For the Birds Radio Program: Welcome to WOJB and KBEM with Ogden Nash

Original Air Date: July 24, 1987

Laura reads Ogden Nash’s “Up from the Egg: Confessions of a Nuthatch Avoider” to welcome new listeners.

Duration: 3′25″


(Recording of a Cardinal)

This week “For the Birds” begins airing on two new stations–KBEM in Minneapolis, and WOJB in Hayward, Wisconsin. Hayward has pretty much the same birds as most of the Northland–nesting thrushes, warblers and vireos, eagles and loons, and other specialties of the northern forest. Minneapolis’s birdlife is a bit different–they get cardinals, Red- bellied Woodpeckers, screech owls, and even an occasional Tufted Titmouse. Egrets–big white relatives of the Great Blue Heron, are common nesters in the Twin Cities, as are Canada Geese. The population of geese down there is exploding much the way Ring-billed Gulls are along Lake Superior. Ring-billed Gulls beg from picnickers in Minneapolis parks, but they don’t usually mooch for french fries at McDonald’s–people in the Cities usually have to settle for House Sparrows at fast food joints.

Wisconsin and Minnesota are perfectly located–we can see the bobwhite and cardinal at the northernmost edge of their ranges, the Gray Jay and Boreal Chickadee at the southernmost edge, the American Avocet and Prairie Falcon at the easternmost edge, and the Golden-winged Warbler at the westernmost edge. Bald Eagles are considered endangered everywhere in the U.S. except for four states–including Wisconsin and Minnesota. We probably have the best birding anywhere in the U.S. except along the coasts.

We also have some of the finest birders in the country. Wisconsin boasts Sam Robbins, who has the keenest ears of any birder I’ve ever known, and Daryl Tessen, who compiled the book, “Wisconsin’s favorite Bird Haunts.” Minnesota has Kim Eckert, who wrote “A Birder’s Guide to Minnesota,” and Bob Janssen, who co-authored “Minnesota Birds–When, Where, and How Many.” And both our states have active organizations for birdwatchers–the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, which publishes a quarterly magazine, “The Passenger Pigeon,” and the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union, which publishes “The Loon.”

If the over 400 species recorded in our states seem just too much to tackle, you might take some consolation in Ogden Nash’s poem, “Up From the Egg–The Confessions of a Nuthatch Avoider.”

Bird watchers top my honors list.
I aimed to be one, but I missed.
Since I’m both myopic and astigmatic,
My aim turned out to be erratic,
And I, bespectacled and binocular,
Exposed myself to comment jocular.
We don’t need too much birdlore, do we,
To tell a flamingo from a towhee;
Yet I cannot, and never will,
Unless the silly bird stands still.
And there’s no enlightenment in a tour
Of ornithological literature.
Is yon strange creature a common chickadee,
Or a migrant alouette from Picardy?
You rush to consult your Nature guide
And inspect the gallery inside,
But a bird in the open never looks
Like its picture in the birdy books–
Or if it once did, it has changed its plumage,
And plunges you back into ignorant gloomage.
That is why I sit here growing old by inches,
Watching the clock instead of finches,
But I sometimes visualize in my gin
The Audubon that I audubin.

(Recording of a Northern Cardinal)

That was Ogden Nash, this is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”