published Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Roberts: Warbler error is easy to swallow


by Dalton Roberts

A friend at the Hungry House was asking me about my column on the black-throated blue warbler building in one of my bluebird boxes, and I told him, "I'm sorry but a reader educated me that it was a tree swallow, and I will be writing a column to correct it." He said, "Aw, just forget it Dalton, and nobody will ever know the difference."

That's just not my style. When I make a mistake, I have found I feel better when I admit it and correct it as far as I can.

Correcting my mistake about the black-throated blue warbler gives me a chance to make a powerful point to bird-watchers: Have at least one good reference book on birds. The best one I have found is Roger Tory Peterson's "A Field Guide to the Birds."

Look at the pictures of the black-throated blue warbler and the tree swallow in the Peterson guide, and you can see where I erred. They look like the same birds, but when you really look closer, you see a few small differences. It is those small differences that can make the difference between an accurate identification and an error. That's why we all need such a field guide.

One reason I erred was my own excitement when I saw such a gorgeous bird making its home in my box. I quickly saw a picture of a black-throated blue warbler and incorrectly identified it.

Truth is, I had never seen a tree swallow, although they are much more common to this area. In the future, if another tree swallow decides to move into one of my boxes, I will still be very excited. The are equally beautiful.

Have you ever noticed that when people start confessing their sins, they can't seem to stop? A preacher once told me, "Some people are so proud of their sins that they love to keep confessing." Well, I'm ashamed of it, but I made another error in a column. But I am not going to ask forgiveness for it, and I will tell you why.

In the column opposing parole for the killer of Stringbean and his wife Estelle, I said Grandpa Jones probably still has nightmares over finding their bodies the next morning after they were brutally slaughtered. Readers pointed out to me that Grandpa died in 1998!

So why am I not apologizing over this mistake? Because his friends say he had nightmares from the time he found the bodies until 1998 when he died, and 25 years of nightmares is enough for me to afflict Grandpa with in a column.

So he no longer has nightmares unless people in heaven have nightmares. The good news is that Stringbean was a man of faith, and I like to picture them sitting by the River of Life with their banjoes doing Grandpa's song about fallen leaves. For in that song he tells how when a man dies who lends a helping hand to others in this life, he "has more friends than leaves upon the ground."

I think they both lived the kind of lives that proves the song is right. I hope Stringbean's killer has truly changed and starts accumulating some fallen leaves.

Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.

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