Thursday, June 14, 2018

Birds of Baker City

by Shanna Hatfield

The heroine in my soon-to-be-released book in the Baker City Brides series really loves birds. Not just the put out bird seed and admire her feathered friends kind of admiration.

No, Delilah Robbins makes a career from studying birds, sketching birds, writing about birds, and creating a haven for birds in her yard.

 During the time period of this story, the Audubon Society had not yet formed although protecting waterbird populations was a hot topic among many ornithologists.

The slaughter of millions of waterbirds, particularly egrets and other waders, for the millinery trade, led to the foundation of the Masschusetts Audubon Society in 1896 by Harriet Hemenway and Mina Hall.

By 1905, the National Audubon Society was founded, placing the protection of gulls, terns, egrets, herons and other waterbirds high on its priority list for conservation.

In the story, Delilah belongs to the American Ornithologists’ Union. The AOU was founded in 1883 out of concern for bird conservation and interest in developing the field of ornithology in North America. 

It is said those early efforts led to the formation of the
Audubon Society as well as the Biological Survey (known today as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.)  At one time, the AOU was the largest ornithological society in the Western Hemisphere and one of the oldest organizations in the world devoted to the study and conservation of birds. The AOU archives are housed at the Smithsonian Institution.

As a dedicated ornithologist, it was easy to picture Delilah, pencil and sketchpad in hand, sitting on a tree limb and watching one of her beloved birds.

I happened upon an old book, written during the Edwardian era, that offered a list of birds found in Baker County during the 1890s. 

Among the expansive list were sandpipers, mourning doves, turkey vultures, various hawks, osprey, owls, kingbirds, magpies, crows, meadowlarks, finches, sparrows, sage thrasher, swallows, chickadees, juncos, robins, bluebirds, and calliope hummingbirds. 

If you’ve never seen a calliope hummingbird, their colors are quite spectacular and they are listed as the tiniest North American bird.

In the story, Delilah makes a mixture of sugar and water to attract hummingbirds to her yard. 

Lightning and Lawmen will release June 28!

Here's an excerpt from the story:

Whatever was in the tree certainly didn’t belong there. Snatches of brown stood out among the green leaves. A few more feet closer and he concluded the intruder in the tree was of the human variety, most likely a boy. Why wasn’t the youngster in school?

Dugan moved directly beneath the tree and looked up. A grin spread across his face and his eyebrows rose toward the brim of his hat. The person in the tree might be dressed like a boy, but with a curvy backside like that, and a long tendril of wavy brown hair escaping the cap tugged on their head, he had no doubt he was staring up at a woman.

But what woman would wear britches and climb trees? This one shimmied up to a branch where he could see a bird’s nest close to the end of it. She straddled the branch and inched her way forward.

The only female he could think of who’d do such a thing was on a train heading east. Wasn’t she?

When the woman stretched out on a limb, trying to get a better view into a bird’s nest, he caught a glimpse of her profile and sucked in a breath.

“Delilah?” he asked in baffled wonderment.

The woman gasped as she whipped her head around to look at him. She lost her grip on the branch and would have fallen if she hadn’t quickly regained her composure and wrapped her arms around the branch.

“What in Sam Hill are you doing up there?” Dugan shifted so he could get a better look at her face.

After spending her formative years on a farm in eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly hiding decadent chocolate from the other occupants of her home, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.
Shanna loves to hear from readers. Follow her online at:
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  1. I have several older, before 1950’s, Audubon books. I love the illustrations. We love looking at the birds in our backyard . My Mother’s relative , when she was a child in China, used to send birds back to the Smithsonian. This was about 1920. We have a robin family that we have been keeping track of. For some reason, the hummingbirds are scarece this year. Thanks for this post!

    1. I bet those books are so fun to look at, Paula. And how awesome you mother has a relative who sent birds to the Smithsonian. Enjoy that robin family and hope the hummingbirds appear!

  2. I may not like birds, but this post may make me re-think that stance. Fascinating. Doris