Consider the Birds and Lilies of Field and Forest

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

Little wet soldiers hunkered down as though they were on evening picket line patrol duty. Robins, dozens and dozens of soggy robins searching in vain for protein… common angle worms. Ever faithful Frances the frosty Focus threaded her way through the throngs, as the orange-breasted birds exhibited courage in the face of the slowly moving auto. Gliding further, Frances took her two masked passengers to the parking lot of LeSueur’s Ridgeview Medical Center. Twenty-some flowering crab trees grace the grounds of that house of mercy, and there were robins all about. The interesting facet about those crab trees is that the birds devour the applets in back of the building in mid-autumn to early winter, but leave the fruits in front of the edifice until…the last snowfall of spring!

Curiosity aflame, Frances buzzed over to Henderson to examine the flora there, and sure enough, a tree kitty-corner from Toody’s Sweet Shop is evidently the same nomenclature as Ridgeview’s trees, for thirty-six orange breasts graced the snow-covered lawn and perched on the eaves of the home next to Kitty Jo’s (Collins) domicile, giving the impression of Christmas decorations along the projecting roof. Directly across Fifth Street is a home where the occupants continue to feed the birds throughout the year. Scattered about the lawn of that abode were guzzling grackles, thieving starlings, grubby sparrows, and…robins curious about the party going on under the feeders. Robins DO survive after a storm with or without our help, unless weather sends them back southward, yet chopped apples, raisins and other fruit do give them an edge.

Speaking of migrants, the vast majority of waterfowl has moved north to familiar nesting grounds, especially the gaudy ducks, mergansers of three species, common, hooded and red-breasted, leaving, among others, mallards, teal, wood ducks, Trumpeter swans and Canada geese behind. After the color and gaudiness of the mergansers , the unfortunate wood duck seemingly blends in with the scenery. However, nothing ‘blends’ in when Deedra Hoffman and Bruce Bjork are behind their camera lenses. Both captured images of woodies this week. Deedra’s photos showed the ducks sly hiding habits and swift flight, or camouflaged as wood ducks do so well. Bruce creates with his particular artistry and more powerful zoom lens. The male wood duck’s exquisite coloring and intricate details make the birds appear as to be carved porcelain masterpieces, not living breathing birds of feather.

The turf war on South Coachlight Pond continues.
After two weeks of back and forth verbal cannonades, the trumpeters packed their crude abode with mud, cattail refuse and reeds by Tuesday, April seventh, when Father Goose decided it was to be HIS domicile. Sauntering back and forth in the slimy green water, he and the Mrs. sallied menacingly, growing ever closer to the coveted spot. Sylvan, brave male that he is, appeared unconcerned, his body language indicating that he was unhappy with the approaching assailants. Meanwhile, a pair of mallard ducks provided comic relief to the encounter, chuckling and chortling, delighted to be close-up spectators of a knock-em-down brawl.

Then, out of seemingly nowhere, an unanticipated flock of tree swallows, eight in all, appeared of a sudden, shimmered across the pond directly above the combatants, and seemed to whisper, “Hey, guys, take it from us, it ain’t worth it! You have three whole ponds among you! Let the humans fight their wars and diseases.” Solemn Sylvan ceded the moment, stepped into the water and calmly sailed off to join his beloved Sylvia. As of April 12th, the swans continue to hold the disputed former muskrat haven. Time to lay eggs is fast approaching!

Warm early April seventh weather prompted two butterfly species to set sail. A weeping maple tree exuded sweet sap from a pore, enticing both an early rising Mourning Cloak and a skitty Question Mark lepitdoperta to sup on the sugary seeping liquid. After their long winter’s nap in a nearby hollow tree, both were anxious to seek succor from the dribbling maple. Nearby, crocus, hepatica, and jonquils exhibited shy beauty to come.

However, one step forward, three back, don’t step on your neighbor’s back! Easter Sunday’s sudden interruption by seven inches of snow put a damper on the showy celebration. Between snow and bitter nights of cold to follow, will the myriad ranks of yellow and white jonquils survive? What will April 20th’s copy of the Independent reveal? Precious time ahead will tell that tale.