Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

June 25, 1911. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 46(39): 2-S. Portion of column.

Forest Field and Stream

Birds Up the River Road.

Omaha, Jun 24. - To Sandy Griswold, Sporting Editor of the World-Herald: I was much interested in your little story on bird nest hunting in last Sunday's World-Herald. the only drawback to it was, there wasn't enough of it. Like you, I was an egg collector in my boyhood, and often at this late day go on a bird nest hunt, not for the eggs, however, but for photographs, of which I have a fine collection, and intend soon to call on you and let you make a selection of the most curious of the nests for publication in the World-Herald.

It is a mistake, however, to suppose that this nest hunting is all a joy, for it has its disagreeable features. True, for the most part it is a pleasure, and there are times when the bird lover is fairly thrown into transports; but it also has its difficulties and annoyances. Do you think it merely a pastime to trudge for hours through a tangle of weeds and thickets until your limbs ache and the perspiration streams from every pore, without finding a single bird domicile, or to sit in a damp, bosky place for a long time watching a shy bird and scarcely move, or, worse yet, to scratch, while the gnats, mosquitos, woodticks and chiggers enter a cabal to make your life as miserable as they can? No; nest hunting is work, not play. It demands so much effort and patience that only the real bird student will persist in its pursuit after a few fruitless attempts. Whatever else it may be, bird study is no sinecure.

Generalizations aside, however, during a recent spring in Eastern Nebraska I gave special time and effort to the finding of the nests of a number of shy wood warblers. There were the beautiful Kentucky warblers, breeding in the woods up above Florence, and yet their nests escaped me. But I found one later, and that is what I want to tell you about.

In the latter part of May and the first of June, I spent many hours prowling about in the woods up the old river road. For several weeks my quest for warblers' nests was in vain, although it seemed to me that I covered every foot of the wooded area. Most of the time Kentucky warblers were singing their blithe arias in the bushes and trees, varying their concerts by pursuing one another pell mell through the weeds and copses, chippering at the top of their shrill voices, doubtless settling questions hymenial according to the social codes in vogue in the warbler realm. On a bushy hillside a little male, already clad in his wedding suit, would approach his lady love, twinkling his wings and chirping in an appealing way, when she would dash at him and drive him down the slope with as much fury as if she despised the very bushes he stood on. Sometimes the Kentuckies would set up a vigorous chirping as if I were growing "hot" in my quest of their nests; then they would pretend to be utterly indifferent to my presence, as if they were saying, "Cold, cold;" ut no matter where I sought, no nests were to be found.

The 4th of June again found me in the breezy hilltop woods. Only a few minutes elapsed before the handsome male warbler began to chirp in a tree nearby, while he held a luscious tidbit - a green worm - in his bill. Then he flew to another tree down the slope a short distance, and presently flitted down into the weeds and disappeared. This was about three rods from the place where he had descended on the two previous occasions. A few moments later I was seated in the path in the shadow of the trees where the bird had just been seen. A wait of some minutes was rewarded by the appearance of the little mother holding a morsel in her bill. It was curious that she had kept out of sight on my previous visits. She expressed her disapproval of my presence in a series of fine chirps, quite different from the loud, full-toned calls of her mate, who soon joined her on the tree, also bearing some worms in his beak. The two kept up a chorus of chirping for a long time, the male remaining stationary on a twig at a safe distance, his crest feathers erect while his more nervous spouse flitted about with a good deal of agitation. Presently the male swallowed his bunch of worms, evidently feeling that he could protest more vigorously with them in his crop than in his bill. Plainly the mama was very anxious to feed her babies, but did not want to betray their hiding place, which surely must be close at hand. Thinking I might be so near the nest as to prevent her going to it, I moved a rod or more up the path. It must have been fully an hour and a half that I watched the devoted pair. At length the little madam dropped down to some twigs, then dived into the weeds below and ceased her chirping. At the same time her mate flew to a more distant tree, and tried by loud calling to divert my attention from the mother's proceedings.

But I have been studying birds too long to be victimized by such artifices. A few moments later I went to the charmed spot where the little lady had last been seen and was looking down into my first Kentucky warbler nest, which was in plain sight amid the weeds, not more than three feet from the path. Its holdings were four infants a little more than half-fledged, the flashy corners of their mouths showing light yellow. It was a pretty bird home, rather bulky for so small a bird, its foundation consisting of dry leaves, the super-structure of grasses and other [letters not legible]ores, and concave floor carpeted with finer material. Wise in the ways of the world for their age, the bantlings did not open their mouths as I stooped to touch them with my finger, but snuggled close to the bottom of the nest, so early had they learned through the tutelage either of instinct or of their parents that the world is peopled with foes that hurt and destroy. What a wonderful thing is intuitive fear in the heart of a wild creature even from its tenderest infancy - Viero.