BY SALLY GRACIE
Jeff Koma’s recent talk about researching the reproduction and nesting habits of white-headed woodpeckers made me wish I’d been an ornithologist. Their nests are holes drilled most frequently in decayed Ponderosa snags. Jeff showed how he uses a neat gizmo called a “tree top peeper,” a telescopic pole with a camera on the end to photograph the nestlings. Jeff conducted his studies in managed forests, some in Okanogan County.
I feel only a twinge of guilt about disturbing the nesting habits of the pair of Brewer’s blackbirds that had been coming to my yard for several years. My garden helper cut the hops vine down to the ground, and with it, the nest that the birds had begun. For several days after, the male bird sat on the rim of the old satellite dish atop the carport, squawking and raising his wings in displeasure.
I’m relieved that they’ve gone elsewhere and won’t be around to dive bomb me and my animals through the summer. The robins who lost their egg to the wind have also relocated, but only as far as the eave of the tool shed.
Other than the Conservancy’s bird talk, I spent the week at the Community Center, where on Thursday evening, Helen Thayer drew a big crowd to hear her talk about (literally) walking across the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Thayer spoke without notes for more than one hour, using her slides to prompt her storytelling. Her description of the camels Tom and Jerry, the Mongolian people and an appalling windstorm were enthralling. Though their exploits are amazing, Helen and her husband, Bill, are down-to-earth people. Her books are available at the library.
I miss “Weatherwatch” and the valley’s weatherman, Bill Biddle, who died this time last year. Thanks to his widow, Barbara, I’ve had access to Bill’s library, and have been learning about his wide and eclectic interests. Weather was just one of Bill’s passions. He loved poetry, especially the English Romantic poets and most especially, Byron; he loved painting, and collected volumes about the British Romantic landscape artist J.M.W. Turner.
Bill was a teacher of English and history at prep schools in Massachusetts, Chicago, New Hampshire and Seattle. When he died, the original copies of the classics that he had taught to his students – all heavily annotated – were on his shelves. Barbara has allowed me to take many boxes of books from the Biddle home to sell at the annual Twisp Library Friends’ Memorial Day Book Sale on May 25 at the Community Center. A week before the sale a list of Bill’s books will be available at the library.
Twisp Library Friends will also be accepting books, audio books on discs, DVDs and CDs in saleable condition, after Thursday (May 16). They ask that you please not donate VHS recordings or books on tape. Books should be brought to the gym stage area after that date.