A page from a Chase and Sanborn Ad booklet
explains part of the floral dictionary called
the Language of Flowers
In Victorian times a popular code was developed defining and expanding this ancient lore into a dictionary of floral attributes. This was called The Language of Flowers, and its more limited use extends into our present day. We all know that daisies are a symbol of innocence, and roses of the right color mean love. In the early twentieth century postcard craze that gave us priceless glimpses of people and places we'd never otherwise have access to, The Language of Flowers was also used to send messages. Some were spelled out as in the two below with explanatory verses so that the message was not lost, and others were more subtle, trusting the card receiver to understand the code expressed in the floral presentation. We may see them as merely decorative, but our more knowledgeable predecessors could read layers of messages invisible to most of us.
I have presented several links in the top sidebar to help you expand your knowledge of this interesting phemonemon and interpret the old floral cards you have in your own collection..Joyce M. Tce
Here's snowdrop for "hope"
Forget-me-not's affection tried and true
|Language of Flowers
Lilac shall tell thee
|Violets, A red rose, and another of questionable color.
Can you interpret the message using the tools above of the Language of Flowers?
What does it mean?
I am sending you today
Warmest Greetings, truest wishes
that a Card can e'er convey
Heaven not grim but fair of hue
Do I stoop? I pluck a posy.
Do I stand and stare? All's blue.
Is the bud that is killed by the frost;
And the love that is dearest and rarest,
Is the true one that we have just lost.
|Sweet Pea, Departure||Hm, I've never seen poppies and tulips bloom at the same time. Must be artistic license||Apple Blossoms - Preference|
Wellsboro Gazette, May 20, 1948
Flower Legends; Stories of Long Ago Told in Fascinating Manner. . .
By Mazie Sears Bodine
When Spring comes from the South, King Winter retreats toward his home in the far Northland where, with ice and snow, he reigns supreme throughout the year. Spring brings the flowers and by Summer time has scattered them here and there until the meadows, roadsides and woodland and dells are bright with blossoms of every hue.
In ancient times the people believed in fairies and elves, in gods and goddesses, who helped to make the wonders of nature which every one could not help but observe and admire.. So it is not surprising that many stories were told that have been handed down from generation to generation. To us they are fairy tales or legends. They were told about many things, especially the flowers. They are very interesting and at this time it is well to retell some of them.
There are several legends about the Anemone. One of these tells us that Adonis, the favorite of Venus, goddess of beauty and love, was fond of hunting and received a mortal wound from the tusk of a wild boar. Venus lamented his death, and changed him into the flower – Anemone. Another version is that the Anemone originated in the tears dropped by Venus while she was grieving in the forest over the tragic death of her sweetheart, Adonis.
Why do the frogs, when Spring has touched the meadow brooks, call out – “Ranunculus! Ranunculus!” and why do the buttercups bloom when the frogs sing? Of all the lads who roamed the Libyan plain, Ranunculus was the sauciest and the merriest.. In his robe of yellow satin he sat down in a meadow and sang for all the Nymphs who came. His voice grew sweeter and more flute-like, and as the Nymphs were filled with wonder, Ranunculus sang louder and shriller ‘til with pride and joy his heart string broke. His body, yellow satin robe and all, melted down into earth and in its place sprang the buttercups. So every spring the frogs sing – “Ranunculus! Ranunculus!” and hordes of bright yellow buttercups come at the call.
Queen Ann’s Lace or Wild Carrot
Much abuse and condemnation has been heaped upon the wild carrot by farmers whose fields and pastures have been overrun by this prolific immigrant from Europe and Asia. It is doubtful, however, if the farmer knows, or even whether he cares, that his species is said to be the original of the very carrot he regularly cultivates.
Scrapings of this strongly scented root have been used as a local stimulant for wounds. There is a story connected with the naming of the lovely weed which may be fact or legend..
In the days of Queen Ann of England, the nuns in a convent wished to make something to give her when she paid them a promised visit. So they set about making their most beautiful laces, rare and intricate patterns, all but the youngest nun, who said she knew of no patterns lovely enough to make for the Queen. But one day in the garden she picked a blossom from a weed, and using it for a pattern, she too, began making lace. The older nuns laughed at her. But when the Queen came to visit the convent she praised them all for the handiwork, but said the youngest nun had made the most beautiful lace of all. Since that day the weed has been known as Queen Ann’s Lace.
Once upon a time there was a happy little Nymph who delighted to pick wild flowers as she played by the stream in which her mother, a lovely Naiad lived. She loved the brightest colors, red and yellow being her favorites. One day Vertumnus, Keeper-of-all-the-Orchards-in-the-World, saw the little maiden romping by the stream. Immediately he wanted to take the pretty child home with him to live in his most beautiful orchard. He coaxed her in his tenderest tones, offering fruits from his orchards, but she only shook her curls and laughed. He said, “I will catch her and carry her away by force.” At first she sped lightly away, shook her curls and smiled archly back at him. But when she grew tired and saw that he was still pursuing her with furious looks, she stretched out her arms and cried in terror – “O ye Nymphs and Naiads, save me! save me!” Then Vertumnus put out his hand to seize her, but lo! she vanished from his sight! She was gone! And where she had stood grew up a splendid dancing flower – a gorgeous tulip clad in a striped red and yellow dress. There it stood swaying and nodding on its tall stem and waving its long green leaves like arms. So every year in the early Springtime the little Nymph Tulip dances in the garden bed all dressed in her favorite red and yellow.
The poet tells you that Proserpine, Pluto’s wife, in a fit of jealousy changed a hated rival into the mint plant, whose name Mentina, in its Latin form, or Mintha, the Greek, is still that of the Metamorphosed beauty. Proserpine certainly contrived to keep her rival’s memory fragrant. But how she must delight in seeing her under the chopping knife and served up as sauce!
Purple Milkwort, Purple Polygala
Plants of this genus were named Polygala, the Greek for much milk, not because they have milky juice, for it is clear – but because feeding on them is supposed to increase the flow of cattle’s milk.
The Snowball Hares
Once upon a time the little Sky Children were playing among the stars. “See,” they cried, “that soft, white cloud beneath us! Let us play on that!” They folded their wings and dropped down upon the cloud. But it was not an ordinary cloud at all it was all of soft, white snow. So the little Sky Children made snowballs and began to pelt each other. The balls flew so thick and fast that some of them rolled over the edge of the cloud, and fell off down on the earth.. And they all turned into little white Hares running about.
The Man in the Moon, a Folktale
Once upon a time an old man lived in a hut near a forest. He was too lazy to gather fagots for his fire; so one Sunday, when he thought everyone was at church, he slipped into the forest and stole a bundle of fagots that was lying under a tree. Softly he crept out of the forest again with the bundle of fagots on his back, when what should he see but a stranger on a white horse galloping toward him. “Old man,” said the stranger, “since you have stolen these fagots, and stolen them on Sunday as well, you shall be punished. To what place would you rather be banished? To the Sun or to the Moon?” “The Sun is too hot,” answered the old man, “I would rather freeze on the Moon..” Scarcely were the words out of his mouth when – whisk! he shot up through the sky, and landed straight in the Moon!
And there he stands today with the bundle of fagots on his back. And they say, too, that sometimes the Man in the Moon comes down to earth with a bag on his back and carries off all the bad children.
The Dragon Sin
Once upon a time a fearful Dragon inhabited a certain forest. No one had the courage to subdue him for his name was Sin. but one day the brave young warrior Saint Leonard, was riding through the forest. He saw the Dragon Sin and leaping down from his horse, crushed the monster in his arms. Then backward and forward they struggled. For three nights and three days, they wrestled thus together, then on the fourth day the Saint, breathing a prayer for help, drove the monster into the inner recesses of the forest.
Now, as soon as Saint Leonard had conquered the Dragon, there was seen a wonder. Over the forest ground were sprinkled drops of the Saint’s blood shed from his wounds. From them sprang up a host of Lilies-of-the-Valley, like a holy white carpet. Then all the little Lilies softly chimed their scented bells in honor of Saint Leonard’s victory for God.
|Wellsboro Gazette, April 23, 1942
Mazie Sears Bodine discusses the variety of Blue Flowers that grace our country-side during Spring, summer and Autumn, and add a gay, colorful touch to our already beautiful hills and valleys; she highlights characteristics of the many types so they may be easily recognized.
At the time when the bluebells are in full bloom, one will also find many violets blossoming here, long stemmed large-flowered ones. The fronds of ferns are beginning to uncurl, while the Turk’s cap lily stalks are from eight to fifteen inches high. We have always thought that sometime we would visit this place later in the summer when these lilies were in blossom, but we never have. Along the banks above are many bloodroots with their silver-lined leaves, although their white blooms opened much earlier. The Jack-in-the-pulpits are the largest we have ever seen. One will also find patches of spring beauties now in blossom in this lovely spot where old elms stand and many birds sing among their branches.
Gene Stratton Porter says, “Because the sky is blue, eternal and never-changing, men have adopted this color to express friendship, which also should be eternal and never-changing. True blue is dear to all hearts. So blue flowers are baptized with truth.”
How eagerly we look for the first spring blossoms, and how happy when we discover that the hepaticas are beginning to bloom. Most of the flowers are either white or pink, but occasionally we find a plant with the bright blue blossoms that are the favorite of all. Hepatica is from the Greek, meaning liver-like, and alludes to the shape of the leaves. These leaves were formerly used as a remedy for torpid livers and this custom is still said to be practiced among the country folk in some of our States. The leaves of one summer live through the next winter and so help to protect the roots during the coldest weather. The bud and stem are thickly covered with many fine fuzzy hairs, which have been likened to a fur overcoat. The hepatica grows from Nova Scotia to Florida, and west to Manitoba, Iowa and Missouri. Its flowering period extends from December to May, according to its location.
The bluet is another blue flower that opens in early spring. I have found them blooming as early as the 26th of April. They covered the ground so thickly they looked like a light blue carpet. The bluet is also called innocence, Quaker ladies, and eyebright. The latter name is very appropriate, since they have a bright yellow center or eye. Though they are usually a very pale blue in color, I have found much brighter blue ones along shaded woodland paths.
Frederick William Stack, in his book, Wild Flowers Every Child Should Know, says “The exquisite little baby-blue flowers of the forget-me-not have a certain sentiment attached to them through various legends of love and affection that endears them to all. In the language of flowers they are symbolic of true love and constancy.” The forget-me-not is a perennial and is found blooming in marshes, in moist meadows and along the banks of streams from May to August. In this vicinity one will find it along Heise Run and the upper waters of Stony Fork Creek.
One July day, several years ago, we drove from Germania to the Rausch Place, and found the small stream flowing through this narrow valley bordered with forget-me-nots. They grew close to the water on both sides of the brook, making a border of blue from one to three feet wide. It was one of the loveliest sights we have ever seen. We also found a few on the banks of Kettle Creek below the Rausch Place.
While the common meadow violet is a very dark blue or purple in color, there are varieties of this dainty flower, the blooms of which are much brighter: a true blue. I have found large patches of them in open woodland. They are smaller than the common violet and lovely beyond description. The violet was the national emblem of the ancient Greeks. The Romans offered violets of solid gold as prizes for poetic competitions. In England broths, salads, and puddings were at one time flavored with violets. Napoleon adopted the violet as his emblem, and when he ascended the steps of the Tuileries, upon his return from Elba, he was greeted with showers of violets from every direction. Yale University has adopted the violet as its floral emblem and it is also the state flower of Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. The odor of violets is one of the most popular known and it is extensively used in scenting soaps, perfumery and other toilet preparations. Candies, syrups and cordials are also flavored with it. The violets are probably the best and most popularly known of all the wild flowers.
The chicory grows along our roadsides, and has very exquisite, showy, wheel-like blossoms of a delicate, bright grayish blue. They are scattered along the nearly naked stalk, at short intervals, in two’s or three’s, for a considerable portion of its length. The chicory is also called succory and blue sailors. It is used as an herb and also as an adulterant and a substitute for coffee. We are told it was used as a food by the ancient Egyptians and was known to Virgil and Horace nearly two thousand years ago. I have seen it growing, for some distance, each side of the highway, making a lovely blue border. One might think it had been set there to beautify the roadside.
Like the Virginia bluebells, the buds of the viper’s bugloss are pink, but the flowers are a beautiful bright blue. This bristly, thistle-like plant is a biennial, and grows in poor soil along the roadsides, waste places and banks of railways. The color of the flowers makes it very conspicuous wherever found and always welcomed by the nature lover.
Other blue flowers we find along the roadsides are the blue-eyed grass, blue curls, the blue spring daisy, the thistles, catnip and blue vervain.
The purple flowered clover or alfalfa is extensively raised for fodder. It makes the best grade of hay and, we are told, has been cultivated at least two thousand years. The clusters of florets vary in color from light blue to violet and purple. However the color effect of a large field of this clover is purple rather than blue.
In most meadows or swamp land and along cool streams one will find the monkey flower. The blossoms are light blue and open one or two at a time toward the top of a slender, leafy stalk. I have found them growing along the bank of Pine Creek. But I never tried what Frederic William Stack suggests: “If the lower lip is pulled downward and allowed to close again, the operation causes one to experience a strong inclination to yawn.” He also points out that “the pertinent, inquisitive flowers seem to strain their tethers in an effort to satisfy their apparent curiosity at one’s presence.”
When reading this I thought that the flowers do seem to have many human traits. Some are shy and retiring, hiding among the tall grasses or in deep woodland bowers. Others seem to smile and gaily nod as we pass by. Some flaunt their gay colors as a young girl likes to show-off when wearing a bright new gown. There are flowers that seem to romp over the ground like children at play. Some are tall, stately and dignified, while other are modest and demure. The pansy blossom resembles a human face and different flowers seem to have different expressions. Vines clamber over everything along the wayside as some boys like to climb up every tree or over every obstacle in their path.
Some of these vines have blue flowers, as the ground ivy, sometimes called gill-over-the-ground, the blue vetch and the bittersweet. The old fashioned myrtle has a lovely blue blossom. It grows wild in moist places and was used a great deal in our grandmother’s gardens. It makes a good ground cover, since the leaves are evergreen. The purple virgin’s bower is a trailing or partly climbing vine with a purplish blue blossom and one of our rarest wild flowers. Frederic William Stack says: “If you are fortunate enough to find this magnificent flower it is well not to molest it nor to disclose its whereabouts, but instead cherish its discovery with secrecy.” This plant we have never found.
Another rare blue flower is the fringed gentian. It has been considered one of the choicest American wild flowers. This is another flower we have never found. We are told artists consider that the blue of the fringed gentian is the nearest approach to the color of the sky. It has been immortalized in our literature since Bryant wrote:
“Thou waitest late and com’st alone
When woods are bare and birds are flown,
And frosts and shortening days portend
The aged year is near his end.
Then doth thy sweet and quiet eye
Look through its fringes to the sky,
Blue – blue – as if that sky let fall
A flower from its cerulean wall.”
Another of our beautiful wild flowers is the iris or fleur-de-lis. It grows in wet meadows and swamps and blooms from May to July, ranging from Newfoundland and Manitoba south to Florida and Kansas. The iris is named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow. This wild variety has handsome flowers, violet-blue in color and variegated with white, green and yellow. The cultivated varieties are many in number and of nearly all colors and combination of colors. It is a well-loved garden flower and extensively grown. The Wellsboro Garden Club adopted the iris as its floral emblem, and each year a cut of this flower is printed on the cover of their Year Book. The club set a bed of iris on the boulevard on Central avenue. When the many varieties here are in bloom this bed is a rift of color and very beautiful.
The great lobelia has handsome bright blue flowers and is found in low, moist soil, generally along streams, from July to October. The brook lobelia also has blue flowers, grows in wet places and blossoms about the same time as the great lobelia.
The spiderwort or spider lily is another plant with bright blue flowers and long-pointed narrow leaves. They grow in rich soil, mostly in woods and thickets, from southern New York and Ohio, south to Virginia and Oklahoma. This plant was common in cultivation, and no old-fashioned garden was complete without its clump of spiderwort. As long ago as I can remember, this plant had a place in my mother’s flower border. It was probably set there by my grandmother. The flowers come in clusters, and, although of great beauty, are of short duration, the delicate petals soon wither, the flowers being followed by others until all the numerous buds of each cluster have bloomed.
The day flower belongs to this same family and also has bright blue flowers. It looks much like the common wandering Jew we use in porch boxes and hanging baskets. The day flower grows wild from New York to Illinois and Michigan, south to Florida, Nebraska and Texas, blooming from June to September. One will find it throughout its range in moist, shaded soils, near old farm buildings or roadside fences.
Homer D. House in his book “Wild Flowers,” says, “the pickerel weed is one of the most attractive of our native aquatic plants. It grows along the borders of ponds and streams and shallow margins of lakes where its ragged, bright blue floral spikes blossom from June to September.
The American Jacob’s ladder is sometimes called a bluebell, because of the blue bell-like flowers. Found from Vermont and New York to Maryland, House says it is a local plant and beautiful as it is rare. I have found it in a few places along Marsh and Pine Creeks. This is another plant that was always in my mother’s garden. It blossoms in the latter part of May and many a time have we picked this dainty flower to put with lilies-of-the-valley for bouquets for decoration. I now have it in my rock garden.
A bright dark blue flower that blooms late in the season is the closed gentian. These blossoms look like buds but never open. The plant is perennial and flourishes in rich, moist soil in thickets or woodland borders. Once, when driving through a woodlot, we found a great many of these plants in full bloom.
The last of our blue flowers to open in the fall, at least in this vicinity, are the asters. They come toward the last of August and continue blooming throughout September and most of October. Stack says: “Without the asters the glorious American autumn would lose much of its lovely charm. For every roadside, fence-row, field, meadow and hillside is brilliantly spangled with their scintillating and billowy radiance.”
Asters are perennial and grow from six inches to eight feet in height. The blossoms vary in color and in size, ranging from dark purple to light blue, and from very tiny flowers to ones two inches across, all with bright yellow centers. The word aster is from the Greek and means star. These starry flowers, nodding along the roadside, mingling with the late goldenrod, and continuing to bloom after all the goldenrods are gone, are favorites of ours. They add much to our enjoyment of drives over the country roads in autumn. These blue flowers add just the right touch of color to the red, gold and brown of the leaves of shrubs and trees in the background.
To the Wild Aster
When other flowers have gone
You open starry eyes
That match the deepest blue
Of brown October’s skies.
When oaks and maples are ablaze,
When autumn comes again –
You nod along the woodland ways
And brighten every lane.
The birds are silent then,
The year is growing old,
Still the river bank is bright
With your blooms of blue and gold.
For our gardens there are many spring flowering bulbs with blue flowers. There are also annual biennial and perennial plants with bright blue blossoms. Among these are: bachelor buttons, nigelia or love-in-a-mist, ageratum, iris, forget-me-nots, campanula, blue lace flower, blue sage or salvia, blue flax, larkspur, Chinese forget-me-not, Jupine, pansies, perennial corn flower, both annual and perennial scablosa, heliotrope, asters, lobelias and delphiniums.
The lovely blue phlox divaricata and the nepeta for the rock gardens.
Clematis and the heavenly blue morning glory to climb over our arbors.
Blue water lilies and the water hyacinth for the lily pool.
So you see there are really a great many blue flowers – all these, besides
others I have not mentioned. Some of the wild ones may be successfully
transplanted into our gardens. We might have an entirely blue garden if
we wished, with flowers from early spring until late fall – flowers of
We put up a feeding station for the birds on November 4, 1923. Three days later, chickadees, nuthatches, and both the downy and hairy woodpecker were feeding there. You all know our black capped chickadee, the little optimist, that calls so cheerily all through the Winter months. He cares not at all how thick the snowflakes fall, nor how cold the weather may be. We are told he has a thick coat of fat under his fluffy gray feathers which keeps his small body warm. He is a sociable little fellow and likes to travel with others of his kind. There have been as many as twelve sitting in the lilac bush, all busily engaged in opening sunflower seeds in order to reach the meat within, which they love.
Bobby Yank the nuthatch, is the only bird that can descend the trunk of a tree head foremost, or run along the underside of a horizontal limb as well as on the top of it. He will eat suet, sunflower seeds and peanuts. We love to hear him calling -- “Yank! Yank! Yank!” -- as he runs up and down the trunk of the old apple tree or stops for a moment in the lilac bush before coming to the window tray. The little downy is very friendly, but his cousin, the large, hairy woodpecker, is more shy and will instantly fly away if he catches a glimpse of any one at the window. These two birds are marked exactly the same except for one thing, -- the two outer tail feathers of the hairy woodpecker are pure white, while those of the downy are spotted with blackish. The males of both have red across the back of the head, while the females have no red markings. They like suet and will sometimes eat ground peanuts.
This same Fall, on November 21, a tufted titmouse visited the station and continued to come and feed every day until the middle of March. This bird, while very well known in the South and West, is seldom seen in this locality. He is one of the few birds we see about our homes that wear a crest, is a little larger than the English sparrow, of a soft brown or tan in color, the breast lighter and washed on the sides with rufus. He wears his pointed cap with a jaunty air, is a cousin to the chickadee and has the same song, -- “Chicka-dee, Chickadee-dee,” but his voice is louder and more hoarse. We enjoyed his visit very much and hoped that sometime he would return, but so far we have looked for him in vain.
A snow storm on the first of April, 1924, drove in the birds, and among the robins, song sparrows and juncos was one fox sparrow. He is the largest of the sparrow tribe, has bright rufus plumage, with dark spots on the lighter breast, and is sometimes mistaken for a thrush. The fox sparrows breed in Canada and pass through the northern states with the early migrants in April. This is the only one it has ever been my good fortune to see.
Later in the month and during the first part of May the white throated and white crowned sparrows paid us many visits. These birds are two of the handsomest of the sparrow tribe. The white throat is a little larger than the common English sparrow, has three white stripes on his head, each outer one ending in a bright yellow spot near the eye. His pure white bib shows plainly on the gray breast. He has a very sweet, high-pitched, plaintive song. The New Englanders think he says, --”L. I. Peabody, Peabody, Peabody, I.” So is sometimes called the Peabody bird.
The white crowned sparrows are more numerous in the West, but we usually see some of them each Spring and Fall. They are the same size as the white throat, but have no yellow on the head, the breasts are a plain whitish color, and the white crown is much broader. Both these birds and most of their relatives will eat millet, canary seed and the common timothy seed.
The pine siskin was our only unusual visitor during the next Winter. The branches of hemlock with which I had filled the porch boxes and trimmed the feeding station, were covered with small brown cones. The siskins fed upon the seeds of these cones, constantly calling to each other -- “sweet-sweet-sweet,” in the manner of goldfinches. They are smaller than the goldfinch and can be identified by their streaked body, sharply pointed bill, a yellow patch on each wing and yellow bases of the tail feathers.
The next year no new birds came to the feeding station, but in the Winter of 1926-27 a flock of purple finches visited us. The male is a very handsome bird with his coat of rosy red. The females and immature males are much the color of the female English sparrow, except that the gray body is covered with dark streaks. The male does not don his rosy coat until he is two years old. This is why we see so many wearing the streaked gray dress. He is a wonderful songster, and before the laws strictly prohibited, many of his kind were trapped and kept in confinement. These birds feed upon the sunflower seeds, scolding and fighting among themselves for a place on the window tray.
On December 1, 1927, I saw a small bird eating the suet. He looked much like a warbler, but -- a warbler! This time of the year! It didn’t seem possible, yet it proved to be true. It was the myrtle warbler, the hardiest of his tribe. He is very handsome when in full plumage, with yellow patches on crown, sides and rump, two white wing bars, white on the inner webs of the three outer tail feathers, and black streaks on back, breast and sides. In Winter the black streaks fade and he looses the yellow except the patch on the rump. He stayed with us until April, before this the yellow spots on head and sides were beginning to show while the dark streaks were growing brighter. It was very interesting to watch this change taking place. This same Winter the tree sparrows came to the station for the first time. These sparrows have chestnut brown crowns, two white wing bars, and a dark spot in the middle of their light breasts. And the lower manrible is light colored while the upper one is black. They breed in Canada and visit us only in the Winter time. They were very shy and afraid to come to the Winter tray. But finally one overcame his fear, taking ground peanuts from the tray and continuing to feed there until he left for Canada in early Spring. I think he remembered us for the next Fall one came and was not a bit afraid. Afterward several became brave enough to feed from the window tray. A sight we loved was the myrtle warbler, the tree sparrow and a chickadee on the tray at the same time.
In April of this year , we had another new visitor, a hermit thrush, the first of the thrushes to appear in Spring. How I wish we might have heard his beautiful song, but is was not to be. While he came for several days, each time he was busily engaged in searching beneath the barberry for any insects that might be hiding among the dead leaves. The top of head, back and wings are a uniform olive brown, but the tail is a bright rufus, this being his identifying mark.
January 27, 1929 was a red letter day for us, the most gorgeous of all our bird visitors coming to call. This was the cardinal, we saw him five times during the day feeding upon the sunflower seeds. He came nearly every day thereafter until the 15th of March. The feathers of his rich red coat have dark edgings on the back and wings that look blue in the bright sunlight. He has a large crest, a black face and throat and a red bill. He is a wonderful songster, but this one uttered not a sound until the 11th of March, when about 6 o’clock in the morning he sat on a bough of the apple tree and whistled and sang for ten or fifteen minutes. He sang for us again on the 13th and we saw him no more afterward. These songs must have been his “thank you” and “goodbye” to us. The cardinal is rare in this locality.
This same Winter we had two other new visitors, a pair of golden crowned kinglets. These lovely little mites are so tiny one wonders how they can withstand our severe Winters. They didn’t seem to mind the cold, but flitted about as if enjoying themselves. They have broad, yellow crowns, are olive green on the back and whitish underneath, with two white bard, the male bird having an orange spot on his yellow crown. These feathers he can raise at will, and when he does this the orange is more conspicuous.
On the 28th of September 1929, a Carolina wren came to call. He is larger than our common wren, and more reddish in color, with a large light colored stripe over the eyes. He has a hardy constitution and sometimes winters this far north. He loved the ground peanuts and came nearly every day until the middle of January, when he disappeared and we did not see him again. But in the Fall of 1931, two years later, he [or another one] came back and stayed all Winter. The next Spring and during the Summer I heard him singing, so thought he had found a mate and they were nesting nearby. When Winter came again he brought his mate to the feeding station and both continued to come during that Winter. But in the Spring they disappeared and we never saw them again.
The night of April 27th, 1930, a large flock of song sparrows, field sparrows, chipping sparrows and juncos migrating this way were confused by the lights and settled down on Main street. Many were killed by flying against the street lights and windows of the stores. The next morning and for the following two weeks a large flock fed upon the timothy seed which we scattered on the lawn for them. A few days after this happened the white throated and white crowned sparrows came. Several times I counted 50 birds feeding on the lawn. May 5th there were 20 white throats, several white crowns, field sparrows, song sparrows, chipping sparrows, juncos and three indigo buntings. These last are smaller than the English sparrow and of an intense indigo blue in color, with wings and tail blackish with blue edgings to the feathers, very beautiful birds and have a lovely song.
April 29, 1931 was the red letter day of that season, a flock of 25 cedar waxwings came in and fed upon the bitter sweet berries I had used to trim the feeding station. They hung on the braches in every conceivable position, and as many as could crowd on at a time. They also ate the berries that were still hanging on the barberry bushes. This bird is another one that has a crest, the feathers are a soft brown color, tail broadly tipped with yellow, while on the wings are the red sealing wax-like appendages which give it the name -- waxwing.
Nearly all our bird visitors were attracted by the feeding station, but before we began putting out food we were sometimes fortunate enough to see a rare bird. One morning during the Spring migration a scarlet tanager was discovered perched on a stake in the garden. Another time, hearing a clear, sweet song, I found that the notes were coming from the throat of the little ruby crowned kinglet. He was flitting about among the branches of an old apple tree near the house. From an upstairs window I obtained a very good view of him, and when he raised the feathers on his head I saw his bright red coronal patch.
Often we saw the redstart darting here and there after winged insects. This small warbler is very handsomely gowned in black and orange, and seems to be constantly on the wing. In Cuba he is called “El Candelite” -- the little candle flames.
Some of the other birds we saw in our yard are: the black and white warbler, yellow warbler, black-throated blue warbler, chestnut sided warbler, car bird, brown thrasher, house wren, brown creeper, robins and bluebirds. Barn swallows, goldfinches, purple grackles. Baltimore orioles, blue jays, least flycatchers, phoebes, ruby throated hummingbirds. Flickers, kingfishers, black-billed cuckoos, crows and of course the ever present English sparrows and starlings. Often in the evening the night hawks flew low over the yard as they were feasting on insects in the air. Also we saw several species we were unable to identify.
We kept the feeding station for 13 years, or until the fall of 1936, when we sold the old home and moved away. We felt sorry whenever we thought of the birds coming and finding no food where for so long they had found it abundant. However, it probably wasn’t long until they stopped coming.
I cannot begin to tell how much we enjoyed watching the birds. We spent a great deal of time at the window and always there was the hope that a new one would appear. As we studied them we learned to love them and wished we were able to protect them from all harm. They are truly our friends for without the help of the birds, man, alone, could never control the vast hordes of insects that soon would destroy every green thing on earth.
Some birds feed only on the ground, and are seldom seen more than a few feet above it. Some diligently search the trunks and larger limbs of trees, hunting for bugs, worms and larvae that hide in the crevices of the bark. Some work on the smaller limbs and twigs, while others glean a living from the foliage. Thus every bit of vegetation is protected by the birds.
The amount a bird eats is almost beyond belief, and nearly all birds feed their young entirely on insects, tho’ they themselves, eat other things. The flicker is a foe to the ant, as many as 5000 have been found in the stomach of one flicker. Four hundred and fifty eggs of a plant louse were found in the stomach of one black-capped chickadee. A scarlet tanager ate 630 gypsy moth caterpillars in 18 minutes -- a rate of 2100 per hour, while our native sparrows consume hundreds of tons of noxious weed seeds annually.
So it behooves us to do all in our power to protect the birds.
Over 100 years ago John James Audubon was one of the best known men in the United States. This fame rested simply on Audubon’s interest in birds, he wandered from the Great Lakes of the north to the Everglades of Florida, studying them and drawing their portraits. Slowly these beloved drawings accumulated. Then he tried to get them published in Philadelphia and New York, but the publishers wouldn’t listen. So in 1826 he went to England. There the 400 bird drawings for his “Birds of America” were accepted for publication. A hand engraving was to be made of each in natural size, from the tiny hummingbird to the giant turkey cock and colored by hand. The work was to appear in installments of five each, issued over a period of 12 years and sell for $1000 in America and slightly less in Europe. This was the most ambitious project in the history of publishing. A complete set in good condition today is worth from $6000 to $10,000. His writings started and interest in these feathered friends of ours, and slowly people began to realize their great value to men. For they are literally worth their weight in gold.
Birds also have an aesthetic value, for, what is more beautiful than the Baltimore oriole, or more gorgeous than the tanager, with his scarlet coat and jet black wings and tail. Where will you find anything more exquisite than the ruby-throated hummingbird? This tiny mite, with body not much larger than a bumble bee and wings of gauze, travels about 3000 miles each Spring and Fall, and is capable of a mile-a-minute speed. He is the only hummingbird to venture so far from the tropics. But how we should miss him if he should decide to spend his summers in the far South and visit us no more.
We love our gardens and the beautiful blossoms opening there. But what enchantment is added to the garden when the small brown wren flies to the top of the rose trellis and sitting among the blossoms pours out his bubbling song.
When the goldfinch alights on a delphinium stalk, his bright yellow coat showing again the blue flowers, or hidden among the foliage of the lilac tree delights us with his sweet wild song. And when the little ruby throat, darting here and there in the garden suddenly stops before a glad-flower, and with rapidly beating wings, poises there, sipping nectar from its lovely cup.
Then, after the sun has gone to rest we may hear the robin’s evening sons, or listen to the song sparrow piping his “Peace, peace, peace, be unto you my children.”
Thus the birds with their beautiful plumage and sweet melodies bring a charm to our gardens that, otherwise, they would fail to possess.
The following is a quotation from Longfellow:-
Do you ne’er think what wondrous beings these?
Do you ne’er think who made them and who taught
The dialect they speak, where
Melodies alone are the interpreters of thought?
Whose household words are songs in many keys
Sweeter than instrument of man e’er caught!
Whose habitations in the tree tops even
Are half-way houses on the road to heaven.