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WANDERING WOODPECKER

Nov. 15, 1954
Nov. 15, 1954

Table of Contents
Nov. 15, 1954

Under 21
Pat On The Back
  • Herewith a salute from the editors to men and women of all ages who have fairly earned the good opinion of the world of sport, regardless of whether they have yet earned its tallest headlines

Horse Racing
Spectacle
  • With rough, resourceful backs to carry the ball and a light, fast line to keep the enemy honest, Oklahoma has won 16 games in a row—longest streak in major college football

Christenberry
Country Fair
Column Of The Week
Golf
Bowling
Motor Sports
Slippery Rock
Sport In Art
  • This is how Painter Fletcher Martin saw the postfight turmoil in Marciano's quarters after his second light with Ezzard Charles at the Yankee Stadium

Lady Ruler
Nature
Acknowledgments
Fisherman's Calendar
Yesterday
  • Little Willie Hoppe played matches crawling around on billiard tables, confounding and infuriating his grown-up adversaries

19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

WANDERING WOODPECKER

While the rest of his species went to Mexico for the winter this tough bird flew East to startle jays and ornithologists in Ossining, N.Y.

One afternoon last month a lawyer named Gerard Swope Jr., who was incarcerated in his Ossining, N.Y. home with a bad cold, ceased his disconsolate snuffling and peered out his bedroom window with eyes narrowed like an FBI man spotting trouble at his own savings bank. Swope, a bird lover, keeps covered feeding platforms stocked with suet, apples, sunflower seed, cracked corn and other such dainties in his front yard, and he had become conscious that some feathered intruder was chasing the blue jays away from this smorgasbord. Since jays comprise the Purple Gang of the bird world, it seemed obvious that a veritable Dillinger must have arrived.

This is an article from the Nov. 15, 1954 issue Original Layout

NOTHING IN REFERENCE

Swope grabbed his binoculars and discovered a dark, sharp-beaked intruder, which was about the same size as the jays but completely foreign in appearance. He was shiny black on top, had pinkish cheeks, a pinkish lower belly and a gray collar. Staring harder, Swope noted that his wings were a deep, dark velvety green. He called his wife and they began flipping through reference books on Eastern birds. But R & I, as it were, had nothing on the tough new peckerwood. Finally, however, they found a mug shot of him in a tome on Western birds. The pecker-wood was, in fact, a woodpecker—a Lewis's Woodpecker, named for Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition, who first reported it on his return from the West in 1806.

Reading further, the Swopes concluded that their visitor was an astoundingly long distance from home—Lewis's Woodpeckers usually winter in northwestern Mexico. They breed in Arizona, New Mexico and southern California, sometimes fly as far north as southern Alberta and British Columbia, but are strictly Western hombres. What was Lewis's (Tough Looie) Woodpecker doing in Ossining? Sing Sing Prison, after all, was only a mile or so away. Mulling the problem, the Swopes called the National Audubon Society, which quickly despatched a task force of experts, among them Bird Watcher John Kieran, the sage of "Information Please."

RAREST OF THE RARE

This group quickly confirmed the Swopes' identification, and goggled in genuine astonishment at the bird. Only one other—a specimen which was knocked off by a boy hunter 20 years ago in Rhode Island—had ever been reported in the East. "This," said Kieran, "is really something. In fact, it is the very rarest bird I have ever seen in the East."

The woodpecker paid little heed to the fact that he was being given the old line-up treatment. Nobody could guess as to how he had gotten so far from home, but that didn't seem to bother him either—he simply moved into the feeding station and began living there. All other birds were excluded. Even a group of hawks which perched in a near-by tree failed to drive him away.

As word of Looie's presence spread along the Audubon grapevine, his brassy aplomb was put to sterner tests—bird watchers in groups up to 25 in number began arriving almost daily at the Swope house, to mill about the yard and level binoculars and long telescopes at the woodpecker's feeding station. Looie posed for all. Unless Lawyer Swope is eventually moved to swear out a warrant against him for breaking and entering, inciting to riot, suet-lifting, nonpayment of entertainment tax, and sparrow discrimination, there seemed every reason to believe that he will stay in the Swope yard all winter. Perhaps all summer, too.

PHOTOLEWIS'S WOODPECKER—IT WAS FIRST REPORTED BY EXPLORER MERIWETHER LEWIS