Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

April 2, 1922. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 57(24=27): 3-W.

Birds Busy Courting and Homebuilding These Days

By Sandy Griswold.

Although there are few who will even intimate but that the return of the birds in the spring is the most delightful happening of all the year, anyway to the lovers and students of nature, there are at the same time scenes and incidents concomitant to their departure in the autumn that are more replete with curious and puzzling things than their coming back home in the dawn of another year.

That I am fonder of the vernal season than any other, as I have probably thousands of times made evident to my friends, there has been but few falls I have allowed to pass in the past half century but what I have put in many happy and profitable days watching the birds marshaling for their ever mysterious and wonderfully long journey to the south.

The past autumn was no exception. I spent many days in succession in the woods and fields up the old River road between here and the little village of Herman, and along the ever rushing Missouri, and if I did not discover anything startlingly new, I saw and heard unnumbered little things I never heard nor saw before - little things, and yet they added much to the knowledge I had accumulated in the long years before, and convinced me that what I did know was as rare as it was beautiful.

Of course there are writers on birds and flowers and nature's many beauties, and there are writers, but it is those who can tell of something new when they do write that are the ones that are worth while, and not those weary old repetitions of the textbooks. It doesn't make any difference, however, how close attention you pay to those even best qualified to discourse upon the subject; how persistently you follow them or how arduously you study the nature subjects themselves, but what, if you have the proper perception, you can and will discover some little thing you never saw or heard before.

The ways of the birds are so changeful and so countless, so full of beauty, wonder and sagacity, that almost any real student can give you, as experienced as you may be, a new idea or a new bit of information, which, until the moment, you deemed impossible.

Bird Fever Lasts.

Once you contract the bird fever, you need not think to get rid of it, for it is one malady of the quickened pulse for which there is no febrifuge. I began to chase the birds and to search out their arboreal and leafy quietudes when but an urchin of 6, and maybe less, and yet the fires kindled in those juvenescent days are still ablaze, aye, even fiercer and more mandatory than ever. While new things come slower and in smaller quantities, as you travel along the road of life, with its arabesque of shine and shadow, I am one of those lucky ones who are always finding something new and attractive and am as ardent and painstaking student today as I was when first this penchant made itself manifest. There are but few springs, summers, falls or winters that slip away nowadays without having added to my invaluable store of knowledge of the birds.

In the days now upon us it is their trysting, their lovemaking, courtship, mating and the wonderous home building that occupy all the hours I can give to it in wood, or field, in orchard or along our silvery water-sides. In early summer it is their laying, their brooding, their poetic and matchless devotion and the first rudimentary schooling of the younglings. In the golden fall, it is their preparations for migration, their gorging and their dieting, the meticulous care they take of their cries and calls, their signs and signals and their wonderful aerial feats, preparatory to setting sail upon that inevitable and ever-mystic long voyage.

All these things continue to appeal to me throughout their regular climateries as nothing else in life or nature does. So appealing are they to my gentler nature and to my love and sympathy for all of God's creatures and especial his little feathered messengers from the realm of the unknown. And in it all there is so much that is symbolic of human ideas, that it is only the saturnine and anchorite who fails to find solacing wisdom in the study ot the elfin tenants of wood and field.

It is indeed, a great study and there is no decline, through surfeit, in its enduring thralldom.

Every man, woman and child with a touch of poetry in their makeup, and with a heart in consonance with all that is beautiful and harmonious in life, love the birds and the flowers, the woods and the waters, the hills and the plains, the skies, clouds, storms and calms, although there understanding of them is pitifully meager.

Old Friend Returns.

The longed for return of a bird well known - like the robin on my window sill - is a matter of even great and grave concern, and as this is his third year back, the feeling is intenser than ever. This robin came to my window the first fall of my present residence, just north of Turner park, and he has come back each spring since, and has remained in close comradeship all through each recurring summer, and till late in the fall. We know him, beyond all doubt, by a round, white spot above his right eye - the scar tissue, probably of some old wound or hurt, or maybe a natural blemish, but whatever it is, it is the mark by which we know him beyond all chances of doubt. However, we would know him even if he did not have this mark - know him through his wonderful neighborliness and by the fact that he knows us as well as we know him. For instance, through the whole hour and a half of Wednesday's snowfall, he squatted upon our sill, where we set a table for him daily, as contentedly as a cat on a rug before the blazing fireplace. He is an old bird, and I hardly think he has many more summers to spend with us, but how we would miss him is a springtime did come and he did not.

And again in the autumn - the unexpected meeting with a group of birds assembling for their departure, is another event fraught with unusual moment - is, in fact, a milestone in the student's life that he treasures as he treasures few other things however precious.

All birds have their distinctive habits, their characteristics, and their manner of love-making in the spring, but with me it is our common yellowhammer, our scarlet crested flicker, whose modes and moods are the most entrancing and most interesting of all, and in another article I will take pleasure in relating to you one of these love matches which I had the glory of watching from beginning to end, from the doorway of our hunting shack, out on the Platte some years ago.