Let’s say “Nutz” to the Gnats!

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

Sailing sedately on the muddy waters of what used to be a farm field east of what used to be Highway #93 south of Henderson, were nine fine swans the afternoon of June 2nd. Missing?
Cygnets, baby swans. These adults, normally, would be ‘riding bird’ on as many as a dozen of the little gray codgers. One can assume that the same scene is repeated up and down the Minnesota River Valley. Readers observed Sylvan and Sylvia of Coachlight history booted from the initial nest they had established in late April by high water; a second nest; and now presumably, a third nest. And so it goes, the ebb and flow of nature in the raw.

A number of years ago this time of year, a familiar yet “long time, no see,” voice came wafting across the air waves. After a bit of small talk, the caller got down to business.
“We are clearing some of the brush from behind our home, there is a stand of yellow moccasin flowers growing there. Would you care for some for your property?” As the ephemerals were on the family’s private property, it was permissible to transfer the threatened plants to our woodland, thus we affirmed the giver that we’d be pleased to help rescue the plants.. As soon as the first blossoms occurred, we took photos and brought them to his domicile. His beautiful wife was home, but the ‘giver’ of treasures was ill, in fact, he departed this sphere shortly thereafter. For the gift, we will ever be grateful.

The moccasins were planted among hostas, and during the last week of May, our photographer came upon the beauties of an evening, and took spectacular photographs. Believe it or not, next morning, where golden shy flowers had brightened the forest the night before, the golden jewels were gone. Vanished! Most of the various species of hostas had been chawed down, just like Henderson sauerkraut. The culprit/s were easily defined by hoofprints among the hostas; small cloven prints were easily spotted among the greenery. As a deer herd increases, certain delicate ephemerals disappear from the landscape. And either Stubbie, the malevolent munching crunching snitching snatching doe has risen from the dead, or her grandchildren are carrying on her familiar frantic munching of favorite flowers and edible garden treasures.

It took a joint effort between a pair of our regular readers and two distinguished birdwatchers to solve this week’s mystery.
Jerry and Judy Johnson, east of LeSueur, spotted a handsome yellow bird at their grape jelly feeders. To what species did the gorgeous creature belong? We were up a gooseberry bush without our bird identification tome so thus engaged specialists in the field of bird identification for the answer, which was quick in coming. “The bird is a first-year male orchard oriole” was the joint reply by the duet of ornithologists. Thus, Judy and Jerry Johnson may add the gorgeous bird to their list of great spottings. Compared to Keith/Karen’s photo of the adult male orchard oriole, one would find it difficult to guess the name of the first year bird. Even a bird practically in the hand (outside the kitchen window) can prove to be difficult to give a baptismal name.

“What is this ‘milkweed’ plant you people are always talking about?” We take it for granted that everyone knows the host plant for the migratory monarchs which are currently searching the ditches, gardens and fields for this specialized plant upon which to attach a hundred or more wee white eggs. Without a series of milkweed plants, the wee caterpillars, upon emerging from the little white egg, will have no food, moisture or protection in the new lives they’ve been given.

One of the most provocative inquiries of the latter part of the May weekend was, “How do you get a flittering hummingbird out of your home without harming it?” Not a silly question if you’ve been through the process, eh?

Advice? Keep outside doors shut at all times during May through August. (Heh.) Or…always keep a small net close to the kitchen sink in case a vicious hummer sidles into your bailiwick. Or… should a sleek hummer invade your hacienda, leave a door open, place a plant with red color at the base of the door, and back away, leaving the creature to fend for itself. Usually, between the open door with red flowers/objects on the floors, the little snoop will find its way out-of-doors. Not funny! If a hummer gets into your garage or home, and you close the door of said domicile, the little gal/guy will perish overnight. We’ve been given two such victims thus far this spring, and it’s a long time between now and September. Sooo glad to hear that readers have no gnats in their pants!