November, Time to Test the Waters

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

There’s something about fisherpeople in November when the Minnesota River beckons, coaxing anxious anglers to try for tasty walleyes. November 9th of 2019 was not an exception to the rule. With a temperature at 30 degrees Fahrenheit and a brisk northeast wind, three hardy souls were found putzing around the LeSueur/Hwy 93 bridge in heavy clothing and a small boat, challenging the choppy gray waters. Perhaps they scored, as the following day, Sunday, same time, same station, even colder than the day before, the hardy souls returned to the same merciless windswept spot. Frances, always faithful Ford Focus, didn’t stop to ask questions, as her heater, after nearly 200,000 miles, was pouring forth cold air.

Coincidently, two miles north of the walleye seekers and at the very same hour, seven immature bald eagles tested the newly formed ice on Bucks’ Lake. About ninety percent of the lake formed ice during the past few days, and the raptors collective presence gave rise to a number of queries. Might the twin eagles in the attached photo see fish through the ice? Were they the twin birds that hatched from Bucks’ Lake Aerie this past summer? Could it be that they were part and parcel of a flock of eagles moving to Texas to overwinter? In that our ‘eagleese’ needs fine tuning, we were unable to communicate with them.

Their presence awakened a memory from the worn computer under one’s gray and bare topnotch. Years ago, on a quiet and very cold dusky November eve, while standing ruminating next to the river, a flock of eagles trickled into a grove of cottonwood trees near our presence, twenty-three in all. Twittering and chatting as they dropped down, our jaw was agape in astonishment at their numbers and their happy chittering, as we were unaware that eagles spoke to one another in friendly terms. This spectacle left a lasting imprint on one’s psyche, as at the time, eagle numbers were as uncommon as, well, eagle numbers. During the Ney Audubon Christmas Bird Count each mid-December, forty bald eagle sightings have been common. But November? Have the plentiful gut piles near Bucks’ Lake, results of the ongoing deer season caused the gathering of the baldies? What gives?

Not all the deer in the valley were taken over the first day of the annual hunt. As most bean fields have now been harvested, and agriculturists are briskly reaping cornfields, white-tailed deer are changing their eating habits. In spite of deer chasers all about, the mammals were unhappy regarding the carved pumpkins on Pumpkin Hill Road, and decided to carve their own. (See photo.) At this rate, by Thanksgiving Day, little will remain of country pumpkin displays.

November 9th found Frances sitting impatiently waiting for a hard-sought photo of tundra swans on East Henderson Station Road. Of a sudden, her soft purr turned sour. “Something is bugging me,” she whispered. Sure enough, dancing down from her sun shield came a black spider. Remember, 30 degrees, cold car, November, and a spider? Sure enough. paralyzed by that rare vision, the morning sun, the wee critter shinnied down its single strand of web and basked in front of the cold noses in Frances’s carriage. WHAT kind of arachnid was taking in the sunshine in an auto on a bitter November morning.

In consulting with various spider tomes and the MNDNR, the spider which best matches the descriptives is the “Jumping Spider.” (Corrections welcome!). The fearsome appearing hairy little beast with eight legs is not poisonous and very beneficial, eating many kinds of insects. They hunt during the daylight, produce a mild venom that is not poisonous…that is… not a medical threat. Measuring about ¼ – ½ inch, their dark coloring makes them appear ferocious. After Sir (maybe even Madam) looked us over, it jumped quickly away, never to be seen again. WHO or WHAT was it pursuing in Frances? Have we parked too often in the woodland? Questions, always questions, as we seek adventure in the Henderson/LeSueur area.