Chimney Swift Tower, New to Sneads Ferry, NC

When Jim asked his wife, Virginia, what she wanted for Christmas last year, she said a Chimney Swift Tower. The requested gift was not the type of thing a woman can wear on her finger or dangle from her earlobes and definitely not easily shown to friends at lunch, but she had read in the Jacksonville Daily News that Chimney Swift habitat was declining in our area due to the capping of chimneys, loss of tree cavities and new construction methods. Virginia has always been impressed with the benefits Chimney Swifts, who are insectivores, offer our environment and mulled over the information contained in the Letter to the Editor (Linda Bergman-Althouse) wrote long enough to feel compelled to do something about it. Jim and Virginia share a waterway enjoyed by an array of wildlife. For many years, the nature loving couple has continued to supplement wild birds’ diets and provide condos or gourds for Purple Martins when nesting time rolls around each spring. After going on the Internet and downloading schematics for a tower and an acceptable materials list from http://www.chimneyswifts.org, Jim recruited another builder to help him construct the tower. “It took a few weeks or more to complete the twelve-foot tower, due to waiting out wet weather conditions and allotting time for the concrete to thoroughly set up,” Jim told me when he called. Although I hoped when putting out the word that chimney swifts were in need of alternate habitat to encourage them to return to our area, many months ago, I had no idea anyone had taken the “verbal” yellow flag and thrown it down. Jim invited me to Sneads Ferry to take a look at the tower he built for Virginia (and the Chimney Swifts, of course). My husband and I jumped in the car that day and within twenty five minutes I was absolutely thrilled to be standing next to a swift tower I had only dreamed someone would care enough to ask about, let alone build on their own. Jim sounded confident and proud when he said he “reinforced everything to ensure it will withstand hurricane force winds.” He dug a foundation platform so deep; he needed twenty bags of cement to fill it. Angled, iron girders (wider than the schematic called for) were set in place to form an extremely sturdy base.

cstjimhandheight_1553.jpg
Finished this past week, the twelve-foot tall swift tower, which Chimney Swifts like better than the eight-foot according to something Jim read, stands in waiting along Swan Point off Stump Sound in Sneads Ferry. So “yes, Virginia, we can honestly say there is a Santa Claus, well . . . a Santa’s helper, also known as your husband,” who made this special and most unique Christmas present, a Chimney Swift Tower, happen. Virginia can’t wait for the first migratory Chimney Swift couple to show up from South America’s Amazon Basin and check out their new digs. Although, the tower is large enough to house quite a number of roosting pairs of swifts, Virginia says she will be thrilled to see just one couple this year.

cstjimfulcher_1550.jpg
Most stories have a moral–this one has a few, but the one I like most is:  The little things we do can make a very big and positive difference. When your words mean so much to someone else, they take on power. You may or may not find out what effect or influence they’ve had, but just keep doing your part to make the world a better place and know others, like Jim and Virginia, will too.

Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of, “Save Them All

Advertisements

Valentine’s Day Humor Lost On Me

With so much loss and sadness as of late, let me add a little levity to our day, now that I can laugh about it. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I can’t help but reflect on a happening some years ago, when I was in my late twenties. I probably perceived some rather frivolous things more seriously than I should. I was working 12 to 16 hour days, six days a week in a building where the majority of the employees were male (probably 99 percent). I only knew of one other woman in the building. She was a married dispatcher in the police station downstairs. Even though the odds of dating were in my favor, it wasn’t happening. I worked way too many hours and really had no time for a social life. I was on great terms with everyone I worked with, so coming to work was quite enjoyable and laughter was an integral part of the office relationships even though every day was arduous for all and felt like each overlapped the next. Valentine’s Day was a few days away, and I overheard the guys talking about the flowers, dinners and such they were planning for their significant others, and sometimes they even asked me what a woman might like, which made me feel appreciated and very sisterish.

On Valentine’s Day, I approached the morning very low key and got busy with work immediately to distract myself, so I wouldn’t feel left out on “heart day.” Around noon one of the guys I worked with handed me a big card. I started blushing right away and (with red hair and an ivory face) it was very noticeable. The gesture was totally unexpected, so I was surprised, but I also felt relief wash over me when I took the card. I thought, how nice it was that he thought to give me a Valentine’s Day card. My giddiness nearly reverted to my eight-year-old self, when Ricky Wall gave me a purple, construction paper heart and a bag of butterscotch. When I opened the envelope, the picture on the card was very pretty; an arrangement of colorful flowers and on the heart in the center it said “Will You Be My . . . . . . . . , ” then I opened the card to read “Groundhog?” with a picture of a groundhog below the word.

groundhogvalentine.jpg

All the guys were standing around smiling, waiting for my reaction. I kept staring at the word groundhog and it felt like I had been standing there frozen in place for 10 minutes, when actually it was only a few seconds. My eyes started welling up, and I ran to the bathroom where I cried until my eyes swelled shut. I guess it was supposed to be a funny joke, but whether it was the stress of the job, the longing for a valentine of my own or maybe it was just that time of the month, I didn’t take it quite so funny. I put cold water on my face in an attempt to return my look to pre-humiliation, but red eyes and a puffy pink nose were evident when I returned to my desk, where dead silence hung heavy in the air and everybody, including me, looked like we needed rocks to crawl under. Then later that afternoon, the same guy, my supposed-to-be friend, walked up to my desk and placed a long white box in front of me. My body stiffened like setting concrete, wondering, what now, roadkill? He said, “Go ahead and open it, it’s safe.” When I lifted the lid, I found a dozen, bright and beautiful, red “mercy” roses, which caused me to cry again. He said he was “truly sorry about the card, it was only meant as a joke they really thought I would laugh over.” It was a very embarrassing Valentine’s Day for me. All I had hoped on that day was to not get noticed as ‘no one’s valentine,’ but my unexpected emotional reaction to their intended joke and the similar outburst during the follow-up apology effort are legendary and will hang in the hall of “My Worst (but only now funny) Valentines Days Ever.” Thanks readers, for letting me verbalize this and get it off my chest, as it has been a very heavy burden for many years. : ) Sounds very . . well almost, funny now – but it wasn’t so funny then. Now that I’m a wildlife rehabilitator and although I don’t work with groundhogs on the coast, maybe the question was meant as a compliment. Groundhogs are kinda cute!

Happy Valentine’s Day Hugs to Everyone! (and if someone gives you a card that likens you to a large, furry buck-tooth rodent, laugh really hard! Words are funnier now that I write.)

Photo credit goes to HogHaven.com. Visit them sometime to see how interesting, smart and cute groundhogs truly are, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.

Linda Bergman-Althouse, author of “Save Them All”