Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

Anonymous. August 18, 1912. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 47(47): 3-M. Includes three pictures.

Wild Birds Lured to Protect Native Trees in Unique Way

How Omaha Man Solved the Problem by Making Mr. Woodpecker and Family Take Up a Permanent Residence Along With Other Feathered Enemies of Destructive Worms and Bugs.

Gathering a colony of wild birds to preserve the grove of native trees that forms a background to a group of residences and a windbreak from the winter blasts.

That is the pastime, recreation of altruism, if you please, of Frederick J. Adams, Ralph E. Sunderland and Charles A. Grimmel, owners of the three homes that stand in the two acres bounded by Pacific, Thirty-seventh and Thirty-eighth streets, called by people in that locality "the prettiest block" in Omaha.

They did not intend to retain the two acres, but when the wives and children pre-empted the grove of 200 or more black locust trees and elms and maples the men concluded the tract should be preserved. That meant protection of the trees from their wickedest enemy, the borer. Better no trees at all than a grove of leafless dead timber. Natural enemies of the borers were few and their tenancy uncertain. Mr. Adams, the discoverer of this earthly paradise, studied into it.

Just Two Safeguards.

"There are only two things that will get a borer out of a tree - a knife and a woodpecker," he says. Consulting with Prof. Lawrence Bruner, Nebraska's naturalist and entomologist, and naturalists of other western states, confirmed him in his belief that to gather wild birds - specifically the woodpecker and chickadee - was the safeguarding of the trees.

He imported twenty-five wooden nesting boxes from Germany and distributed them over the tract. These boxes are cut from spruce trees with the bark left on and shaped interiorly like the holes that the birds work out of hollows in trees. They have not only the conical bottom that bunches the hits of the hen bird when she achieves eggs, but also grooves for the birds to climb out or let themselves down, ladder fashion. Into the bottom of each nest is put a small handful of clay and sawdust. Even then the American birds, differentiating in some way from their German cousins, insist upon altering the excavation. But the Nebraska birds take readily to these nests.

Several families of red-headed woodpeckers have been hatched out in them and have taken up their abode in the grove. Chickadees, valued next to woodpeckers for devouring the worms that lodge in the bark, have also become members of the colony and hatched young. Even wrens have adopted some of the smaller nests with openings the size of a sliver quarter. Brown thrashers, goldfinches, rose-breasted grosbeaks and orioles, builders of nests from fiber, have come to join the colony, and bluebirds have put in a bid for tenancy. Squirrels and jays are bad neighbors, and not allowed to shelter here.

That outlaw bird, the English sparrow, has not ventured to try dislodging this strong colony, and the winter feeding of the sparrow, whose diet is not worms or even insects, but only seeds and grain - is not helped out by the winter commissary.

Sparrows Headed Off.

To coax the birds to stay through or at least to the winter season and to come early in the spring if they migrate, "food bells" of meal and glass are swung from trees. The sparrow will not go near a swinging thing and thus he gets no grain from the bells. Strips of bacon or fat are put up beside the bells at first to induce the birds whose presence is desired to come to the bells. This gives them meat diet and the warmth they would lack if they were strict vegetarians, perforce.

Country Life in America has heard of this beauty spot and bird-gathering and will describe and illustrate when it has reached a stage of development to speak for itself.

Development of the beauties of landscape by trees, shrubbery, plants and gardening is well under way on the lawns and the land beside and beyond the three dwellings. Mr. Adams has built a rustic arbor and a rustic balustrade between his house and the grove and across the ravine.

Mr. Grimmel and Mr. Sunderland are each doing his part in a different way, but with a view to the unity of the whole. Russian olive, gingko, mountain ash, white birch, elm, laurel-leaf willow, redbud are some of the trees planted.

From their windows the dwellers in this block see Fairacres to the west, the Field club golf course directly across the asphalt on Pacific street and long distances in other directions - for this eminence is one of the highest in Douglas county. It combines city life and advantages with the atmosphere and surroundings of country homes. And there is the never-ending pleasure of attracting and protecting the wild birds and maintaining the shelterwood for the birds.

Three Charming Homes.

Possibly a word about the three residences that this delightful grove and its landscape gardening afford surrounding and background.

Mr. Adams' house is Old English in architecture, with wide eaves, brown brick, gray stucco walls and shingle construction with sleeping and dining porches looking to the sunset side. French doors throw living room, library hall and dining room into a unit so far as light and cheerfulness and communication are concerned.

C.A. Grimmel's home, the middle of the three, follows the Spanish renaissance in style, with brown brick, white stucco, French doors between the four apartments in the first story.

Ralph Sunderland's abode is English gothic is style, with a touch of the Dutch in the wide eaves, plastered beneath. The house is unique in that it seems to grow from the grass, the walls continuing up from grade line to roof without any break whatever for a watertable. The brick is of brown tapestry effect with rich oriental shades, a great number of distinct hues, but harmonized by heavy deep brown mortar joints. The heavy growth of shrubbery is well placed and seems in form a connecting link between the tall house and the expansive lawn which rolls gently to the streets. The large living room has an observation window, the dining room is heavy with paneled work, a large built-in buffet reaching across the room. The loggier reception hall and vestibule are interesting, and in the basement is a billiard room with a large fireplace.

A High Point.

Thirty-seventh and Pacific is said to be the highest point in Douglas county and the view afforded carries the eye across several successive series of hills, which lie within a radius of from ten to fifteen miles. The property in this block overlooks the Field club links, which give the same effect as a beautifully kept park. Many automobiles bring their machines to a halt in response to the Field club sign, "Stop! Look at the view."

As a background for the three properties is the black locust grove, whose foliage affords a beautiful rich green, and makes a unique setting, and in which live numerous kinds of birds.

At the corner which faces south and east at Thirty-seventh and Pacific streets is a beautiful new residence which was completed a little more than a year ago. Burd F. Miller, who is state architect of Nebraska, made the plans for this structure, which present a combination of English gothic and a little of the Dutch in the splay of the roof at the eaves. This is the Sunderland residence.