We always enjoy hearing from you about the articles and photos we publish. Below are letters to the editor received recently. Most appeared in our February 2014 issue.
Fledging owls and birders
Hi, I am 11 years old, and I am a Boy Scout. I am working on my communications merit badge.
I am an avid birder. I did a Big Year and got 326 bird species. I am going to tell you a birding story. I was on a field trip at the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival. We went to Croyden, Utah, and went to a park to see a nest of Great Horned Owls.
When we got there, the nest was in plain sight, but we couldn’t find the mother. But then somebody said that they found the mother. It was hard for me to find the mother, but then my friend Sam, who is also a birder, showed me where it was.
I got great shots of it with my camera. Then the babies started to poke their heads out of the nest. I counted one, then two. Then, suddenly, one very little one popped up and tripped over the other two and nearly fell out.
We watched the owls for at least an hour. Then the mom flew off, and it was time to leave. This was a fun birding trip. I hope you find my letter interesting. — Bridger Dorius, Kaysville, Utah
A fabulous piece
I read and reread Bjorn Dihle’s article “Year-round in the Arctic” (December 2013, page 24). Why not just read it once? The writing captivated me, not only with the natural history of the arctic region, but also with the beauty of the words. He asks the Common Raven that appeared on one of his skiing trips, “Of all the places you could live, why did you choose here?” Anyone experiencing a sight like that would have asked the same question, whether just running it through one’s head or actually speaking it to the bird. Of his encounter with a Gray-headed Chickadee and how such a tiny bird can exist in the arctic, he writes, “Yet this tiny bird… lived here year-round, warmed only by its plumage and pounding heart.” Not beating heart, but pounding heart — a great choice of words. Lastly, writing about his journey’s end, Dihle crafts a line that pulls all living things together: “Something felt eternal in this brief meeting of caribou, eagle, ptarmigan, and human.” What a fabulous piece. — Nancy J. Howell, science instructor/docent coordinator, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland, Ohio
Rude photographers at Magee
I could not agree more with Kathi Lieb’s assessment regarding rude photographers at Magee Marsh (“Your Letters,” December 2013, page 53). On one occasion, I was shoved aside by a photographer (“sporting enormous equipment,” as Ms. Lieb so aptly puts it) so he could maneuver into a better position to attempt to get his pic. There are many photographers at Magee who seem to believe that their expensive heavy equipment entitles them to be disrespectful of others. — Rosanne Dunlap, Mayfield Heights, Ohio
I enjoyed reading Mark Hedden’s article “Always Around But Never Close” (December 2013, page 18) and reliving memories of the fascinating frigatebirds. They are stunning to see and study, and I’m happy that they are the focus of research. As a sailor, I’ve been able to watch the Magnificent, Great, and Lesser in numerous oceanic locations. They thrilled me with their antics, flight, nesting behavior, and sheer beauty, but never close?
The frigatebirds of the South Pacific and the Atlantic were ever present, at a distance, but it’s those that I know from the western waters of Mexico that often want to be a little too close! They are the constant companions of every fishing vessel, festooning the boat’s spreaders like tinsel on a Christmas tree. The boats resembled ghost ships emerging from the fog or darkness with their feathered passengers. Can you imagine having scores of them constantly overhead?
Many a time during a sailing passage, day or night, a frigatebird decided to rest on my ship’s delicate radar antennas at the top of the mast. Believe me, when they want to be close and personal, no manner of yelling or praying can deter them! — Jan Vidmar, Ashland, Oregon
Send a note to Pete
Many thanks to everyone who accepted our invitation to send a note to Pete Dunne. Here’s one we forwarded to him:
Pete, I enjoyed your article in the December 2013 issue very much (“My Town,” page 14) and am glad to see you back in print after your stroke! I hope your recovery continues apace.
The subject of the article really resonated with me, since I’m mainly a “my-town” birder myself. Since I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, five years ago, I’ve clocked a total of 112 species within walking distance of my house. (I just got out my life list in the back of my Peterson’s guide and counted them.) I think the latest addition was the Pygmy Nuthatch. Not quite up to the 130+ I got in Port Deposit, Maryland, but that was right on the bank of the Susquehanna River, so I got the benefit of two or three different habitat types, rather than one. — Margaret Dean, Santa Fe, New Mexico
If you’d like to write to Pete, too, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll make sure he gets it.
Still flying free
I was delighted to learn that California Condor No. 23 is still flying free in the Grand Canyon (“Most Wanted,” August 2013, page 17). My husband and I visited the Grand Canyon in 2000. In my trip notes I wrote, “The BIG excitement was seeing California Condor No. 23. The bird was sitting on a rock in the canyon, and when I looked at it with my binoculars, I saw the feathered ‘ruff’ and spotted the tag that said No. 23.” I also wrote that I hoped No. 23 would continue to thrive and fly free in the canyon. And now, thanks to your magazine, I know that he still is flying free 13 years later! — Sue D’Onofrio, Keysville, Virginia
Living in an out-of-the-way location far north of the international border, I sometimes get envious of those trogon- spotting regions where birds don’t flee at the first inklings of our -45° weather. And yet I find that one of BirdWatching’s most-wanted birds, the Gyrfalcon, regularly sits for my camera, while another, the Whooping Crane, quite incredibly came and landed on the very street on which I was living. But perhaps birding has its peculiar rewards wherever you live. — Clive Keen, Prince George, British Columbia
There is indeed a songbird highway along the coast of Maine and into Canada. We need to think of the thousands and thousands of songbirds that have to travel that highway despite great peril.
One night in early September 2013, approximately 7,500 birds were killed at Canaport’s refinery in St. John, New Brunswick. It was foggy, and the birds were lured into the flames of the gas flare. This is a big percentage of the year’s migrating songbirds on the east coast and a severe blow to the entire population of songbirds, since 7,500 will not be there to reproduce next year.
All you people who have influential connections, get to work to make sure that regulations are put in place to prevent this from happening! There are surely other refineries that flare at night as well. Is this an isolated incident, or does it happen regularly without our knowledge? — Joyce Morrell, Welshpool, New Brunswick