18 May 2014

Miscellaneous Reading - A Georgia Pigeon Roost

The Whole Sky Darkened for Miles With a Pigeon Tornado.

A letter from Clarksville, Georgia to the Germantown Telegraph contains the following graphic account of a Georgia pigeon roosts, which it would, seem eclipsed the Kentucky roost:

This roost occurred in the month of February; the place selected by the pigeons was on the banks of the Chattooga river, near the confluence with the Tugalo, on the eastern line of this county, where the mountains rise abruptly on either side; a wilder and more inaccessible a place could not have been found in the United States. Our party consisted of four persons, all armed with good double-barreled guns and mounted on horseback. We started about three o'clock p.m. for the roost. After fording the Tugalo we skirted along the breakneck sides of the mountain until we came within a half mile or so of the beginning of the roost, which extended over an area of some five miles or more. Here we were obliged to leave our horses and take the rest of the trip on foot. The sun was now about half an hour high, and the pigeons had just begun to come in. As we were high up on the side of the mountains on the west side of the river, our position was an excellent one to see the innumerable flocks as they poured over the mountain tops into the valley. As we did not wish to enter the roost until after sunset, we remained an hour or so viewing the immense host of birds which no man could number; from east to west, north and south they came in flocks of all sizes, roaring and rushing through the air, whirling and sweeping in every direction.

It being our intention to go near the centre of the roost and spend the night there at a camp prepared by an old hunter of the neighborhood, we started as it begun to grow a little dusk, leaving our horses securely tied to saplings. As our camp was on the east side of the Chattonga we forded it on foot, and soon entered the edge of the roost, where there were myriads of pigeons and myriads still coming from every direction. As we were bound for the camp which was still a mile distant, the difficulty was how to get along, as the numbers on the trees were so great that there was a constant crash of the limbs breaking from the trees, making it hazardous to skulls and limbs to pass under them. To move the pigeons out of the path we had to resort to firing volleys among them which had the effect to move them so that we could pass along with safety. — An amusing incident or accident occurred to one of our party who was walking by the side of the writer; his name was George Gable; he had a pretty large talkative mouth usually more or less open, and as it was now early dark and the pigeons flying in every direction from the breaking of the timber, one came like a bullet directly into George's mouth, and killed itself outright!

After reaching camp and resting awhile, we divided into two parties and began shooting, and all we had to do was select trees which were filled with birds and fire into the midst of them as near as we could : it being dark no precise aim could be taken, but looking up we could distinguish the dark tree tops sufficiently well to get an aim. On firing at a mass of them they would fly a short distance and settle again, but as there were plenty of trees filled with them, we did not have to run many steps to get another shot. After every shot we could hear the birds fall amongst the universal din, some on the ground and some in the river. We kept firing at intervals until midnight, when we gave up and returned into camp to await for daylight to pick up the game.

Shortly after daylight, on going over the ground where they had roosted, it had the appearance of having been visited by a tornado; numbers of trees with trunks a foot or more in diameter, which grew in a leaning position from the side of the mountain, were broken off near the ground, while thousands of limbs of all sizes were split from the trees. The great noise and confusion continued until three o'clock in the morning when all became hushed and silent as death, save now and then the howl of the wolf, the bark of the fox and the scream of the wildcat, which hold high carnival on the occasion. — Shortly after daylight in the morning the flocks commenced reforming, and started off on their morning foraging expeditions, which extend to a hundred miles or more in every direction, to return in like manner as before. This roost was continued about two weeks, when they moved off to the north. — Near its close it was almost impossible to enter upon the ground they had occupied in consequence of the manure which not only covered the ground but every stick and bush. On going over the ground in the morning to collect the birds we had shot during the night, we found many that were killed and maimed by the falling timber. How many we had killed could not be ascertained, as numbers fell into the river and were carried down the stream. We brought out, however, 535 birds, which were as many as we could comfortably carry. While searching about in a laurel thicket for the dead birds, we came across a pile of a peck or more of gizzards, which had been left there by some 'varmint,' probably a wildcat, which did not appear to relish them as food."

March 29, 1871. Juniata Sentinel 25(13): 1. Issued at Mifflintown, Juniata County, Pennsylvania.