Hot Town, Summer In The City

The temperatures are climbing and so is the need for my energy to spike to meet the heavy schedule I’ve committed to for the next five months. I find the more I write the more I’m asked to do. I have actually had to turn down a few requests because I also find I can’t do it all. Valuable time for writing has suffered because I went piggy on my plate and piled it too high. Recent world events in too many hot spots to list have also clouded my focus. Thank goodness the end of our college semester is near. I’m looking forward to the break so I can get to the beach, wring out my mind and start fresh. Yesterday, I sat in my car, outside the new science building, munching a granola bar (one of the good ones that cancels out all the health benefits because it’s chocolate covered) and just chilled before my 6 pm class; last class of the day. I kept scanning the new architecture and wondering if the PC tower to my computer and overhead projection system would be heavy enough to crash through the thick glass windowpanes if we needed to get out of the classroom in a hurry. New buildings just don’t have windows that open any more. I wondered if we could all drop and roll from the second floor to the hard, barren clay without major injury. I mulled over Friday’s arrest of a quite normal looking, high school senior from one of our county’s small towns. The student’s car, parked on school grounds, contained an A-15 semi-automatic Colt with 120 rounds of .223 ammunition. The private, staccato cognition wrenched my heart as real and hypothetical scenarios painfully shot through my brain like arrows, one after another. Fortunately, a snowy white Ringbilled Gull swooped on the descent past my car, distracting me from the discomfort of my, at least once-a-day, thoughts. I thanked him. Checking my side mirror, I saw him touch down in the lot and commence a tug of war with a Crow over a carelessly tossed Cheetos bag. It was intense. Both hungry birds pulled and pulled. Although the Crow was slightly smaller, he held his own. At one point they dropped the bag at the same time, squawked and cawed at each other, then both grabbed the bag again and yanked back and forth some more. With the second release by both allegedly deserving parties, the Crow did all the talking. The Gull stepped back without a squawk and allowed the Crow to shake the bag vigorously, sprinkling orange crumbs and one chunk of Cheeto on the ground. The Crow made off with the big piece and the Gull cleaned up the crumbs. Both had won. Just another example of effective communication; the key to understanding and satisfactory resolution. Now, back to my crazy schedule. I plan on country and city book touring this summer in my own casually subtle but reaching way. Central Illinois, Texas and New York City are on the itinerary. It will be HOT in New York City, and hopefully, in more ways than one. If anyone would like me to come your way for an author/book event, just let me know. There are festivals and readings at home to look forward to at Hammocks Beach, New River, Topsail Beach and the famously delicious Blueberry Festival inBurgaw. Come. Stop by the “Authorteers” corner at the BBF in June and we’ll share some warm kettle corn and cold blueberry cider. No matter what . . let’s find moments to laugh, days to love, and precious life to live. That’s how I roll.

Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of, “Save Them All”

Vigilant Environmental Partners

They’re on their way back! Chimney Swifts, capturing our imagination and respect, are flying a 3,000 mile journey from South America’s Amazon River Basin to spend May through August in Carteret and Onslow County, to breed and raise their young. About five inches in length, with a twelve-inch tip to tip wing span, these sooty gray to blue-black heroes are fascinating to watch, as well as, extremely valuable to our quality of life. The fantastic flyers emerge from their roost at dawn and dusk to snatch nasty mosquitoes, gnats, biting flies, spittlebugs, aphids, winged ants, wasps, mayflies, stoneflies and termites from the air. With long, scythe-shaped wings and a short stubby tail that spreads when they make crazy, acrobatic turns in flight, those sleek little insectivores deserve our respect and our protection. Two Chimney Swift parents and their offspring will consume over 12,000 flying insect pests every day, that’s – every day! Chimney Swifts once had opportunities to nest inside tree hollows, but with the loss of mature trees and similar wooded habitat, they have taken up residency inside chimneys or any structure they find suitable. Unfortunately, since the 1980’s, many homeowners have capped or closed chimneys that were once used for nesting. New construction design is another reason Swifts cannot enter a chimney. Many houses are now built without chimneys or chimneys that use smaller metal flue pipes rather than clay liners. Devastatingly, Chimney Swift numbers are declining. On the flip side, insect pest numbers are growing. How do those sayings go? Sometimes we chop off our noses to spite our face, or we end up shooting ourselves in the foot. I believe that’s what one does when they become annoyed by the Chimney Swift’s presence and block an entrance to a chimney used by a Swift couple to roost and raise their babies. Although the sound of Chimney Swift newborns is not everyone’s favorite melody, normally by the time the babies become loud enough to hear, they are less than a couple of weeks from being old enough to feed themselves. After that, the cute, chittering noise of a baby bird begging for food is over. It might be an entire three weeks. Are we so intolerant of something so natural that lasts a mere few weeks that we are willing to give up the benefits Chimney Swifts provide? I don’t know about you, but I can’t wield a fly swatter fast enough to be the extraordinary bug killer a Chimney Swift is as it soars through the sky vacuuming those mosquitoes who would surely make a blood meal of me if they had the chance. I appreciate seeing a Chimney Swift colony chattering overhead in the evening while I enjoy supper on the deck. I’m confident they are helping to keep our menacing insect population down. Before the first Carolina cold snap, Chimney Swifts will return to their favorite resort area in South America. We don’t start using our fireplaces until then anyway. Loss of habitat in this country is obscene, and some people truly don’t understand the Chimney Swift’s worth. Please keep in mind that Chimney Swifts are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and should not be intentionally harmed. As of 2006, North Carolina has only four Chimney Swift towers in use state-wide and none are in our coastal region. Texas holds the record with eighty-three. If you have Swifts in your chimney and don’t want them there, for whatever reason, please call a wildlife shelter (OWLS at 252-240-1200 in Carteret & Onslow Counties) before removing them. You might consider building a tower to accommodate these tiny environmental activists. Maybe a Scout Troop or a 4-H club would enjoy taking on a conservation project like a Chimney Swift tower. If saving one of our natural resources sounds like something you’d like to do, please call your nearest shelter for information and recommendations for construction sites. The nasty mosquitoes will hate you for it, but your spring and summer, resident Swifts will be appreciative and pay you back many times over. OWLS has a variety of plans and styles for towers, or you can also find very simple instructions for towers online at Protecting our natural resources and improving the environment is a darn good thing. It confuses me why some folks would rather inhale a fog of insect ridding chemicals than allow environmentally friendly Chimney Swifts who, by their diet and most efficient exterminating nature, are capable of doing the job. Besides all that, they’re cute, don’t you think?


Chimney Swift fledglings raised with plenty of TLC and mealworms by rehabilitators at the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter, 100 Wildlife Way, Newport, NC. This tiny trio is gearing up to practice their flight skills and ultimately join a Swift colony already engaged in environmental duties.

Happy Easter!!!!!!!

Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of Save Them All