The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Wednesday, February 14, 1996           TAG: 9602130111
TYPE: Coastal Journal 
SOURCE: Mary Reid Barrow 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   92 lines


One of the best bird stories to come out of last week's cold weather was relayed by Rebecca Bloom, who's especially fond of the bluebirds that nest in her Kempsville yard.

Last summer, bluebirds nested twice in each of her two houses and unlike past years, several of the birds have been hanging around all winter. Even so, Bloom has never seen bluebirds up quite as close as they were on that cold and snowy Sunday morning 10 days ago when four of them decided to roost right on her front porch.

When she went out to get the newspaper about 8 a.m., Bloom was startled by bluebirds fluttering up off the porch floor and into the trees. She realized the little birds had taken shelter from the cold in a corner right by the front door.

As soon as she went back into the house, the four birds flew back to their safe haven. From then on, all day, the birds hung out on the porch. Whenever they were frightened, they'd fly off but they would always come back to the same spot.

``There were three males and a female,'' Bloom said. ``And they were all huddled together and puffed up.''

The Bloom family went into action. They set out Tupperware lids of water and seed nearby and hung a utility light for warmth. They also knocked the snow off an ornamental holly next to the porch and mandated that only the back door be used for coming and going as long as the birds were in residence.

``Then we sat and watched,'' Bloom said. ``They'd go and get holly berries off the bush. They ate the seed and drank the water. We watched them all day long.''

Those bluebirds have got Bloom's number.

FOLLOWING THE COLUMN ON PERSIMMONS, Myrtle Crawford called to tell me about her family's tradition of making persimmon-locust beer in Morgantown, N.C., where she grew up.

The kids would gather persimmons and locust pods in the fall as they fell off the tree, Crawford said. She described the dark brown locust pods as shaped like a banana with a sweet vein along the edge.

``My father would mash up the persimmons like a pone and put them in a big bread pan, bake them,'' she said, ``and when it got cold, he'd break up the pone.''

He would cut off the top of the locust pod which would release the sweet syrup from the vein. Then he would layer the persimmons, the locusts and a little sugar and water in a big wooden keg, topping off the layers with more water, Crawford said.

Then her father put the keg under the house and let it brew a couple of months. When the brewing was over, he would strain off the liquid and the result was persimmon-locust beer.

``It tasted like lemonade, but it was not intoxicating,'' Crawford said. ``It couldn't have been, because my father was a Presbyterian minister!

``I thought it was better than lemonade,'' she went on. ``We had beer and molasses cookies on cold, snowy days!''

I GOT AN INTERESTING E-MAIL message about rufous hummingbirds from Bob Sargent, a hummingbird researcher who lives near Birmingham, Ala. Someone had sent him one of my columns about the little hummingbirds that were spending the winter here, far away from their western range and far north of their Mexican wintering grounds.

Sargent, a licensed bird bander, said his group had banded more than 100 rufous hummingbirds this winter. Although Birmingham seems much farther south than we are, the area has experienced some frigid, even below zero, temperatures, this winter.

Despite the cold, all the hummers are doing fine and feeding normally, Sargent said. He has been seeing more and more rufous hummingbirds in the winter, and he is convinced the little birds are expanding their range and that we will be seeing more of them up here too.

P.S. All in a Day's Work: The Plantation Slaves, a special tour, will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Francis Land House. Inventories, wills and other Princess Anne County court records will be used to reconstruct the life of slaves in the 18th century at the Francis Land house. Admission is $2.50 for adults and $1 for students. Call 431-4000 for information and reservations. MEMO: What unusual nature have you seen this week? And what do you know

about Tidewater traditions and lore? Call me on INFOLINE, 640-5555.

Enter category 2290.

Or, send a computer message to my Internet address:


ILLUSTRATION: Drawing by WALTER FERGUSON/Readers Digest Book of North American


Well-placed birdhouses and food help the bluebird survive winter and

competition from other hole nesters.

by CNB