Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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There were few “typical” southern summer residents besides the chuck-wills-widow and the nonpareil, but the all-red summer tanager, the dullish marked but musical orchard oriole, the tiny blue-gray gnatcatcher (almost a miniature mockingbird in appearance), the bubbling white-eyed vireo and the yellow-billed cuckoo belonged in this category in that they don’t winter in northern Florida, at least in numbers, and aren’t ordinarily found as far north as Groton.

The winter residents I noticed most of course as such were those that nest at home or around Squam or at least “up north.” Scaups and ringnecks, seen on the little pond, winter
and Wilson’s snipe*, spied nearby, were the only non-“song” birds on this list. Phoebes, tree-swallows, house wrens, cedar waxwings, hermit thrushes, robins, ruby-crowned kinglets, black and white, palm, and myrtle warblers and white-throated sparrows include most of the remainder.

All except the permanent residents could be considered migrants in the Spring, but even in the woods of the Naval Air Station more obvious “birds of passage” could often be seen. The warblers, migrant
everyone’s favorites during migrations, were fairly well represented even with those of the very common ones that use the Mississippi Valley route missing. Redstarts and black-throated blues seemed to be the most abundant but ovenbirds, water-thrushes and at least one Cape May, which is supposed to be common, were also seen. The only other migrants, however, were species that occurred in one or more of the resident categories. Quite a number of these have not been mentioned because of being merely southern forms, indistinguishable in the field, of species common “up north” and consequently of rather less interest to me. New or otherwise interesting birds seen off the limits of the Naval Air Station will be treated later, as so many of these were seen during the summer.

To go back to the main business then at hand, the intermediate intermediate squadron or basic landplane squadron, Squadron 12, was the next stage for all of us after the primary squadron and followed automatically. It was, however, quite a step. As with all the remaining squadrons in the Jacksonville cadet training program (with the exception of the one for final training of carrier pilots at Miami) this one was at the main naval air station field. Riding at first in the rear cockpit as a passenger, then in the front one with a check pilot in the rear, and finally with the rear seat empty, one a “real
found oneself flying a “real aeroplane.” Instead of one or two hundred horsepower up front there was 550 H.P. and an adjustable pitch propeller. The wheels were completely retractable, and altogether the plane seemed very streamlined as it cruised at 130 to 140 knots or considerably faster when pushed. We called them by their regular designations, SNJ—North American scout trainers, but they were identical with the Texan (AT–6) of the Army or Harvard of the British. Other new features besides those mentioned were landing flaps both to lower the stalling speed and help slow the plane down coming in for a landing—along with lowering the wheels something not to forget. Besides the various levers for these operations there were new instruments on the instrument boards, that for the rear cockpit having as many as the front—unlike most larger planes. A radio and an intercommunication system between pilot and passenger were also new features.

* Common snipe.