Letters at Length

Pond restoration threatens birds

I applaud the efforts to improve the habitat around Ashland Pond. It is truly a gem.

I have been birding there regularly for the past four years. I have recorded 116 bird species near the pond or passing over. It is likely at least 32 species breed in the vicinity annually.

As the alterations continue, I ask that the restoration planners and directors take care for the creatures that have grown used to the plants and habitat that have been there for at least 30 years. I know that the introduced rose bushes and blackberries are considered anathema by native plant fans and are blamed for fire hazard and other crimes, real or imagined. However, the resident birds are pragmatic. If there are no Oregon grape or manzanita thickets, they will hide, nest and feed in a berry thicket. Birds do not care whether the plant is native or not.

A few saplings that will take decades to mature will not replace the cover and food supplied by the hated blackberry thickets. The drive to clear everything and then re-plant ignores the reality of daily life for numerous species that have been using the berry thickets for generations (a songbird generation is about four years). Ashland Pond is not a shopping mall site.

California quail, wrentit, spotted towhee, juncos, all local sparrow species, Bewick's wren and goldfinches all use the berry thickets for cover, roosting, even nesting.

I hope restoration fervor can stop to consider the creatures who already live around the pond. Perhaps some living thickets should be planted and matured before every berry thicket is removed, leaving the above species bereft and homeless and easy prey to house cats, natural predators and the winter weather.

The especially vulnerable and sedentary wrentits have already been pushed into the narrow fringe of plants along the pond edge as their beloved berry thickets fall to progress. Clearly there will not be enough habitat left for all the wrentits that used to live around Ashland Pond. At the present rate of clearing they will completely disappear from the area and the embattled quail will try to huddle in the berry thicket that continues on the Billings Ranch.

Harry Fuller


Library send-off a magical experience

Through you, dear editor, I'm writing this letter to the many Ashlanders who came to the library last Saturday and treated me to one of the most magical experiences of my life. What began as an ordinary last-day-before-retirement morphed into an extraordinary event. And I want to thank every single person who came to fete me with flowers, gifts, wishes, kisses, photographs, drawings, love letters, songs and hula.

Yes. Hula. Led by Andrea Luchese and Lisa Bailey and invited by my unrepentantly loving sister, Kimberly Hauschild, the keiki of Ka Pi'o O Ke Anuenue, Irie, Olivia, Dana and Leila, danced so gracefully. Rick and Irie Browne played "Pearly Shells" on their ukuleles. And then Kathleen Fleming's heartfelt and original aloha poem and song, sung with her always-joyful daughter, Joya, brought lumps to throats and tears to eyes.

Former Ashland Library Manager Bob Wilson, and former Children's Librarian Fran Bowden-Davis came out of their own retirements and gave me such wonderful surprises by their very presence. Shannon Clery, caretaker of the Mama's Medicine Wheel hatched a plan — and sent it out on the listserv — for every child to present me with a single long-stemmed flower. And Branch Manager Amy Blossom and Children's Librarian Margie Cicerrella, devised a "memory book" filled with artful and written sentiments from library users young and old.

Then, in the midst of this sweetest of days, a new library patron — a man about my age — wandered in, wondered what was going on, was introduced to me, and then asked one of the best questions ever: "Which children's books make adults cry?" Oh boy. That is the sort of question I will miss.

Thank you to everyone associated with the incomparable Ashland Library and this unparalleled community for the trust and faith you placed in me and for giving me the most magnificent send-off anyone has ever had!

Perii Hauschild-Owen


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