Joined: Jan 2004
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Jeff Steinborn Online content OP
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Mother Nature ….. A Constant Source of Amazement

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

Just when one thinks he/she has seen about everything, Minnesota’s Mother Nature can throw in the sink, more surprises arise from the earth and high in the skies. For example, bird feeders which Frances the frolicking Ford Focus tends, are in a forested area. Birdseed is stored in garbage cans nearby, mice are attracted to the warmth of the shack and nibbles that drop. Suet is stored in the little trailer, but mouselings don’t seem to bother that. Due to the number of mice about, the Boss has to trap them, otherwise they would veritably eat her out of house and home.

Mice have been abundant in the shack since November, mousetraps net one a day within their grips. A puzzle recently, has been the decapitation of some of the frozen dead mice, with partially eating of bodies as well. This is a new behavior. Have our mice turned cannibalistic? There is lots of waste birdseed about, and tick-carrying white-bellied mice, for the most part, are vegetarians. Over the new year’s holiday, but never before, the traps snared a northern short-tailed shrew, followed by a second furry black mammal body a day later. Cannibalism of deceased mice in the traps suddenly became clear. Our conjecture is that the short-tailed shrews were eating the mice.

Northern short-tailed shrews are not news. During spring and summer, cats, devoted to their human and humane caregivers, (you never own a cat, the feline owns you) often bring shrews home from the hunt to the back steps of owners’ abodes. They present the pointy-nosed yet handsome blackish-brown bodies to doting cat keepers as a sign of love and devotion. Ha! Cats don’t care for shrew meat, or perhaps they give off an odor kit-kats abhor. Secondly, in the past, following a thunder-ridden summer storm, we’ve often found shrews lying near their runways, dead. It’s been said that loud noises are enough to kill shrews hunting worms, snails and seeds. Boom! Zap! Dead shrew. We’re not aware of the scientific reason, but we’ve observed the phenomena.

The season in this case is winter… W I N T E R. Four to five inch long shrews must maintain a high temperature level, and that is partially resolved by the fact that they eat three times their weight in food each day. That means they are voracious eaters. The urchins, although carnivorous, also eat seeds and fungus or so the literature tells us. They are given to caching (as in storing) their food for a rainy day, but winter? A puzzle.

Frances wanted a mole-skin coat for her front seat for Christmas, as mole-skin is so soft and warm. She had to settle for four new tires instead. At the rate things are going, perhaps she’ll have to settle for a shrew-skin seating pad?

By the way, those readers who might desire to keep a northern short-tailed shrew as a pet due to their five toes and delicate feet, back-off, as they are poisonous! Yes, they have a venom which they shoot into their prey, but the substance may cause redness and swelling in human limbs. It’s not poisonous enough to lay one flat, but certainly enough to make one say “Owee!” Pet mice, O.K.
Pet shrews, a no-no.

Meanwhile back at the lakes, Silver and Bucks’ Lakes that is, Ruthie and Jerry Narr have observed the Silver Lake eagle aerie near Arlington has become alive with activity. The same is true at Bucks’ where the aerie has become larger over Christmas and New Year’s weeks, with added brush and branches; while a great white head is often in the nest contemplating the future, but not nearly ready to lay precious eggs. The nest, off Highway #93, is very difficult to see, leave the observing to your passenger, as that stretch of highway is a speedway!

As reported by Brenda (Chuck) Kotasek, Trumpeter swans in flocks of as many as eighty to a hundred may be observed just a short distance south of LeSueur and west of Henderson. Given a farm field harboring corn stalk remains, chances are that the white ‘blobs’ are trumpeters.

Due to the shortage of pine seeds in northern Minnesota, Pine siskins hound area bird feeders while the occasional drab purple finch females frequent Niger and black oil sunflower bird feeders. Hard to differentiate between female siskins and female purple finches? Look to the beaks! Hot off the press, “Mr. O,” the Baltimore oriole mooching at the Sara/Steve Iten abode, is looking hale and healthy as of January 7th.

As predicted by the ‘Indy’s’ very own weatherman, Jerry Gilman, “Monday and Tuesday (January 7th and 8th,) look dry with temperatures above normal.”Hmmm? Monday the 7th, 40 + degrees at 10:00 a.m. Right on, Jerry, right on!