Beary Close Encounter of the Bruin Kind

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

This week’s tale begins in last days of July, last week to be exact. A resident passing through the area of old St. Anne’s Cemetery north of LeSueur spotted a black bear traversing the countryside and was quite nervous about such activity, rightly so. Doesn’t happen every day, always rumors of same, but this was an indisputable fact.

Later in the day, as the sun was descending, Connie and Lyle Straub, east of the first bear sighting and close to Hwy #169, spotted a big black bruin in their farmyard, on the back lawn in fact. Always an adventuresome twosome, they first took photos, then followed the behemoth north on a mowed country path. As it was growing dark, they turned back to their home, leaving the bear to bide its time elsewhere. Nearby was a lush Seneca sweet corn plot, also a wallow for taking a beary beary bare bath, so life’s comforts were near at paw for the bold bruin. This put the agile animal adjacent to Pumpkin Hill Road, attracting onlookers of many sorts to traverse that dusty gravel two-lane, hoping to catch sight of the ebony visitor.

What those sightseers did experience were ditches and prairie covered by her majesty, Queen Anne’s Lace. When Pumpkin Hill Road was recently diverted and converted, straw was brought in to hasten the growth of grasses and various clovers, plus preventing erosion. Traveling with the clover, grass and alfalfa seeds were the Queen’s spawn, so now, ditches are a-bloom and bursting with white flowers, each floweret generously carrying hundreds of tiny seeds. When ripe, the seeds are spread by the wind, by hungry birds, by heavy rains floating the seeds up and down ditches, and last but not least, mowing equipment which cuts grass and weeds in ditches. The seeds hitch rides with the equipment. Pretty Queen, but invasive as thistles, which also are having a banner year.

One would hope that the Queen attracts pollinators, but if not, area CRP prairies are bursting with blooms of yellow and lavender. If one wishes to view eye candy, drive the Pumpkin Hill Road for brilliant yellows of black-eyed Susans on the Michelle Burns acreage. Also, from Henderson, take #93 for a couple miles south toward LeSueur, then pop on to street # 316. In a few miles, numerous yellows of coneflowers on the CRP property of Linda and Loren Rist, along with many other blossoms, will wow the passerby. Then, two miles southwest on the Sand Prairie Road, you’ll approach Sibley County #18. On the south and east side of that highway you will note bountiful stands of cone flowers and fantastic clumps of bergamot, also known as settlers’ tea, monarda, and by other names. Frances, the seasoned blue Ford Focus, has NEVER observed such wonder, and was wowed by the fragrant aromatic plants, which in Colonial times, was brewed for tea.

As to the birds. During the past few years, area birders have experienced a plethora of summer feathered fauna which normally belong elsewhere…birds that are ‘way off course.’ Looking back over the last few seasons, consider the Steve Nesgodas and their rufous hummingbird; the JoEllen and Greg Genelins and the wayward Western Tanager; the Northern Mockingbird singing atop flowering crab trees in LeSueur at Mary and Al Grieves estate; to name a few instances. This week, birders in Richfield were treated to a neo-tropical cormorant. Big deal! Locally we have cormorants spring, summer and autumn. This wandering bird, with its long body and neck, purplish black plumage, and yellowish throat, does not belong in Minnesota, rather, it prefers the warm and sunny Central America waters. DO YOU SUPPOSE it was blown off course by the recent New Orleans tropical storm/hurricane? ‘Indy’ friend, Bruce Bjork, frequent guest photographer from LeSueur, was able to capture the beauty of the handsome wanderer as the large bird nudged aside an egret, took over a leafless tree branch in Richfield. Questions and surprises abound when one keeps the ‘peepers’ to the skies!

For the many readers who have wondered about ‘your’ trumpeter swans, be of good cheer! Parents Sylvia and Sylvan are hiding out on the largest Coachlight Pond water body with their four cygnets. Tall stands of cattails and other reeds conceal their whereabouts. We request that you do not stop to take a peek, as the fifty mile per hour speed limit on #93 is largely ignored, and the swan family will come into full view as soon as the cygnets begin to test their wings. They are putting on so much weight, they may have to go on a diet before fly-eth. Stay tuned.