For the Birds Radio Program: Phone Log
What kinds of questions are people asking Laura lately? (Date confirmed)
I’ve been browsing through my phone log, in which I record all the bird-related phone calls I’ve received so far this summer. When people with bird questions call the UMD Biology Department, the Duluth Public Library, several DNR offices, or the county information and referral service, they’re usually given my home phone number, so my family life is disrupted on a fairly regular basis. Most of the time I enjoy taking calls and helping people. The only time I got really upset was last summer when a woman called me—she’d already talked to one ornithologist at Northland College in Ashland and was displeased with his answer. She said she’d seen the most unusual hummingbird and wondered what species it was, and what tropical country it might have come from. She described it as having lovely gray wings with big pink spots on each wing. It had feathery ornaments on its head just like antennae, and a beak that rolled in and out as it fed from flowers. I told her mistaking a Sphinx moth for a hummingbird was such an easy and common mistake that some field guides show these moths next to the hummingbirds. She was furious—she knew a bird when she saw one!—and she called me a couple of names it wouldn’t be quite proper to repeat on the radio. I’m trying to teach my children to be patient when it’s hard. During trying times, I do my best to act like Mr. Rogers, but I’m afraid I was feeling more like Oscar the Grouch when I got off the phone with her. I later heard that she had also called the UMD Biology Department to complain that I didn’t know the difference between a hummingbird and an insect.
This year’s callers have been much easier to deal with. Many of the calls have been about cats attacking baby chickadees, Mourning Doves, and robins. I strongly encourage people to keep their cats indoors, at least during daylight hours when birds are about, but most of the people that call me are having problems with their neighbors’ cats, and I can sure empathize with that. A cat has been stalking the baby Blue Jays and robins in my own neighborhood lately. If it would allow itself to be caught, I would take it to the animal shelter, but something in my manner tells the cat that I’m up to no good whenever I try to entice it near me. Now I’m considering investing in one of those super soaker assault squirt guns.
Speaking of assault weapons, a woman called me last weekend about a Red-winged Blackbird that attacks her whenever she runs along Park Point. It hits her from behind, and has even managed to knock her headphones off a couple of times. I told her this was just a territorial bird that would leave her alone in a few weeks.
I’ve gotten a couple of calls about nests destroyed when trees have been knocked down. One man asked what to do about an oriole nest in a tree that he chopped down. It was too late for me to tell him that people should never chop down trees from mid-May through the beginning of August. The nest had eggs in it, but the birds didn’t return to it when he put it in another tree. That was back on June 8th, so there was a good chance that the birds attempted a second nesting.
A Sally Bergstad called me about a Downy Woodpecker nest tree that was knocked down in a storm. There were six babies, and the parents wouldn’t come back to the tree at all. I gave her lots of advice, and she called back several times with questions. Now all six babies have feathered out, are thriving, and are close to fledging. I love happy endings, don’t you?