Goodbye, It Was Good to See You. HELLO, THERE!!!

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub,

After a short visit of four months, many of our favorite human friends plus birds and insects, are off to southern climes. What a trip it must be for all! Humans attempting to find SAFE spots, birds battling weather conditions and natural enemies, and changes in the environment when one reaches one’s favorite destination. During the past month, northern orioles, grosbeaks, forest birds especially warbler species, waterfowl plus assorted water birds of numerous kinds, blackbird varieties, etc., have felt that the ‘seeds are greener on the other side of the pond.’ Chimney swifts, little buddies which we’ve been counting as they dropped by to roost overnight at St. Anne’s School chimney, disappeared around September 25th. Previous years we’ve encountered those gray wanderers as late as October 5th. What’s up, friends?

Many creatures have been reluctant to leave the sunny slopes of Minnesota. Friday, October 9th, found Frances,
fantastic futuristic Ford Focus, transporting the two compatriots who feed and clothe her, on an autumn leaf survey. (Yes, the vote is in; around October 7th/8th, the spectacular valley hillsides displayed their dazzling waves of showy colors to observers hither and yon.). While tooling past LaDonna and Tom Bender’s ‘Singing Meadows,’ (the clover field where dozens of wily male woodcocks display their song and dance before bashful females each March,) Missus noted five bluebirds on an electrical line. Upon clicking a photo, she discovered that the five were not all orange-breasted blue beauties. A pair of purple finches had joined the birds on the wire.

THIS was a real surprise! Many bluebirds have already fled; however, some have brought their juveniles back to the homes where they grew up…we found this to be true near other bluebird houses; but the finches?
Must have been some mistake, as we are experts at mistakes. A few hours later, a gorgeous purple wine-splattered breast and head perched himself at the woods feeding station…proof of the pudding or shall we say “purple finch.” There have been years when purple finches have not cooperated by skipping the NEY Christmas Bird Count, and we’ve been chastised for mistaking purple finches for house finches! Leaves us with the question, “Just passing through or here to stay the season?”

Frances was parked outside Henderson City Hall Monday, October 5th at 12:00 noon, just as the chimes from nearby United Church of Christ steeple began their daily peal. At that precious moment, a monarch butterfly alit on nearby orange marigold flowers and supped away. (Marigolds are about eighth down the line from monarchs’ favorite tithonia, zinnias, and others.) Later that afternoon, with a temperature of 72 degrees, four monarchs and a swallowtail butterfly tried the tithonia within six steps of Frances’s stall in LeSueur. Next day, LeSueur’s avid birder, Doris Winter, had monarchs, cedar waxwings and robins paying her a visit at her abode. Earlier, in late -September, a red-breasted nuthatch visited Doris. In our opinion, that’s early, early, early for LeSueur! Brenda Kotasek discovered a wayward hummingbird checking out Henderson’s Hummingbird Garden October 6th. Whereas most other mid-Minnesota ‘hummers,’ have moved toward the Gulf of Mexico, this one stayed for a bit to chat with Brenda.

Surely, most monarchs have passed through on their way to the mountains of Mexico, but on October 9th, a show-off (honest to Napoleon’s Waterloo,) tried to kiss Frances while she maneuvered the Pumpkin Hill Road. Frances shooed it off to Peter and Sylvia Straub’s estate, where Pete zapped an excellent photo of said insect. (Always but always, carry that camera.) Juncos (snowbirds) and white throated sparrows are making their, debut the sparrows softly tiptoeing through brush and brambles in the woodlands, while dozens upon dozens of juncos hide out in the shadows along country roads. We feel this is somewhat early, and wonder about the weather following their wee wings.

Faithful regular Independent readers may recall the photo of the ‘odd moth’ which had landed on the lantana next to Frances’s right front fender as last week’s article was being written. When is a moth not a moth? WHEN IT’S A BUTTERFLY! Both Jim Gilbert and Al Batt made contact after that photo appeared in the October 6th issue of the Independent. The insect was a BUTTERFLY not a moth, a Silver-spotted Skipper! To begin with, the tiny critter (up to just two inches) skipped about constantly from flower to flower, imitating a humming moth. “Shame on you” expounded Frances to her master, as researchers tell us “The skipper butterfly is one of our most widespread and most recognized of butterflies. Try something interesting.
Google up ‘Epargyreus clarus (Cramer) and discover some fascinating facts! We need all our readers, try not to blow away this weathersome week!