I am, as one journalist wrote, Kavanaughed-out. I am working on a couple of other projects, one about yesterday’s Nobel Peace Prize awards and another about the Chicago police officer who was found guilty of murder, but neither are close to completion. And so … this post is rather a second ‘Saturday Surprise’ with a couple of stories that made me smile, and I hope will make you smile also.
Drunken birds …
The town of Gilbert Minnesota had a population at the last census in 2010 of just 1,799 people. In 2016, only 1,790 were counted. All of which has no relevance whatsoever to today’s story, but I found it interesting that they lost 9 people in just 6 years. Anyway … Gilbert is having a bit of a problem at present with … birds!
Drunken birds, to be more specific. It seems that an early frost (frost??? It’s 86° here today!!!) caused the berries on trees to ferment earlier than usual. Wait … I didn’t know berries fermented at all, did you? Hmmmm … gives me an idea. Anyway, back to the birds … it seems that with their very small bodies, they aren’t able to handle their alcohol and … well, they’ve been getting drunk. Now, it’s hard enough to walk when one has had a bit too much fermented stuff but imagine trying to fly!
Gilbert’s Police Chief Ty Techar has a sense of humour …One resident commented on Facebook, “This explains why I have hit 7 birds with my car this week.” I’m biting my tongue on that one.
The town may want to consider rounding up the birds and sending them to Portland, Oregon, where the Audubon Society operates what’s essentially a drunk tank for birds. According to Bob Sallinger, the conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland …
“We get in birds into our Wildlife Care Center in the fall that are drunk on fermenting berries. Sometimes they are picked up after crashing into windows. Others are just found disoriented on the ground. We will hold them in captivity until they sober up and then set them free.”
The same thing happens in Canada’s Yukon Territory, where animal welfare officials will gently place intoxicated birds in small hamster cages until they’re ready to fly again a few hours later. And in 2011, police were called to investigate the suspicious deaths of 12 blackbirds at an elementary school in Britain, but a necropsy revealed the birds had not been the victims of foul play, but had just eaten too many fermented rowan berries.
Counting squirrels …
If you happened to be in Central Park (New York City for any who may not know) today, you might have noticed lots of people carrying clipboards, searching for … squirrels! What, you ask, are they doing? Well duh … it’s time for the annual squirrel census, of course! Well, alright … so maybe it isn’t an annual event, as this is the first one. Now the big question that is burning a hole in everyone’s mind is … WHY???
Because a writer by the name of Jamie Allen (3rd from the left in the above photo) is fascinated and wants to learn more about the Eastern grey squirrel, aka Sciurus carolinensis. And frankly, after reading the article in the New York Times, so do I!
For example, did you know that squirrels “lie,” fake-burying nuts when other squirrels are watching? Or that they appear to sort nuts by size, type and possibly nutritional value? Lest you think of this as a frivolous venture, Colin Jerolmack, the chairman of New York University’s department of environmental studies, is requiring the graduate students in his “Animals, Culture and Society” class to participate.
“Observing animal behavior at close range may affect the way people think about the environment around them.”
The sighters are not merely counting squirrels. Their tally sheets ask them to chart their subjects’ activities (running, chasing, jumping, eating, foraging); coat color (gray, black, cinnamon, white); and vocalizations, known to squirrel scientists as kuks (the familiar clicking), quaas (which Mr. Allen described as “a sort of ‘eey-yah,’ what-are-you-doing-here predator warning”) and moans.
This isn’t the first time counting the squirrels in Central Park has been considered or tried, although never in such a systematic way. In 1958, a mammalogist at the American Museum of Natural History, Richard Van Gelder, threatened to do a census in which he would squirt the park’s squirrels with dye to track them, but did not follow through. In 1974, a New Yorker writer named Eugene Kinkead conducted an informal one-man survey. He estimated the squirrel population at over 400.
The official results of the census will be published next spring … I’m on pins & needles, aren’t you? And hey … those of you who may live close enough … they are still accepting volunteers, and the project is expected to last for another two weeks, if you’re interested!
And that, folks, is the end of that. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend and enjoyed this bit of little-known and fairly useless trivia!