Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

April 30, 1922. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 57(28=31): 3-W. Spelling corrections made.

Birds are Returning to Their Turner Park Home

By Sandy Griswold.

While I did not get to see him, I heard the first brown thrush of the season at his matutinal serenade out in Turner park last Monday morning, and on Tuesday morning saw my first bluejay of the year in the same beautiful little woods. Of course the bluejays have been present in many parts of the city for weeks, in fact all winter, but for some particular reason they have absolutely shunned Turner park, and so, it is a real happiness to know that there is nothing really wrong with the locality and that they are back again.

Do not take any stock in the ancient old bugaboo about the bluejay. That ridiculous stuff is simply on a par with the alleged rascality of the crow and many of the hawk family.

Among the other birds that have come back to us while the leaves are unfolding, and which I have noted along with the robins and the flickers, and the black and white warbler, the solitary blue-headed warbler and the grackles. They came on one of the more recent still, clear, really springlike nights.

While the black and white warbler is known tolerably well to most of our bird students, the vireo is still much of a stranger. It is never abundant and is only seen here transitorily, especially in the spring, when on the way to its nesting place in the north, and is always silent while en route.

It is an abnormally large headed little bird, and bigger than either the white or redeye, with a blue gray turban and wing bars. In passing through, it moves about from tree to tree in an indolent manner, as if it didn't matter much when it reached the piney woods of the north. When it reaches its destination it is tuneful enough, in fact, lets go its joyous soul with as much freedom even, as its neighbor, the purple finch.

The Grackles.

The good old fashioned grackle. Well, he is almost everywhere, made extremely conspicuous by his ebony plumage and loquacious inclinations. Several pair nest in the low cedar trees in Turner park and are the delight of all the children, because they permit so much familiarity. They are among the earliest incomers from the south in the spring, many arriving in late February, excepting when the winter has been uncommonly severe.

There are two kinds of grackle, the purple and the bronze, and both are frequenters here, the bronze fellow being the commonest and with us all summer. The difference, principally between the two, is in the brilliance of the iridescence of their black heads and backs, and ordinarily both are better know as crow blackbirds. They are the biggest black birds we have, with many of the Corvine characteristics. Their nests are a bulky mass of mud and grass, as compact as if made by a regular mason, and their flight is on a steady line, and much less wavey than others of its kind, while their call is lower and more husky than most blackbirds. Their lengthy tails are somewhat pointed, the inner feathers the shortest, and is keeled in flight, that is, it slopes from the center, giving it an odd look.

A Pair of Warblers.

We spoke about the black-headed warbler, a pair of which made a brief stop at Turner park a day or two since, as well as quite a number of the black and white warblers, which are familiar to all bird lovers. The bluehead, however, is known to but few, and his northern migrations are much commoner over eastern routes. By this time there must be many other kinds here or passing through, and later, after a little look around, we will try to tell you something of them.

While we have many ornamental sycamores out along Farnam street in Turner park, it is not so often met with, excepting in sporadic sections out in the state. Therefore I was much interested to find it so really prolific, down along the old Missouri in the magnificent big woods of the Fontenelle Forest Reserve, walling up Camp Gifford of the Boy Scouts on the west, while on a little ramble down there Saturday, one week ago, with the Doctor himself. And that wasn't the only tree we found there that filled us with pleasurable delight, for there was the red and burr oak, the shellbark and pignut hickory, ashes, walnuts, hack berries and elms, which for size and grandeur, were almost breath-taking - and cottonwoods, too, a number of them that would require eight or ten men to span.

Sycamores at Best.

But the sycamore - a favorite of our old Scioto boyhood days, with its many distinctive characteristics that make it so easy of recognition above all others, and just now to be seen at their best - now before the full enfoliation of the woods has eventuated.

The outer bark of this historic tree peels off at diverse times during the seasons in irregular sheets or plates, up, say, ten to fifteen feet from the ground, exposing the almost immaculately white inner bark to the ravages of winter's storms as well as to incinerating floods of the summer's sun. Another feature is the covering of the buds on the leafstalk, and which buds are only to be seen after the shedding of the leaves in the autumn time, a provision made for their protection from the cold of winter, which they can stand much better than the withering heat of the dog days.

The sycamore, too, is a growth of the richest and dampest soils, along the big river ways or near sunken lakes and marshes, resulting from both vernal and fall freshets. Along the old Kankakee and the Illinois, the tree reaches immense dimensions - much larger and statelier than any we have out in this western country, although we have some tolerably huge ones here. Along the two streams, on both of which I did much duck shooting in my younger days, it is larger than any of the oaks, the hickories, the beech or walnut trees - in fact, is the biggest of all the deciduous trees of the region - the veritable Anaks of the river valleys. They have a bell-like flower and fruit involucre that always proves an attraction to youthful prowlers in search of rare leaves and flowers and plants in the declining days of the year.

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