Agassiz Association. Wilson Ornithological Chapter.

The Wilson bulletin (Volume 10, 1898) online

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Published by the Chapter at Oberlin, Ohio

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To the lover of birds, no place about the metropolis is more attractive
than the low reclaimed area which, according to the wish of Congress, is
soon to furnish Washington with a most beautiful as well as extensive
park. Here the tide of avian migration surges back and forth twice each
year, and thousands upon thousands of birds make it their home, some
for a short, others for a longer period, and many, no doubt, are resi-
dents for life.

If one views this area from the Washington Monument it appears as
an extensive meadow, girt on all sides by sea walls, washed by the Poto-
mac River, and crossed by the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad near the
upper end. But how different does this area appear when one seeks a
closer acquaintance with the premises.

A tangle impenetrable presents itself on all sides. It would be impossi-
ble to move at all were it not for the fact that industrious anglers have
beaten a path near the edge under the row of skirting poplars and weep-
ing willows, in order to approach the favorite haunts of the finney prey.
Rag-weed, poke-weed, golden-rod and asters attain a maximum develop-
ment in this alluvial soil, and these are frequentlv matted by interlacing
smart-weed and morning-glories.

In order to observe the birds under the best advantages, it becomes
necessary to cut a path toward the center of the island where a row of
trees mark an elevated ridge. The lower portion of the field is covered
by a dense growth of low willows, and wherever there is room, tall,
stout stems of poke-weed, draped with numerous bunches of purple ber-
ries, extend their branches through the tops of the willows. Thus we
have thicket and tangle every where, be it rag-weed, willow or golden-
rod, and our trusty, rusty machete is called into requisition, as well as
the oldest suit in our possession, and thus armed we set out. It is hard
work, and for once it seems as though we believed in "work before
pleasure." Tired, we return, scarcely a bii'd noticed except the ever
present Song Spiarrow and a curit)us Maryland Yellow-throat. We renew
our efforts the second day and reach the ridge which extends down
through the center, and now it is comparatively easy to proceed as here
an old path seems to have been too well packed to permit of much vege-
table growth. We are happy, and anticipate manv pleasant hours. So
much for preliminaries.

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2 ' Ihtllctiii Xo. jS.

This morning. (Jctober 7, 1897, fonnd me on my usual pre-breakfast
ramble to the flats. I reached them by fifteen minutes to six, just as da\'
was making an earnest effort to dispel the lingering shades of nigiit. All
is wrapped in mist and fog. As I stand on the elevated rail-road track and
gaze over the fiats, they appear more like a sheet of water: in fact it
would be impossible to tell where land and water merge were it not for
the tops of the fringing poplars.

Taking up my trail, I force my way cautious!}- out toward the center.
E\ery twig and leaf is moist with dew, and so am 1 before I have ad-
vanced many rods. The Song and Swamp Sparrows are moving up into
the tips of weeds to catch the first gleam of Old Sol as he pushes his
rays through the thick mist causing the tops to appear as if studded with
sparkling gems. A "squeak" brings a host of them ixom all sides,
and I observe that Zonotrichia albicollis has appeared during the night.
All seem eager to know what is up, and a second " squeak" brings them
all about me, some so close that I could take them with my hand if they
would permit, without moving. They now give vent to their anger and
denounce the intruder with scornful angry notes, moving about appear-
ing like little furies.

I leave them, and in another place where tall rag-weed forms a thicket
of twenty or more feet in width and several hundred in length, bounded
on both sides by a maze of golden-rod, asters and poke-weed, 1 crouch
low, for here the lower leaves have long since fallen, no doubt due to the
absence of sun-light which is shut out by the green canopy above. This
growth reminds one of a miniature pine forest. Here I again "squeak"
and a Maryland Yellow-throat replies. Soon a whole family of these
ever curious fellows is inspecting me from all sides. A little more
"squeaking " brings up a Golden-crowned Thrush, all in a rage, strutting
about with raised crest, drooped wings, cocked tail and ruffled feathers,
subjecting me, the source of all trouble, to close inspection, adding a few
angry remarks. But I am looking for another bird, the Connecticut
Warbler, and a little more "squeaking" lures him from his tangle. In
his movements he resembles the Yellow-throat to some extent, but he is
a little more deliberate. While not shy, he nevertheless moves cautiously
from reed to reed and darts back into the maze when danger threatens.
Very rarely does he leave this retreat for a more elevated position, and 1
have only once observed him to fly into a tree, when he was suddenly sur-
prised while walking in my path. He is quite silent at this season, due
no doubt, to the extreme abundance of adipose tissue. Before I leave
this place an aggressive House Wren has joined the ranks of my de-

Bull ft III Xo. ]H. 3

The sun is now fairly up and threatens short existence to the fog. As
I approach a bunch of sumac I notice a host of warblers in their tops,
and for the first time see the Black-poll and the Yellow-rump Warblers
perform their ablutions. The pearly dew is still dropping from the
leaves, and this is a sparkling fountain for these birds. They will settle
on a petiole and move toward the tip of the leaf, rapidly beating their
wings down upon this, causing the dew to fly over them in a fine spray.
I watched them for some time. Wondering how effective such a bath
might be, I leveled my gun upon one and dropped him. He was wet —
not only on the under parts but all over ; thus this bathing method proved
to be quite an effective one.

Looking down, my eyes fell upon a little rabbit, far from half grown,
all bunched up and shivering in the chill moist air, patiently longing for
Old Sol's rays to assume a more vertical slant and warm little bunnie's
jacket. A little "squeaking" brings ap some of our earlier acquaint-
ances, a few angry mewing Catbirds and a Water Thrush.

No other species except a few Goldfinches feeding on the seeds of
Ambrosia, are noted until we reach the poplars. Here a crow moves oft
with alarm and a Flicker keeps his distance. A Cooper's Hawk swoops
down among the birds but moves off empty footed, and a flock of noisy
Red-wings passes by. A dead member of the row, gives a resting place
to a bunch of Wax-wings, who are playing catch with the drowsy insects
which are taking their morning flight.

As I pass by the maples on my return trip I notice a Robin in the tip-
top of one of the trees sending up his morning prayers. His breast has
faded from the red of spring-tide to a more humble hue ; but his voice is
just as cheery as it was then. I stride on, knowing that breakfast is
waiting, and note as the last accession a Black-throated Green Warbler
flitting ahead of me as I hasten on to regale the inner man.

One naturally wonders how many of these thousand birds will visit
this gem of bird retreats when artful man will have changed the tangle
to a park, when lawn supplants the weeds and avenues my path.

Paul B.^rtsch, Washinfyton, D. C.

October 9. 1897.


CiRE.vT Blue Heron. ^)d(a Jun-odias — .V solitary individual freqented

4 JUiUcIni No. /S'.

a certain mill-dam on Crum creek, Willestown township, for several
summers, being protected by the miller. One of his own boys took
advantage of his absence during September, i8g6, and shot it. It doubt-
less was an old bachelor bird returning yearly to its old haunts.

Bald Eagle, Hah'ccetiis leiicoiefhalus. — My latest record is April 7,
1894, when a bird in the first year's plumage was wounded and captured
in Tredyffrin township by a local sportsman. It recovered and may still
be seen at the old Sorrel Horse tavern.

American Osprey, Pandion haluetiis carolinensis. — While not an
uncommon fall transient, it is a rare spring migrant. A pair was ob-
served in the woods adjacent to a mill pond in Easttown township during
the latter part of April, 1893. Although we have no record of it breed-
ing within the county lines, I think it quite probable that this pair would
have nested in the neighborhood had not the male been shot. The
female lingered about for over a week and then disappeared. The male
was shot April 29th and brought to me. His stomach was distended
with fish and frogs.

American Barn Owl, Slrix pfatincola. — Two adults and three well
developed young observed by a friend on the evening of August 25, 1893,
in a piece of hardwood-oak, hickory, etc. — timber near Berwyn. The
old birds evidently nested here as they were seen at about the same place
the previous fall. Unfortunately he shot the adults and one young, and
my opportunities for studying this quaint and harmless bird in life are
correspondingly lessened if not altogether restricted. The female is in
my collection.

Hybird Flicker. ColapU's auratus- cafer. — A male secured by me
on the 3rd of October, 1894, is referable to this form. The short black
malar stripes exhibiting a narrow border of red.

Fish Crow, Cori'us assi/i'a^tis. — Pennock, in his "Us/ of Bi'tds of
Chester County , Pa.' says "Rare resident if it occurs at all." I have a
specimen which was found dead under a spruce tree in this village,
March 6, 1891. It was a male, in poor flesh, and probablv died from

Blue-headed Vireo, Vireo solitarins. — Quite a flight occured near
Berwyn during the first two weeks of October, 1891. I have not observ-
ed it since

Orange-crowned Warbler, Ilclminlhophila ccktla. — October 12,
1S94, while watching the movements of a small flock of Juncos which
were feeding under some bushes in a thicket, a small bird darted out and
across my path, a lucky snap-shot in that direction laid low a fine male.

JynlUlui Xo. jS. 3

This is the first recorded capture for our county and less than half-a-
dozen have been made in eastern Pennsylvania.

Tennessee Warbler, Ihlmiuthofhila pvregyi)2a. — An immature
female secured September 19, 1891.

Cafe May Warbler, Dcnd)-oica ti. Junct). 10.

Flicker, 2. Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1.

Goldfinch, 3. American Herring Gull, g.

Song Sparrow. 5. Mallard. 3.

Cardinal, 3. Blue Jay, 1.

White-breasted Nuthatch, (>. Total, 162.

Tufted Titmouse, o.

Compare this with a trip across the country some ten miles and back
in company with Mr. Dawson, on January 4, i8g8. The day was per-
fect. A clear sky, bright sun, almost bare earth, and scarcely a breath
of air from the south-west until noon, and then only a light breeze. Our
objective point was a narrow gorge of Chance Creek which boasts a lib-
eral growth of evergreen trees, besides the other native trees, shrubs and
bushes. The start was made at 6:45 in the morning, and the return was
accomplished at 6:00 in the evening. On this trip we recorded eighteen
species and 208 birds. The detailed record foUow^s.

Blue Jay. 3. Song Sparrow, i.

Chickadee. 14. Ked-billed Woodpecker. 2.

White-l)reasted Nuthatch. 21. Bald Eagle, i.

Hairy Woodpecker, 10. Pigeon Hawk, 1.

Downy Woodpecker, 4. Red-shouldered Hawk, 1.

Flicker, 2. Am. Rough-legged Hawk. 1.

Tree Sparrow, 109. Ruffed Grouse, 4.

Goldfinch, 17. Golden-crowned Kinglet, 6.

Tufted Titmouse. 6. Total. 20S.

Junco, 5.

Let me again urge all who can do so to try this sort of winter study.

LvNDs Jones, Oberlin, Ohio.


1 had only time to go along a road near town for about a quarter of a
mile. It was bordered on one side by a small, poorly made hedge, be-
yond which ran a small stream then frozen over and fringed with bushes

lo Biilli'tin No. /S.

and small trees. On the other side of the wood was a field and further
on a thinly wooded tract. I did not leave the road and the whole piece
examined on December 26th did not include over a few acres.

The birds I saw where as follows:
In the bushes along the stream, Tree Sparrows, 40 ... 40

In the trees along the stream, American Crossbill 30, Northern

Shrike i. Cardinal 2, Chickadee 3 . ... j6

In the held. Prairie Horned Lark 3 ..... . 3

In woods bordering field, Crow 5, Blue Jay 2, White-breasted
Nuthatch i. Hairy Woodpecker i, Downy W^oodpecker 2,
Screech Owl i . . . 12

On the ground by a fence. Bob-white 5 ..... 5

Flying overhead. American Goldfinch 6, Hawk 1 ... 7

Total . . . . . .103

Sidney S. Wilson.


Doubtless few ornithologists care to be abroad in a wind storm, for in
addition to more or less bodily discomfort, collecting is almost an impos-
sibility; yet some things can be learned at that time not accessible in
more favorable weather. Some species of birds disappear entirely as
long as it lasts, others do not seem to mind it at all, while a third class
battle against it with indifferent success, picking up an irregular exis-
tence only through great exertion.

The equinoctial storms swept over the country March ig, 1896. a
driving rain from the south, followed by one of the most beautiful rain-
bows I ever beheld. Daylight breaking on the 20th with the tempera-
ture at a standstill one degree above freezing and a northwest wind
blowing probably at the rate of forty miles an hour, I concluded to spend
a couple of hours in the Great Chester valley.

Few birds were abroad, the cold wind forcing them to seek shelter.
The creek having overflowed its bank the day before, leaving a deposit
of black mud for many rods on either side, small companies of sombre-
plumaged crows were wading about in the slime or buffeting heavily
against the wind immediately above it, searching for the detached mus-
sels and other edibles thrown up by the freshet. Of all the birds the
White-breasted Nuthatches appeared to mind the searching wind the

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Online LibraryAgassiz Association. Wilson Ornithological ChapterThe Wilson bulletin (Volume 10, 1898) → online text (page 1 of 8)