, armed with the conventional bag and all the necessary paraphernalia. The victim was placed in position, and for two long weary hours he waited, with the mouth of the bag open, for the snipe that never come. Last night was a bad night for driving, and the young man had better try it again; but we're afraid he won't. A two hours lonely watch and a lonely two-mile walk, will probably cure him of nocturnal hunts in the future especially after snipe.

April 5, 1876. Dallas Daily Herald 4(45): 1.

Snipe Hunt. — A suitable subject having been found the first snipe hunt of the season came off on Tuesday evening. The "subject" and about seven or eight "operators" betook themselves to the woods about a mile and a half from town. Subject and operators arrived in town about the same time no birds caught — operators had but little to say. Quid nuncs put in an oar; subject had been posted and operators given away.

December 26, 1879. Brenham Weekly Banner 14(52): 3.

Ledger Lines

Last night a squad of dry good men visited Noncoonah bottom in order to initiate four of their number into the mysteries of snipe hunting. The would be hunters had shot snipe in "bold England," but never did, "you know," in this "blarsted" country. As one of them said to another, "It was a bloody good joke, my lad, but some fellahs don't like it, you know."

Snipe Hunting

Four New Disciples to This Rare and Ancient Sport

The old game of snipe hunting was perpetrated last night by four dry goods.

November 25, 1876. Memphis Public Ledger 23(74): 3.

Christmas Snipe Hunting Story

"I am so glad to see you, Henry, and so surprised, too; for you know you expected to remain in St. Louis till after Christmas. It has been awfully stupid here at Helena since you have been gone. There has not been a single party of any kind that I have heard of. I don't know what I should have done but for that conceited coxcomb, Raymond, who has been trying his very best to do the agreeable, and I must say amused me exceedingly."

"What, you don't mean that foppish New York drummer? Why, he is greener than cucumbers; if he were turned loose out in the meadows the cows would follow him. He comes down here to Arkansas selling Yankee notions and gimcracks, and struts about in his new store clothes as though he were a heap better than any fellow in the State. And so, Kate, he has been shining around you, has he?"

"Yes, but I only laugh at him; a lady must have company of some kind, you know, Henry. If none come along whom she can laugh with, she sometimes is content with one she can laugh at. This fine New York gentleman Mr. Augustus K. Raymond he calls himself has invited me to the grand party to be given by Mrs. Gordon on Christmas night."

"But you surely did not accept, Kate; why, I heard of this party, and hurried home from St. Louis before my business was half over, on purpose to ask you to go with me."

"I am extremely sorry, Mr. Morgan, that you should be so disappointed; but what was a poor girl to do? I wouldn't have missed going for the world, and how could I know that you would put yourself to so much inconvenience for my sake?"

"Now, Kate, this is cruel in you. Why do you call me Mr. Morgan, and adopt this lofty tone toward me ? We are old schoolmates and old friends, and — and I had flattered myself that we were very good friends. I had even ventured to hope that some day we might be still better friends. In fact — but I am making myself as great a fool as that fop of a notion peddler. My dear Kate, I scarcely know what I am saying. I only know that I love you devotedly, and that if you will give me the least assurance that you love me in return, I shall be the happiest fellow in Arkansas. Can you give me just one word of encouragement?"

"Yes," replied the roguish girl with provoking brevity, but a serious look immediately stole over her countenance, and after a few minutes of silence, while the young man ardently pressed her hand, she added, as her downcast eyes were raised again to meet his: "You knew all the while that you were the only one my gentlemen friends for whom I really cared anything."

"I was bold enough to think you preferred me, dear Kate, or I should never have been brave enough to declare myself. But what's to be done now about this Christmas party? That simpleton, Raymond shall not go with you if I have to run him out of town."

"Never fear, Henry. I will get rid of him in some way. He bored me terribly before. He would be insufferable now."

"I know how we can get rid of him Kate. We young fellows will get up a sniping party for Christmas eve, and make him hold the bag.

"Oh! that will be capital, said Kate, gayly. "That's just the thing; but there’s the bell now, and no doubt it is he himself. Just wait and see how nicely I shall dispose of him. You are to be my cousin, mind."

A card bearing the name of Augustus K. Raymond was handed in, followed a moment later by an over-dressed young gentleman with waxed moustache, hair parted in the middle, and the air generally of one who has got himself up to make a stunning impression."

"Good evening, Mr. Raymond. Permit me to introduce you to my cousin. Mr. Morgan."

"Delighted to have the pleasure of your acquaintance, sir. You reside in Helena, I suppose."

"I live here," replied Morgan, curtly.

"Ah, then, perhaps you are in the mercantile business. I have the honor to represent one of the leading notion houses" —

"No, I am not in the trade," interrupted Morgan, dryly.

"My cousin, explained the lady, is in the game business; and, apropos of game, he has just been telling me that he is going with a party of our young of our young gentlemen on a grand snipe hunt tomorrow evening Christmas eve."

"Yes," added Morgan, "and we should like to have you join us."

"Do go with them, Mr. Raymond. I do so want a snipe feather to wear in my hair at the party. They are all the rage with the girls now. Such beautiful feathers they are too! Long and drooping, with the richest red and yellow colors. You must go with them and get me a snipe feather, for I can't think of going to the party without one, and Cousin Henry here, even when he goes, is never smart enough to secure me a good feather. Somebody else always gets the privilege of holding the bag, and so secures the finest of the feathers."

"Certainly I'll go, with great pleasure. Miss Andrews, that is, if the gentlemen really desire that I should honor them with my company."

"Of course we'll feel greatly honored, Mr. Raymond," said Morgan, "if you will condescend to join us in one of our simple Western sports. I can even promise you the post of honor on the occasion."

"Really, you quite overwhelm me. I shall not fail to be with the party, if I can be of service! I am not familiar at all with — with — what did you call the game? — snipe; but if they possess such beautiful feathers as Miss Andrews describes, they must form a conspicuous mark, and no doubt I shall be able to bring at least one down at every shot. They call me a good marksman at the shooting galleries in New York. You may rely upon me, Mr. Morgan."

So saying, Mr. Raymond bowed himself out in an impressive manner, and had scarcely closed the hall door behind him when both the" others broke out in a paroxysm of laughter.

"That joke of yours, Kate, about the red and yellow leathers, was excellent. It couldn't have been better managed, I'll get the boys together to arrange for the hoax. By 10 o'clock to-morrow night your gallant greeny will be standing up to his knees in the mud and water, out in one of the creeks, holding the bag, and expecting that the rest of us win drive the snipe into it. But he will be as likely to see Santa Claus himself out there as any snipe. When he gets tired of waiting for the game, and for us to return, he can sneak off home alone. It will spoil those striped pantaloons of his, though, and ruffle his temper, so that this climate will not be apt. to agree with him any longer."

The just-accepted lover, however, did not seem in a hurry about going, and it was considerably later in the evening when he finally bade his betrothed "good-night." The latter, we should have explained, was the belle of Helena, Arkansas.

She was a high-spirited, dashing young lady, as might be inferred from the foregoing, and, withal, unusually handsome. She had numerous admirers, and, as may be imagined, her talk about a lack of company was only a little mischievous fibbing, craftily intended to elicit a declaration from him who had long been her favored suitor. The only reason why she had accepted the invitation of Raymond for the party was that she and her friends might make themselves merry at his expense. He was disposed to be spoony, and was so little acquainted with the bluff, hearty manner and disregard of ultra etiquette which characterize the people of the West, that he was constantly making himself ridiculous in their eyes, and therefore was vastly entertaining to the lively young ladies upon whom he lavished his attentions, though in a wholly different way from what he supposed. It may not be fully understood that snipe hunts were formerly a favorite means of humiliating gentlemen from the East who went West with too disparaging ideas about the people resident there and too lofty ideas of themselves. How these affairs were managed will fully appear in the remainder of our story.

A dozen or two choice spirits were assembled by Morgan the next evening, and Raymond, having been notified of the time and place, was punctually in attendance, wearing his best clothes and an air of importance which seemed to say, "I am bestowing a great favor in consenting to join you;" and so he was, for his was the principal and an indispensable part in the farce about to be enacted.

The party proceeded several miles out of town by wagons, to a small stream of water in a wild, lonely place. The wagons were left some distance away from the proposed scene of operations, which was in a low, swampy bottom.

Of course, everything had been well arranged beforehand, but to disarm suspicion, it was proposed by one of the fellows that they pull straws to see who should have the privilege of holding the bag. All pretended to agree to this, except Morgan, who insisted that the drawing be dispensed with, saying:

"I promised the post of honor to our distinguished friend here, Mr. Augustus Raymond, of New York, and I intend to see that he has it.

"Thank you, Mr. Morgan, for championing my cause," said Raymond, condescendingly. "You may rely upon me, gentlemen, in whatever post you assign me. I flatter myself that I shall bag as much game as any of you. But it has just occurred to me that we have no guns. How are we to shoot the snipe without guns?'

"We will soon show you, said one of the party," Bob Norton. "We are to form a line and drive the snipe down the creek, while the best man is to stand in this narrow place holding a large bag with the open end up stream. We have sometimes caught hundreds of snipe alive in that way at a single haul. Did you ever have any experience in holding bags?"

"No; but I know I can do it. Only show me where I am to stand."

"You will get your feet wet," suggested another of the party, adding consolingly, "but they will soon dry again. Do you think you can keep perfectly still and wait patiently till the snipe come?"

"No difficulty about that," replied Raymond, who remembered that he had promised Kate the first pick of the feathers.

"Then you're our man," said Bob, and turning to Morgan, "You vouch for the reliability of your friend, I suppose?"

"No fear about him," said Morgan; "he represents one of the leading notion houses of New York; he is true grit, and I warrant he would stand firm in his place till midnight if it took us so long to get the snipe down to him."

Raymond was then furnished with a large bag, the end of which was kept open by a hoop, and suffered himself to be stationed where the water and soft mud were unpleasantly deep, his legs from the knees down being completely submerged. He by no means relished the position, but remembering that he had promised some of the finest red and yellow feathers to Kate, and that Kate's cousin had vouched for him so emphatically, determined to stick it out.

"The water is very cold," he rather meekly suggested as the practical jokers were leaving him. "Do you think it will take very long?"

"We can't tell," replied Morgan. "We may scare up a flock in a few minutes, and it may take half an hour or so. Then, sometimes, they don't drive well, and that causes delay. But don't leave or stir till you have bagged them, for if you should give up and go away you might just miss a splendid flock. We will go to the American Hotel after the hunt is over, and have a Christmas eve supper. That will make amends for all our trouble."

We need scarcely add that they went straight home, taking their wagons with them, and leaving Raymond sinking deeper and deeper into the mud and water. Returning to Morgan's own residence they had a jolly time, and I cracked many a joke at the expense of their poor victim.

"Santa Claus may take pity on him," said Bob Norton, "and fill up his bag with Christmas presents, if he waits there long enough. That would console him, perhaps."

"He wouldn't appreciate them," chimed in another, "unless Santa Claus certified that the toys and things came from that leading notion house which he represents."

"I don't think he would have consented so willingly to hold the bag if I had not worked upon his cursed vanity so well," said Morgan; "and then Kate Andrews made him believe that snipe had long, beautiful red and yellow feathers, and that she wanted him to bring her one to wear to the party tomorrow night."

"I'm thinking his own fine feathers, which he has been strutting about in ever since he came here, will be much the worse for to-night's work," observed another.

And so passed the time with them till long after Christmas had been ushered in. Meanwhile Raymond was standing patiently in the water. No sound disturbed the stillness of the night except the occasional splash of a big fish in a deeper part of the stream just above him.

"This is a delightful manner of spending Christmas eve," he thought to himself. "What would my New York friends think if they could see me in this position?"

His feet and legs were as wet as they possibly could be, and he shivered with cold. Several times he was on the point of giving up, when the thought of Kate, the party, and the promised feathers came to him. Nor could he bear the idea of provoking the ridicule, and perhaps the wrath, too, of the young follows, by deserting his post.

Nearly an hour thus passed and he was not only drenched with water but nearly benumbed with the cold, when suddenly a suspicion dawned upon him that he had been outrageously duped.

"They have made a fool of me," he muttered, with an added imprecation, as his teeth chattered involuntarily, and throwing away the bag he hurried off in search of the wagons.

Fear was added to his rage and mortification when he found they were gone, and that he was left entirely alone in the wild solitary place. Fortunately it was a straight road back to town, and he had no difficulty in following it. He ran most of the way, yet did not reach his hotel till some time after midnight, and it may be readily surmised took the first train next morning for home.

Henry Morgan accompanied Kate Andrews to the Christmas party, and it was remarked by all their friends that she never looked so well nor seemed in such lively spirits, and that he appeared to be unusually happy.

Neither was ever again troubled by the attentions of New York drummers, and just one year later there was a grand wedding in Helena!

The happy pair included New York in their tour, and in a Broadway store met their old acquaintance, Raymond. He greeted them pleasantly, and, after some explanations on both sides, inquired:

"So Mr. Morgan was not your cousin, after all?"

"No more than you were yourself."

"And I suppose he escorted you to the party. I see through it all now. Well, though it was a most unhandsome trick you played upon me, it has turned out for the best. By hurrying home then I got here in time to be of great service to our house at a critical junction, and as a reward, have since been taken into the firm. Besides, I have found another lady-love, the accomplished daughter of our senior partner; and if you can wait till next Thursday, you shall be present at our wedding."

Christmas Snipe Hunt. December 25, 1873. Elk County Advocate 3(43): 1.