Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

June 11, 1916. Omaha Sunday Bee 45(52): 15-A.

The City Back-Yard Bird Sanctuary

When I think of the new Fontenelle forest reserve, for the protection of the birds, and as a home and sanctuary for them, it seems like a kind of a bird dream place; a bird heaven; an ideal plan that has actually and amazingly come true. The birds that live in this wonderful place, correspond to the earth folk whose lines are cast in the pleasantest spots. They fly through the shady glades, and nest in the quiet woods. Their lives are not disturbed, and they will be helped in summer with baths of fresh water, and in winter feeding stations will doubtless be established. The birds whose stars lead them to this peaceful haven will be the blest among our feathered friends. It is quite fitting that the dedication of the reserve, on June 17 should be given over to the performance of Percy Mackay's bird masque, in which the birds for the time become symbolic, and are endowed with the gift od speech, and are able to communicate with us humans in our own language. I understand that the cardinal is to make a commemorative speech written by a poetess of Omaha and interpreted for this special occasion.

When one contemplates great riches the thought also comes of more moderate privileges and accommodations. I would certainly call the Fontenelle forest reserve a bird heaven. Not all humans, and not all birds reach heaven. I have in my mind at this moment the city back yard bird sanctuary with a modest garden plot and with a few large trees as a working basis. My own little garden in Omaha adjoins my neighbors; with the two yards we have quite a park-like space. One afternoon we combined forces and made a cement ground bath in Miss M.'s yard, as she had the most open and available lawn. In this bath, which is well away from all shrubbery, we counted fifty birds in two hours, on a hot afternoon. There is a most fascinating family of robins, mother, father and five babies, and they all hop in together. It is a most engaging sight. For those who care to know about it, there is a place on Seventeenth and Cuming streets, where plain saucer-shaped cement bird baths may be had in three sizes. This is not in the nature of an advertisement, but because I have heard so many people asking where inexpensive bird baths could be bought. My interest centers entirely in the wish that the baths and the birds may get together.

In the big plum tree and in the baths we have little brown thrashers. (I like the name red mavis better). Blue birds, cat birds, gold finches, chipping sparrows, chickadees, wrens, rose-breasted grosbeaks, humming birds, blue jays, pigeons and robins. The English sparrow goes without saying: Poor little unwelcome visitor! A bird came one day and bathed in my little bowl bath, which I did not know at all. From my description Miles Greenleaf said it was a hermit thrush, but I would never dare put in print that we had a hermit thrush in our back yard!

The birds like very much a Russian mulberry tree and they appreciate any tidbits like bread crusts or pieces of apple and seeds. Even in the summer. Alas! I know they like strawberries and cherries. Those little baby robins are in the strawberry patch half the time. They play around like a family of kittens and will come within a foot or two of us. We hope eventually to entice them into taking a worm from our hands; so far they haven't quite dared risk it. It's fully as hard for us to hold the angle worm as for the little robin to muster up courage to help himself.

Speaking of cats, we do not poison them or trap them, but we do get after them unmercifully with a good stout broom whenever they show their noses. The system seems effective. Cohunkus also lives in our back yard. He is a chameleon bought at Geisler's by my small nephew, who entirely gave up on the number of flies he had to catch to keep this doubtful pet happy. We hope Cohunkus is catching bugs successfully for himself. Anyway he has been given a chance at bugdom.

There are large sanctuaries and small sanctuaries. it is sure that a small plot faithfully equipped and guarded will find favor in the eyes of the One who notes even the sparrow's fall.

Mary Learned.