Spring Will Not Be Suppressed by Intimidation

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

“Wowser, what’s going on above us?” Frances was parked adjacent to Coachlight Pond Saturday the 21st when a sight passed over her headlights unlike anything she’d ever encountered. A ribbon of red-winged blackbirds and companions streamed aloft above the pond and across #93 winging westward. The seemingly endless avian stream flew overhead for nine and a half minutes, sometimes by tens, more often by twenties, and an occasional hundred at a time. Frances’ passengers, accustomed to counting swiftly moving birds, gave up after a thousand. Red epaulets showed on some of the travelers, indicating male red-wings; from past experience one knows that brown-headed cowbirds, rusty blackbirds, cackling grackles were all part of the motley crew. The din of the birds as they sang while traveling was music to the hearts and ears of humans. Leroy Nagel’s expectant cattle ceased lowing long enough to apparently enjoy the sound of the migrating throng.

Meanwhile, just a block north of the high-flying ebony air-borne travelers atop the Bucks’ Lake eagle aerie, mom and pop eagles went about keeping their precious eggs warm. Sixty-five additional eagles fished on the lake and to the south on the four waste-water ponds. A couple of hapless large fish were being torn asunder for breakfast, their innards flung in the air by a convocation of eight raptors who screamed “Give Me a piece! My turn, my turn!” Such fighting and cursing made Frances’ dirty tires blush.

Traveling northward once more, Frances expressed puzzlement over a scene on the little oxbow lake, remnant of an old river, immediately north of Henderson. Nine hooded mergansers were fishing, but the oddity that gained friend Ford’s attention was that eight were male ducks, with just a single female.
This scene was repeated an hour later miles from Henderson in an Ottawa pond. Same ducks? We think not. Wasn’t that all just ducky? Once in a while a female hooded merganser engages in ‘brood paratism’ and will lay an egg in a hen wood duck nesting cavity of a tree. Mom wood duck won’t notice until the kids drop out of the nest and begin foraging for minnows or crayfish, while a couple of her brood will be eating plant materials. Quite a shock for the female Woodie… “What kind of kid am I raising?” she seems to think.

Observing ducks close up is not usual for Frances, as #93 and #6 are often closed due to road closures, thus this year’s eye candy has been welcomed. Hooded mergansers and their cousins, common mergansers, plus bufflehead, golden-eyes, wary wood duck males, and the occasional canvasbacks and redheads are passing through, with cormorants and the occasional loon yet to come.

In between times, the Green Isle Luskeys (Joe and Judy,) Martha Wavrin, Joe Doherty (Ellie) of St. Thomas, Kathy (Richard) Peterson of Ottawa, Blakeley’s Carolyn Boettcher…all have been awed by the haunting utterance of Sandhill Cranes and Tundra Swans. As Joe Doherty put it, “The high-pitched bugle sounds go right to the heart and soul!”

Leaving the migrating birds to do their thing and returning to earth we find jonquils and daffodils fairly burst through the soil, both in woodland gardens as well as against sunny sides of homes. However, deep in the darkness of the earth, mammals are stirring. Consider the moles who rent from Doris Winter in LeSueur. They began to leave their raised mounds around March 17th; Doris pays the taxes, the moles get the eats. Also, for the past two weeks, in selected spots such as on the Wyatt Bienfang (Sue) farm, the earthen mounds of hungry pocket gophers have appeared. Most folks pay them no mind, but farmers and groomed lawn owners shudder when the large hillocks appear, as machines and mammals sometimes don’t mix.
In the case of the gopher, he left a parting gift. Atop his mound lay a small stone, not uncommon, but the white treasure was a tiny delicate chunk of limestone, embedded with wee fossilized creatures from that time when Minnesota was covered by glaciers , seas,
sea life. After that, many living things populated the earth. It reminds one that we are tiny specks in the eons of the ages, that the current challenges and problems that pursue us are real, but time will heal all. Our responsibility on this day, this week, this year, is to nurture all living things about us, to listen, to love, to care, for perhaps our future is not of this world. We are all, human and beast, part of one immense grand creation.

In short notes, woodcocks are busy on their ‘Singing Meadows.’ Monday the 16th found crows carrying sticks, indicating nests nest building is being pursued. Bluebirds were observed on posts atop Pumpkin Hill. Deer are shedding winter coats and gathering at dusk on crumbs remaining on harvested fields.
The former waste water treatment ponds on #169 north of LeSueur attract unusual numbers of eagles, swans, geese and traveling gulls. There IS lots of POSITIVE in the Henderson/LeSueur area.