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Get Acquainted with Nevada's Birds Says Jack Bell
Nevada State Journal - October 24, 1926, Page 1

Naturalist Reveals Secrets of Nature in Interesting Article


To all bird lovers and true disciples of nature, it must be known that right at this time it is your duty to begin feeding the feathered tribe. It is a very easy matter to construct a feed board or table. If not familiar with the construction the following suggestions may be of use: A two foot square plain board is employed, and a two to four inch retaining wall is nailed along the edges to keep the food from being blown away. The feed table or board is spiked to the end of a 2x4 or a 4x4, with the stand not less than five feet above the ground, where it has been firmly driven. Tin should be tacked to this standard to prevent cats, squirrels and other animals from reaching the plane.

Best Food

The best feed that can be given the little fellows is sunflower seeds, small grain and broken cereals. Bread crumbs is not very attractive except to the English sparrows, a real pest and a destructive agent, and an absolutely useless bird that should be exterminated. Always have a good sized piece of beef suet where they can peck at it. This is one of the favorite foods of the songsters.

Soon, very soon, all the bird family, with the exception of the chicadees, and a few of the juncos of the snow places will be down in the lowlands. Perhaps a few of the grosbeak family will remain for a time longer up in the spruces as will the hairy woodpecker. With a heavy fall of snow they will all be down and they will be about the orchards, in and near houses, and even along the main thoroughfares throughout the town.

The blackbirds have left. They departed along about the middle of September, there may be a few left, but they are few. The bobolink and the barn swallow left here about September 10. These two species make the remarkable flight of 10,000 miles, going south every year to their winter quarters and feeding grounds in the Argentina. The night-hawks and cliff swallows perhaps penetrate just as far south, but it is a fixed fact that the bobolink and barn swallows go into the region of tango and pampas in the South American country. The shore birds, are for the most part the long distance migratory ones. The great number of birds with which most of us are familiar stop before they get very far south of the equator.

Robins Seek Florida

The robins of the frozen places, seem to have a hankering for Florida, as do the waxwings. House wrens are common down there. Among the sparrows that go to Florida are the chipping sparrow, song sparrow, myrtle warbler, and the dove is very abundant. Among the blackbirds down there in the winter is the purple grackle. All of these birds leave this southern country some time in April for their summer homes up here.

It may be of interest to bird lovers to know that there are one hundred real singing birds in the United States, and that most of the states have laws protecting them. It may also be of interest to know that a famous English naturalist has really classified 450,000, four hundred and fifty thousand spieces of insects.

In the moth family two do inestimable damage and destructin to woolen goods, running into untold millions each year. The young - the larvae or moth worms do the damage. Nothing but a spray of odorless, colorless liquid that makes the cloth inedible saves the cloth.

In Winter Garb

All the local birds, and they are still an army of many species, are in their winter's garb. They are all dull in coloring. They appear to have been dusted. The bright feathers have disappeared. Even the goldfinch is a soiled brownish yellow. The red polls are a mere gleam of dead rose pink instead of the flashy scarlet of midsummer. The myrtle warbler, the grosbeaks, meadowlarks, kingfisher, yellow-hammer, the sparrow family are like the dull dead markings of the hills where the wonderful greens, yellows and all shadings of red, obtained but a short time ago, and all these rainbow tints turned to a desert bleakness; where there was a rainbow-tinted beauty, there is now nothing but naked trees, dirty browns, tans, and rusting leaves and scraggly brush denuded of foliage, and the quaking aspens stand stark and silvered. By the way the explanation of why this beautiful mountain tree, with its attractive leafing, sparkles all the time, will, I know be of interest to all who are familiar with this fascinating tree, that fills the long draws high in the mountains, and in lovely groves and natural parks. An examination of the stem of the quaking aspen leaf, reveals that it is long and flat, and that the flatness is at right angles with the leaf, so that the least breath of air sets it in twinkling motion, and making the entire tree appear as having been under the spell of an invisable electric current, with the sunlight flashing through, bringing out the opalescent effects, in green, silver, gray, and emerald and Kunzite flashes most beautiful and most remarkable.

Moisture Denotes Color

Another fallacy, the popular supposition that the frost turns the autumn leaves into their bright colors is all wrong, according to late scientific research and investigation. It is said that the coloring is dependent on the amount of the season's moisture, being brighter if the summer has been rather wet, and duller after a notably dry season.

Our largest moth is one of the most interesting things to be seen here, and it is distributed well over the United States. If I remember, it is called the Cecropia [Moth], or somethng like that. Was my good fortune that one fell on my lawn last summer, early in September. It is a very pretty moth. This one measured eight inches across. It was gray, more or less shaded with a faint red. The margins of its wings were earthy gray, and each wing had a line, a very narrow line of white, and the feelers, or atennae were lovely and feathery, and very broad. This moth flies only after night, and high above the ground with a strong erratic flight like the nighthawk, when the latter is feeding in the early twilight. Once in a while it will come to a light, but does not pay much attention to them. It spends the day high in the trees, very quiet upon a branch.

A curious, and interesting fact about this moth, is that it never eats. As a matter of fact it cannot eat. Its mouth is so imperfect as to make it absolutely useless. It lives entirely on the surplus food material stored up within its body. From some time in September, until the following June or July, ten months, more or less it lives without anything at all to eat.

Moths As Big As Birds

Being such an enormous moth, it follows naturally that it has unusually large caterpiller. The caterpillars are immense, of a beautiful nile green, and very common late in the summer. They feed on half a hundred kinds of trees and shrubs. They are wonders as feeders, soon stripping whatever they attack. They have to be for they must eat enough to last them all through their latter stages, as crysalts and as a moth. It is one of the most interesting of the flying insects. This moth may be mistaken, almost any late evening in summer for any of the bat family or small night birds.

Most of the songsters are now silent. The exceptions are the red poll, both great and small; the white throated sparrow, and the warblers. At night from out the small marshes, the killdeer, disturbed by some marauder flies into the sky and gives forth his warning cry. It is noted that the songs of the above mentioned birds are very low and sweet. It is the same as when they arrive, or rather begin their carols in the springtime.

The notable exception is the water ousel. It is at this season, early in the morning, particularly if the morning is very cold and frosty, that he is at his best. His melodies are unlike any other songster. There is always a haunting, vibrant sweetness to his varied songs, and it is never the same. He seems to improvise, and goes from one lilting number to another, then down the scale to the low volumes of heart searching, satisfying, beautiful story song, with the ever plaintive never-to-be-forgotten slurs of the rising and falling notes, like a wonder artist on organ, or flute. Along the switly rushing waters of mountain stream he may be heard, or up in the white waters of the Truckee river. It is worth the trip to lie quiet amid the evergreens and listen to the ever changing music of the whirling waters, and have the water ousel start his grand concert. His coat is now dull gray, instead of the shining dusky grouse color of the summer season.

Hummingbird Gone

The ruby throated hummingbird departed about Octor 1. As long as blossoms were in evidence, the little beauty was on hand, making his rounds to the red climber beans, sweet williams and sweet peas and violets. After the heavy freeze, he left and started south to join his colony.

The sage thrasher, or what is known as the mountain mocking bird is still here. He measures about eight and three-fourths inches. Speckles of brown or spots dotting a lighter brown, brown tail tipped with white, wing bars white tipped, crown light brown. He is called the mountain mocking bird for the reson of his sweet song, imitating many others of the songsters.

It was but a few days ago that a small party of goldfinches called at the sunflower garden in the yard. He is commoned called the wild canary, and is in his yellow coat, with its darker trimming a resemblance to the domesticated songster of the old world. Another common name is the thistle bird, from its liking for the seeds of this plant. All the year seeds are their principle food. The ripening sunflower in the yard will generally bring a small and sometimes a very large family of them. Right at this time the little fellows are in brownish dress, that gives but little idea that they are still goldfinches. This is the last of the song birds to nest. As a general thing their young appear in September, which is mighty cool for the youngsters. Their nests are deep cupped and lined with the warmest, downy and softest bedding that nature provides.

The birds that are still here, and will be for some time, that have been noted along the streams and in the nearby foot hills, and along the river are as follows: The magpie (of course), the marsh wren, and tule sparrow, robin (the robin remains all winter), red polls - great and small, mountain mocking bird, meadowlark, song sparrow, vesper sparrow, sage sparrow, lazula bunting, cedar waxwing, and most of the warblers, hairy woodpecker, red shafter flick, Arkansas kingbird.

Regular Visitors

The above birds are regular visitors about the cabin, and come regularly for their feed. There are two feed boards, one on the north and one on the south side of the shack. They come for their rations at or near daylight. When the sun comes up they take flight for a short time, as this period of the day is at the coldest mark. The red polls generally remain, with ruffled feathers in the nearby trees, awaiting the change in atmosphere that will bring warmth to their little chilled bodies. They are a bit noisy, until they get interested in picking and shucking the meat from the sunflower pods that are placed for them. For many days a dull gray hen of the great red pollbreed, the real boss of both feed boards has been ruling with an iron hand. She has been coming to the feed table for the past two years and remains near the cabin all year with her mate. But goodness alive she is a nasty tempered old girl. Always scolding. Whenever the big flock of many species come for their meal, she begins her ornery attitude. She will open her mouth, ruffle every feather on her body and fly at the intruder with all the venom of a rattler. She scarcely takes time to make her morning's meal she is so busy keeping the thirty to a hundred birds away from the food. The identification mark on this particular bird is a bit of claw on her right foot that is missing. The queer part of her attacks upon all the other birds, even her mate, is that all the rest of the birds remain, for the most part perched on the trees until she has made her meal, and signified her fill. When she has finished, and she generally eats no less than twenty-two big sunflower seeds, cracks them in the cunningist way, as all the other seed feeders do. They will pick out a large seed, then moisten the small end, working tongue over it, and in a very short time remove the kernel. Now as a matter of fact it takes strong fingers to press the seed and crack it, much more strength than in cracking a pinenut. But these little chaps have no trouble in accomplishing it.

Angler Hooks Bird

Digressing a bit. There was an unusual happening up river on September 15. Andy Anderson, of Reno, is an ardent fly fisherman. While casting up stream at a point above the new highway bridge, just below Union Hills station, his attention was attracted to a fluttering bird well up in a cottonwood tree. He then discovered that it was one of the share sparrows, or reed sparrows, which is much larger than the ordinary sparrow. This bird is a fly catcher, and may be seen at all times along ther steams where he sits well up in a tree and then suddenly darts down to the shore, or out in the air after winged insects. Then again, they will be found darting through the grasses or brush along the shore after insects. This bird was in trouble. Taking up his cast Anderson started an investigation. When the lights were just right he discovered that the bird had been hooked by an artificial fly, and that there was three or four feet of leader following the bird when it took flight. Every effort was made to capture the bird and release it from the barb. In this Anderson was unsuccessful, and the bird took wing back toward the high hills. The only explanation, and the only reasonable one is that the leader had snagged in a back cast by some angler, the leader fouling and the fly dangling and swinging from three or four feet of leader, making the small fly appear as a live insect.

It is not an uncommon thing for fishermen, using a long high back cast, late in the evening to hook a night-hawk, almost every one of the local anglers has had this disagreeable experience, and it's always with deep regret that the bird is a bit injured when being freed from the hook.

Winter Feeding

Now a word about winter feeding. All summer long we enjoy the songs and beauty of the birds. Many go to milder climates, when the cold weather obtains, while others remain here with us.

Why not create a sanctuary and keep a well stocked food table for them? In doing this we will help them to survive the elements and will be amply repaid by their wonderful songs when spring comes.

As told before, beef suet is one of the foods most appreciated by all of the bird family, it has the nourishment necessary for the cold and wet. This may be laid on the table, or tied in a meshed bag and hug on a tree, or merely cut in fine particles and placed in a dish. Then added to the foods mentioned above, there is peanut butter, and table scraps except bread. Mustard seed is always fine and flax seed too. For chickadees and nuthatches, a coconut with a hole cut in the side, wired to a tree trunk or post, and filled with this food, will be daily visited by them until emptied.

Establish a feeding place for the winter birds and you will have species in your yard that perhaps you would never see otherwise.

Frog As Pet

Now another pet that the writer has had about the cabin for over two years is a small mottled brown and green tree frog. In the summer he lives in the wood shed. He is a weather prophet sure enough. When there is to be a radical and violent change in the weather he is certain to begin his not unpleasant croaking. When visited in his playground among the blocks of wood, and he generally is in sight, he may be picked up, stroked and held in warm hands, without a struggle, but let a stranger enter his domain while he is resting peacefully and quietly in his owner's hand and he will make one long spring and instantly hide away. All last winter he remained in the cellar, immediately under the stove in the kitchen above, and even on very cold nights, when there was to be a sudden change in the weather he would begin his song. He is a cute little thing that is always ice cold. How does he live, and what does he eat? Ask me something easy.

Whether the influx of crickets in and about the house and outhouse portend anything unusual in the coming winter remains to be seen. This is the first time that this has happened. For the past month this insect has been making every effort to enter the house. They do not chirp, but rather seem to want to make quartets for the coming cold season.

Everyone who has the surroundings should feed the birds. That is they should at this time prepare the feed tables and make ready for the inclement weather that is sure to come. One will be repaid a thousand fold to have a table near a window and watch the comings and goings of the feathered tribe. It will sure be a revelation, take it from one who knows. In a week you will love them all, and protect them all.

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