June Has Busted Out All Over!

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

Much of the events of the past two weeks have seemed surreal, bizarre, jarring, dreamlike, living here in Littletown USA! For some, the state, country and worldwide news takes one away from the reality occurring outside one’s door, thus for a brief moment, let’s concentrate on the extraordinary beauty unfolding immediately nearby, a total ‘freebee,’ our gift, Garden of Eden in the valley.

The bursting forth of the verdure and foliage about us due to adequate precipitation and sudden heat has spurred nature into unparalleled hues of greenery. Almost every yard, woodland, tree, field yields a surprise that one may have been too distracted to bear witness to. Consider: Wood duck ducklings plunging from their nesting apertures and bouncing on the earth like ping pong balls, followed by a hasty trek with hen parent for water sources. Myriad immature birds of many species shed their egg tombs while parent birds stuff the wee beaks with bountiful ‘creepy-crawlers.’ Cliff swallows are building their mud castles on girders ‘neath area bridges, (perhaps 500 nests on the abutments under Henderson/Hwy #19 bridge,) while their counterparts, barn swallows, hang their yellow lips over mud garage and barn nests awaiting fledging. Crossing traffic-clogged highways such as #169 and #93 has proven fatal to many a snapper and painted turtle. A bumper fawn crop has resulted in many deer/auto casualties north, south, east and west.

So, what’s the ‘good news?’ The Trumpeter swan cygnets HAVE ARRIVED on the small south pond of the Coachlight series!!! Consider: Sylvan, the male swan or ‘pen’ fended off Canada goose territorial battles from mid-April on. About the 1st of May, Sylvia, perched on her muskrat house estate, (the cob or female) began incubating the 4 -5-inch-long eggs. (Swan eggs take 32 to 37 days to hatch.) During the past five years, the record number of cygnets hatched thus far on the Coachlight Pond has been five, the weakest one of that group died within days, yet the parents reared four to fledging and beyond in autumn of 2019. The 2020 procedure went from four cygnets struggling about the algae covered water with Sylvan, while Sylvia tended the nest on May 31st. Next day, June first, both parents could be observed with six wee puffs of yellow-white-down bodies, blinking their eyes and wondering what the next adventure would be.

By June 3rd, parents were sliding their beaks along the top of the pond water, teaching the cygnets how tasty algae and water bugs are to eat. Sunday, June 7th, the cygnets appeared to have doubled in size, ready to ‘take on the world.’ We must remember that beneath those murky water lurks a number of snapping turtles, hungry and ill-tempered after laying eggs on the edge of #93.
Eat and be eaten, nature’s way.

Monday morning, June 8th, Lon Barbaric, Henderson City Administrator, found an albino raccoon knocking on City Hall’s door asking, “Where do I find the Nature Neighbor kids?” Sadly, no adventuresome group in the June session. Some forty years ago, the first program of its sort began in a garage in LeSueur with fifteen explorers of yards, parks, river banks, and swamps. Their purpose, “Who is my non-human neighbor in my immediate area?” In time, more than a hundred students ages five through twelve, with teen and adult assistants, tromped through the immediate area each summer seeking the unknown, naming the critters which are coinhabitants of the valley and area. Not so this summer, unless major events dictate a session later in the summer. In the meantime, the albino raccoon, donated by Geri and Coke Callahan, will inhabit the halls of the JR Brown Center and eventually Ney Learning Center. Thanks VERY much, Callahans, for sharing this unique once-in-a-lifetime specimen.

June stories amass as we write. Mixed in with a batch of bunnies at Vern Bienfangs is a hairless hare. Fancy that, and hope the bunny doesn’t find itself in need of a mink coat in autumn! Wayne (Ann) Schwartz discovered a giant white larva in a rotten log, we’ve never seen the likes of it. The pupa may become a June Bug, but more likely, a rhinoceros beetle. Former Nature Neighbors James, Grant and Aubrey Moldaschel, are off exploring their neighborhoods and have discovered skinks, huge spiders and miniscule crayfish; armed with cameras and notebooks. But most disconcerting, WHERE are the adult monarch butterflies? We know their numbers are down, down, down, but how serious is the situation? These and many of the stories attached to your discoveries need to be told! Now is the time to form your OWN Nature Neighbors! Go for it, report back.