A February Sunday’s Adventures

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

Sunday, February 3rd, was a fortuitous day for Frances the frolicking Ford Focus. Her owners had been especially tough on her, keeping Franny on a tight schedule, as a hockey tournament was calling to them at 2:30 in the afternoon. There was just one more item to check before heading for the car corral. Nine fawn and doe white-tails in an East Henderson yard, snatching grass beneath an apple tree, slowed her down, as the missus wanted some good photos for the Henderson Independent. Zipping across a bridge over a small meandering creek, and keeping her navel to the gravel, she came to a sliding halt and beeped, “Hey, groundhog on the port side!” We’d been half-heartedly searching for groundhogs the day before, knowing full well such a mammal would be utterly stupidous to crawl from its comfortable bed into a miserable February day, but there it was, elgroundhogo, swimming across the wee creek not a hundred feet from the Ford’s azure body.

Frances has observed her first groundhog, swimming in a cold rambling brooklet on a Sunday afternoon. Pointing out the wet brown mammal to her owners, Frances’s occupants were blown away, stunned, speechless for once. Swimming across the little creek was a beaver, (no big deal for most people,) cutting willow saplings and dragging them across the snow into the water and under an ice shelf. It was apparent to Frances that this was no ordinary occurrence, as her master veritably leaped out the closed car window to get photos of the long-haired beast below. Yes, in all their years, the ‘bosses’ had never observed a busy beaver bustling from water to supple slender sapling, back and forth, dragging eight-foot willow sacrifices thirty feet to a den in the bank of the little rivulet. Ahem! “Busy as a beaver.”

Frances marveled at the brown shaggy coated mammal, and wondered how it could withstand a snow and ice fed stream, especially after four days of horrendous Minnesota nice. As this was bald eagle and red-tailed hawk territory, beastie moved cautiously, stopped often, all senses on the alert before continuing its work of gathering forage. As the beaver was relatively small, and alone, one might surmise it was a teen, good judgement was not part of its thinking process. The stunned observers knew that when spring melt begins, Sir Beaver’s hole in the bank would be submerged by many feet of water, necessitating a quick waddle to the safety of the hills. Its flat paddle-shaped tail differentiated it from both woodchucks and river otters. Oblivious to swimming upstream under water, the critter instinctively knew that special adaptations, including nose and ear valves, would snap shut; lips would close tightly behind orange front teeth, enabling the animal to carry willow pieces upstream while under water. Sir Beaver was left to his tasks, however, as by this time, the hockey game the Ford owners intended to attend, would be well on its way, and walking into a hockey event late is as bad as being late for church.

A second item after the hockey game (which we missed) was to search for a white goose which Linda and Loren Rist, Sand Prairie residents, had discovered foraging among hundreds of Canada geese the previous afternoon. The geese and satiny goose had evidently flown the coop, or cornfield, as none were to be found. South of LeSueur, in fog enveloped roads, hills and valleys, small groups of Trumpeter swans gingerly walked among harvested corn rows, an obviously vain attempt at garnering bits of precious nourishment. The hunger of the birds was such that they allowed Frances to park her bod while the excited occupants snapped shot after shot of footage for sharing. Murmuring soft trumpets emanated from a young swan cygnet which limped among its parents, brothers and sisters, and the compassionate birds were not about to leave their wounded sister behind.

Much later the same afternoon, Frances was called upon once more to cart her owners about, this time to the Sacred Robin Roost. February 3rd had begun with a plethora of robins all about Henderson and LeSueur, plus St. Peter, area cemeteries, streets and avenues, etc. Never ever ever before had travelers in the blue Focus espied as many robins in January and early February! Parking near the robin roost, the spectators lurked impatiently. Regular arrival time of the orange fronted birdniks passed, and passed, and passed and passed once more. Anxiety lit up the fog cover shrouded Frances like a ghostly blanket. Then, with deep swirling fog draped about the searchers, the robins arrived, and arrived and arrived! Ones, dozens, hundreds in a matter of a half hour emerged from the northwest!!! Into the Colorado spruce trees they dove for the night. The final total? We hesitate to share, thinking we might be considered fabricators, tale tellers, cock and bull spreaders, deceitful, or, not unknown to humankind, downright liars. Yes, just two birds short of 3,000!!! Please don’t touch that dial, we shall return after treatment for bird/beast addiction.