“And Then There Were Four”

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

Cygnets that is. Readers will recall the emergence from the reeds and cattails of Coachlight Pond on June 14th of five cygnets, probably three days old, products of Sylvia and Sylvan Trumpeter swans. The proud parents, the male ‘cob’ and female ‘pen’ were the best of caregivers, monitoring the youngster’s behavior closely. Sometime over July 4th, cygnet number one disappeared. So many possibilities, with such doting parents, never allowing the little cruisers further than five feet away. An angry swan is nothing to play with, those wings are intended for more than flight. Thus, our guess is that a predator from ‘neath the waters has a full stomach.

Speaking of turtles, a pair of Henderson naturalists observed a small painted turtle depositing eggs along a roadway near their ridge home about July 4th. As the reptile was so close by, the nature observers were able to observe the entire fascinating egg laying process. BUT READERS, note that date! In spite of the numerous water issues in the valley, snappers and painters were laying eggs the first and second weeks of June. Consider this: Depending upon the environment where the eggs are deposited, painted turtle eggs usually hatch about 72 days later. Do the math. That brings hatching time mid-September. No wonder wee turtlets have been found on the Highway #19 bridge in October! One other caution, the last time laying turtles were discovered in Allanson Park, a Henderson flood occurred mid-July. Beware turtle prognosticators!

Reluctantly, Nature Neighbor leaders, scouts and handlers ceased trotting about Henderson on July 5th. Many were the discoveries, mysteries and queries raised during the three weeks of sessions. In addition to trails to the JRBrown Cemetery, trips to the levees and Minnesota New Country School to observe the fascinating kois (fish) , a long journey to Henderson Elementary School park and Allanson playground, the children brought specimens, dead and alive, to the classroom. One of the first days, a young man by name of Cole, checked in with a beautiful lower jaw bone from home, insisting it was that of an opossum. This teacher has seen the snarling drooling startling mouth of many a Minnesota marsupial with purported fifty razor sharp teeth, but the puzzler was, not all of the teeth were razor sharp. Midmouth on the lower jaw were six to eight wee tiny barely-visible teeth! What to do. Finding a long-deceased opossum skull, vinegar its work, and behold, an opossum cranium. At last, Cole’s mystery and the teacher’s dilemma would be resolved. Hats off to Cole. The specimen’s jaw WAS that of an opossum! Our apologies to Cole, whose favorite word in the dictionary is “Why?”

Margaret of East Henderson Station Road found herself deeply perplexed early in July. She has a beautifully coiffed home and yard along said roadway, with hostas and seasonal decorations galore. On her front stoop, next to the entry, sit pots of petunias. One morning she noticed that her petunias began to disappear, plugs and all. The suspicions were many. Woodchuck? Chipmunks? Human hooligans? Night after night, the plot thickened, thus Margaret asked a friend to use a trail camera to resolve the dilemma. Sure enough, it was a white-tailed doe deer daring enough to walk right up to the front stoop! To top it off, it was a deer that Margaret had befriended during the long cold winter, coming to help herself to the hostas, (deer salad) and sneak pretty petunias. Soon the pesky mammal will have dessert under the apple trees. With friends like that, who needs enemies???

During the last week of Nature Neighbors, the children found numerous broken blue, white, and speckled bird eggs lying about the grass and on sidewalks. The peculiarity for the explorers was that the eggs had ‘peck’ holes in them. Everyone knows that if the broken shell is dry inside, the indication is that the egg hatched, and parent birds carried the shells a distance from the nest in order to deceive enemies. There were many eggs however, with smeared yolk or even bloody insides. Murder and mayhem in the bird world! But consider. How many eggs do we humans consume and think nothing of it? Case dismissed.

Nature Neighbors has been a program for young children to whet their curiosities about the world in which we live. Without hours of work the volunteers put in, the program could not run smoothly. We THANK those volunteers, and also the City of Henderson for allowing the program to be housed in the Community Building and J R Brown Museum. We express our SINCERE gratitude to you ALL!