EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was corrected on Aug. 23, 2018, to reflect that D.W. Hornecker served in the Army, but did not serve in or travel to Vietnam.
D.W. Hornecker went out to get his morning newspaper, and he pulled some brown fluffy stuff out of the box along with his Pekin Daily Times. He didn’t think too much about it until it happened again the next day.
“I went out Sunday, and I pulled out the paper and there was straw in the paper box,” he said. “I thought, ‘What’s going on here?’ I thought someone was pulling a joke on me.”
Hornecker of Delavan said a couple of blue birds built a nest in his newspaper box. Being a bird lover, Hornecker asked his newspaper carrier to put the newspaper on the ground instead, so he would not disturb the baby bluebirds. His carrier brought the paper to the driveway. Hornecker, who is 73 and sometimes walks with a cane, said he appreciated the extra effort.
Born and raised in Pekin and a 1962 graduate of Pekin High School, Hornecker moved 5 miles outside of Delavan years ago. He served in the Army in between 1966 to 1969 and retired from Caterpillar as a machine operator after 30 years. He got a divorce several years ago.
“She got the car, and I got the house,” he said.
Hornecker spends mornings sitting on his front porch, overlooking his 3 acres, to watch the wildlife. To entice them, he fills a plastic cup with seed and spreads it on his 40-foot gravel driveway and on the grass. He also fills his several feeders with suet and seed.
“I probably spend more money and time feeding the birds than I do myself,” he said.
He doesn’t really have a favorite bird, although he mentioned the cardinal, because he also likes the baseball team, which he travels to St. Louis to see from time to time.
Although he has been watching the birds and other “critters” such as deer for some time, Hornecker said he had not seen any baby birds until this year. With the plethora of birds he views daily, such as the red-headed woodpeckers, nuthatches, cowbirds, bluebirds, sparrows and more, some baby birds were bound to show up.
The blue birds used to nest in an old fence post that had a hole in it, but Hornecker said they got flooded out after a heavy rain and began looking for a new home. Little did he know, it would be where he stuck his hand in to get his newspaper.
“When I first saw them, they were nothing but beaks,” Hornecker said.
Hornecker knows better than to mess with the babies. He leaves them alone after a previous experience he had. One day as he rode his lawnmower out to get the mail, a mama bird began diving at his head. He realized there must have been babies nearby.
When some of the birds fly south for the season, Hornecker said he will rebuild his fence post. Until then, he will keep watching the birds from his porch.
“They keep me company so to speak,” he said. “I come out on my front porch and wait to watch the birds come in. I love it. I’ll go belly up here.”