Chesterton Tribune

Where have all the birds gone?

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Voice of the People

I have heard no one mention the dearth of birds of every kind which we have experienced during the past few decades. Am I the only one old enough to remember when we had birds in flocks of millions?

My earliest present recollection of blackbirds was in the fall of 1923. There were so many blackbirds in the trees outside my parent’s house that we could not carry on a conversation at the supper table because of the noise they made. These were not European starlings, they were American blackbirds. During migrating season they came through here by billions. As late as about 1960 I was at Jack’s Gun Shop one evening during the migration season. Two young men came in and reported that they had been at the marshes south of Lake Michigan watching the migrating blackbirds and had seen dozens of them drop dead as they were flying! They had examined a few of the dead birds and found no wounds and saw no reason why they had died in midair. A few small flocks came through here in recent years, but I have not seen one flock this year. Each spring red wing and yellow wing blackbirds arrived early. I have not seen one of either for many years.

The cheerful song of the bob-o-link rang through the summer air each June. They nested in hayfields. Now both hayfields and bob-o-links are gone. I think it was my third reader that had a poem titled “Bob-O-Link, Bob-O-Link, Spink Spank Spink.” Their call sounded like that phrase.

The call, “Bob White” was a pleasant call that we heard many times almost every day during summer months. I have not heard a call of a Bob White for forty years. They even survived the huge snowstorms of 1929-1930 and the terrible winter of 1935-36. Now they are all gone.

Near the east end of what is now called the Heron Rookery are many hickory trees and wild grape vines. It was one of my favorite places to hunt squirrels when I was young. Hundreds of robins were there each fall during the time wild grapes were ripe. It was a very pleasant place then. Now I am unable to walk far enough to get there, but the last few times I was there the robins were missing. In fact the flocks of migrating robins that passed through here spring and fall are all missing.

When I was eight years old I began making wren houses out of Velveeta cheese boxes. The two pound brick of Velveeta came in a wooden box then. When I was 10 years old I began making real wren houses and bluebird houses out of orange crates, which also were made of wood in those days. That year many of my classmates in school also made bird houses. We all had birds every year. Now I have not seen a wren for perhaps 10 years or a buebird for probably 40 years.

I could write many pages about birds I have seen, but must not. What I want to know is: What happened to all of the birds?

Malcolm E. Anderson


Posted 11/7/2006