Confusing Signs of the Season Continue Unabated

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub,

An excited tipster made late afternoon contact November 5th. “There’s the largest mob of crows I’ve ever seen just east of LeSueur, better come quickly!” Swanee, the swift silver Focus swept out of the driveway and soon passed the LeSueur High School peering skyward for crows. Sure enough, above Highway # 26, just as one dips down into the valley, Swanee spotted her quarry, a ‘murder’ of ebony birds aimlessly flying hither and yon through the coniferous treetops; obviously no leader was present. Normally the ‘chief crow’ would sound the alarm, and a family or combined family would flop skyward. Resting her panting engine, parked off to the side of tarvia road with flashers blinking, Swanee counted 97 silent forms heading south into the tree tops, then the very same number heading north. Back and forth the ebony aviators soared, never revealing a total tally. Swanee was stumped. She had experienced her first ‘murder’ of crows, the adjective designated for flocks of crows. As darkness descended, the young silver charger would later discover that the Highway #26 spot was a hospitable ‘staging’ area, either to gather crow numbers to join other large groups heading southward, or flying north to the big cities where heat from lights and buildings will help the birds survive bodies during cold winter months.

A good friend made contact late the week of November 5th with a mysterious discovery. While putting the finishing touches on her dormant perennial plantings, she discovered a tiny curved- billed dead bird curled up and camouflaged by the leaves. Her sharp-eyed discovery led to the deceased being a Little Brown Creeper, sometimes known as an American creeper. Most people will go an entire lifetime without observing the wee
Feathered creature. If you are feeding birds at this time, you may have one present right now, as our star photographer snapped a blurry photo two weeks ago, earliest we’ve ever seen one. Creepers do just that…’creep.’ One can take a lump of suet, rub it on the base of a tree near a bird feeding station, creating little fat crumbs. Creeper will drop to the base of the tree, take a nibble, carry the small particles UP the tree in a spiral, then return when the first pieces are consumed. They are not related to the woodpecker family, whereas nuthatches spiral DOWN the tree trunk, brown creepers work the opposite, looking for food at a different angle.

Clever eh? However, there’s always a “however.” Like so many creatures, due to climate change, predictions are that the brown creeper’s territory will move out of Minnesota and further to the north. (Information courtesy of Audubon Society.) Thanks go to Marilyn Wells of LeSueur who discovered the bird with her naturalist’s sharp eyes. The preserved body will soon be ready to display for educational purposes.

All that glitters is not gold! All that has pretty purple flowers followed by red juicy mouthwatering fruit is not edible! During the past summer we’ve watched viney plants with pretty purple flowerets growing in unused parts of our gardens. Gradually, juicy red berries developed, and with frost, their color and delectable appearance invited us to eat them.
Close call!!! Turns out that the plant is ‘bittersweet nightshade.’ Although birds, with their cast iron intestines will eat the berries, for humans, they are considered POISONOUS! Often they are found near raspberry bushes, same color, same temptation, but…the results end there. We repeat. Pull, pull, pull and destroy!

The Henderson Independent of November 4th had a photo of an attractive branch of eastern red cedar berries (tiny cones) and a story on how the fruits and boughs are so beneficial to many species of birds. The same day as the photo was taken, dozens of nomads arrived…flocks of cedar waxwings, and they went right to business. (See photo.) Twenty-four hours later, the tree bough was BARE of fruits! We kid you not. There will be no cold winter survival berries on THAT tree this season. Branches and boughs for bitter winter survival, yes. Foodstuff? Nay. That’s the way nature sometimes works.

November 6th, 2021, insects out and about in 60-degree Minnesota weather. In the same 24-hour period a friend in Jacksonville, Florida, experienced 48 degrees and three inches of rain. Hmmmm. Something’s not quite right here.