S. O. S …. Move, Dig-In, or Die

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

“Mistress and Master, what’s with all the white on the former water treatment ponds?” Inquisitive Frances, the ferreting Ford Focus is always alert to unusual sights and sounds in her daily exploration of the Minnesota River Valley. Binoculars revealed the usual activity on the eastern pond closest to the Minnesota River bridge. Migrating waterfowl visitors, sated from an abundance of fish and foliage, sported about or rested between feedings; fifty or more cormorants, a pod of twenty white pelicans, a variety of sandpipers and gulls, a trickle of teal, wary Canada geese, mallard duck minions, and a bald eagle gliding silently and inconspicuously in an azure sky, ever watchful for the sick and infirm.

Then came an unusual strange sound from the large pond to the west. Carefully guiding Frances back onto the heavily trafficked Highway #169, a massive flotilla of white appeared. The long awaited ‘fleet’ was in, its members voraciously dispatching schools of fish. Dashing, splashing and crashing about, no holds barred and social distancing flown to the wind, some seven hundred white pelicans had discovered defenseless gizzard shad in the shallows near the highway. Frances had observed pelicans chasing lunch before, but this was a feeding frenzy! Great blue herons, water up to their knee caps, were aghast at the action.

Our conjecture has been that, with the amount of avian traffic on the ponds, no living creature could remain, frogs and giant water beetles notwithstanding. It was obvious we were wrong. Each day since that scene of unparalleled massacre, small squadrons of pelicans have been observed, but none like the carnage of September 23rd.

Around the corner from the aforementioned ponds, the Coachlight shielded seven Trumpeter swans, Sylvia and Sylvan’s cygnets remaining intact. Braced against opening duck season on September 16th, the majestic birds molted a bounteous number of white feathers, spending the remainder of the time feeding in the shallows. Their next stop, migration or join an over-wintering flock of swans in the area. Time will tell the ‘tale,’ tail feathers that is.

Meanwhile, atop the ridge near Allanson Park, a whopper of a car stopper was encountered by Kim and Terry Bovee…a mossy and bossy snapping turtle. You just don’t argue with an irritable snapper. Look at its eyes in the photo, definitely social distancing. Perhaps, having decided there may be a deeper mud hole in the river bottoms, the elder was heading east into the deep valley potholes where it will ‘dig in’ over the winter months, sleeping under decaying logs or debris. The Bovee turtle, an omnivore, appeared to be well fed, consuming a variety of tasty dishes such as other amphibians, mammals, carrion, plants, insects, worms, fish and the like.
Crossing Highway #93 may be a challenge, who would expect a turtle on that speedway in September?

“Master, whatchagot crawling up your leg?” purred Frances, Saturday the 26th. Thinking another nasty mosquito was about to insert its painful proboscis, the ‘walking stick’ was a pleasant insect surprise. A nifty critter, (sex unknown but suspected to be a female,) seemed reluctant to depart; thus, we were able to take photos without its scampering hastily away. Ready for this??? According to “National Geographic,” this insect does not need a male around to reproduce! Don’t ask what or why, but attempt to find what you can. Plus, that, they eat only foliage, not other insects, but feed on leaves…oak, apple, strawberry leaves for example. We’ve heard of no human ever being harmed by a walking stick… ‘walking cane’ wielded by other humans, but not ‘walking sticks.’ Thus, Frances, thanks for the warning, humans and autos are safe from this wonderfully camouflaged creature. Stay safe, readers, beware the ‘evil crud.’