Trees and Skies Filled With Flood Diversions

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

Readers might remember that we attempted to divert your collective thoughts away from the floods surrounding Henderson to other considerations, as a whole basketful of wonderful nature incidents burst through the past weekend! On a melancholy note, we are missing the leadership of two leading naturalists from the area. Dr. Arlys O. Graff, former LeSueur-Henderson Community Education director, went to meet her creator in January. May 8th was her birth date; thus it was fitting that a huge gathering took place at the NEY Center a mile east of Henderson on May 5th to celebrate her birthday and to acknowledge her enumerable contributions to the programs she fostered and spearheaded in the valley, especially during the early years of the development of the Ney Center. As you enter NEY property on Highway #19, you will note the immense slab of limestone with the “NEY" name emblazoned upon it. That is one of Arlys’s visible contributions to the center. But in addition, her quiet humble touch fostered the education of many youngsters and adults in the valley and beyond. More than 150 local friends and supporters, plus relatives from her birth area, Badger, Minnesota, gathered to commend Arlys to the rainbows crisscrossing the skies over the valley. Relatives from the Greenbush/Badger area came to Henderson to hear tributes from local constituents…stories they’d never heard; while local folks learned of her early exploits while living on the border between Canada and Minnesota. Arlys is now part the the ages.

Sunday morning, May 5th, came the announcement by Jim Gilbert that he is retiring from his stints on WCCO radio. Jim is a naturalist so very well known to this and other areas of the state and nationally. Sundays at 7:10 on WCCO will not be the same without Jim. The news of his retirement is so fresh and mind-boggling, that we will devote lots more time to his story and history next issue. Jim leaves us, just as the monarch butterflies return this week. Monarch butterfly education was one of his outstanding achievements!

On the topic of migration, azure skies and ebony nights literally BURST open May4th/5th weekend with welcome migrating spring birds!!! The stories actually began on April 24th, when Joe (Ellie) Doherty discovered barn swallows twittering from the eves in his sheep barn. They were right on their regular April schedule. Insects being absent, the swallows disappeared, then returned on May 4th to their usual docile Doherty homestead among the ewes. On that same date, swallows of various species appeared flying about in search of early hatched insects around the Henderson #19 and LeSueur #8 Minnesota River bridges. Next, one could eye male tree swallow scouts zooming over Coachlight Pond and in the Jessenland area.

Henderson’s David Kolter had barely, yes barely placed a ruby-throated hummingbird feeder in its niche behind Henderson Hilltop School on May 3rd, and ‘zip,’ a 'hummer!’ Next Polly Schneider, east of LeSueur, spotted and heard a wren at her home on May 4th along with a hummingbird and oriole. (Oranges and grape jelly to the rescue after a long trip is Polly’s advice.) Bryant Straub encountered the first arriving rose-breasted grosbeak and about that time, the bird explosion…orioles, grosbeaks, hummers…displayed themselves at the Greg and JoEllen Genelin’s, Steve and Mary Nesgodas, Pete and Syvia Straubs, SaraJane and Steve Itens. Barb and Bob Plieseis started for church, and were startled by an early northern oriole clamoring for food near the Henderson levee. All of the assorted arrivals were males, until a female popped in at Polly’s Monday the 6th of May. With the late spring, most of us were caught off guard and unready with feeders for the famished travelers.

May 2nd, Sylvia, formidable trumpeter swan of Coachlight Pond, was observed ’scooping’ grass and mud far back on the east side of Coachlight Pond. Only with the assistance of an able auto passenger may Sylvia be observed through the soft greens of the willows. Sylvan swan leads a bachelor’s carefree life sailing about the peaceful waters, sucking up yucky green algae and seaweed. To each her/his own. (Please don’t forget, “Distracted Driving!”)

There will be more awesome sights in sky, on land and water this week. Also, peek under the peaks of eaves at your homes, surprises may be found there as well.