The Heard Museum's passenger pigeon.

The Heard Museum’s passenger pigeon.


My connections with the wonderful Heard Museum in McKinney, Texas began when Michele Dudas wrote the Project Passenger Pigeon web-site saying the museum has a passenger pigeon. One of the goals of the web-site was to amass as complete a list as possible  of US and Canadian collections with passenger pigeons. Paul Hahn did that back in the early 1960s but over the decades new specimens have emerged while others have been lost. He did not list a single Texas site that held passenger pigeons and our web-site reflected that. Michele wanted us to  know that Heard did have one and we have subsequently learned about four other collections with specimens or an egg. But Heard was also interested in mounting an exhibit and joining the P3 effort, the only organization we had in the state. Later I received an e-mail from a Heard volunteer, Rick Joosten. We wound up talking and I said I would love to visit their museum. One thing led to another and I was invited to spend four mid-August  days in McKinney, with Rick being my principal care taker, as I stayed with him and his wife Yolanda at their lovely home. Rick said if you don’t have a pool, there would be no reason to be in your back yard all summer. This is my first immersion in a pool in some decades.

One day was spent on an early morning bird walk that Rick organized, having recruited some top local birders such as Gailan Brehm, John Lingenfelder, and Sam Crowe. Sam, I hardly need to add, is  the person responsible for Birdzilla and hence my blogging boss. We birded in an interesting area of woods, grasslands, and marshes. Not surprisingly, given  the date, the birds were limited but we did get such nice species as red-shouldered hawk and western kingbird (rare in northern IL), One of the birders  had recently returned from Oklahoma City to chase a south polar skua, an oceanic species that breeds in Antarctica. They saw it attack and eat a little-blue heron. Since these two birds should never occur anywhere near each other, the act of predation was undoubtedly an occurrence that has rarely, if ever, been enacted within the ken of human beings. (Sam is on the left and Rick fourth from left)

2014 aug- sept 003

The next day was indoors. Rick made arrangements for me to be interviewed  by Krys Boyd, whose show Think, airs on Dallas’ principal NPR station, KERA. It was also possible for to utilize the station for another interview: this one by Swiss public radio. It was broad cast in German.

Events at Heard were a pleasure. A slight digression first. P3 sought to  create materials that would facilitate participation in the anniversary. One of  the most successful were the panels created by the  U of  Michigan’s Museum of Natural History. Heard’s exhibit combined the panels with origami pigeons and a video program that used, in part, excerpts of “From Billions to None.”  When I first walked in it was disconcerting hearing my voice from the film. There were lots of kids- they were given “passports” and had to get it signed at various stations, including the one that featured me. Piranha like, they swarmed in masses to accomplish their mission.

A couple of high school students  were quite impressive. One said she wants to write bird books when she grows up and had already started a manuscript on owls. Another showed me the copy of a A Feathered River that her mom just bought her. I said I would be most grateful in getting a report from her on what she thought of the book after she finished reading it, asking only that she be polite in her criticism. She told me not to worry as she has never read a book she did not like.



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