When Bad Things Happen To Good Birds (or people)

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

Why? Who does it benefit? What lesson does it teach? Seems as though a multitude of fires, deaths and other nasties occur around and during the holidays, more so than perhaps other times of the year. Add to the factor, ‘Covid this’ and the ‘Covid that,’ one could experience into a tailspin.

Consider. On or about Decemter 6th, a beautiful incapacitated Snowy Owl is spotted in the ditch on north Hwy #169 near the LeSueur Water Tower. A kindly naturalist, Paul Fixsen spots the spotted bird, notifies his wife, Molly, owl ends up in Straub garage with a call forthcoming to the Minnesota Raptor Center where we were greeted by a most gentle and courteous receptionist. As the trusting docile bird is very much alive after its obvious brush with an auto, a ‘carrier’ for the Raptor Center, Heidi Bartos, arrived within the hour and whisked said spotted raptor away, destination Michelle Lake LaBelle, Wildlife Intensive and Critical Care Unit near Savage. Michelle, noting injured eye and slight blood seep from beak, sent the bird off to the St. Paul Raptor Center. All of the above was strictly volunteer. Next step: wait in wonder as to condition of the mainly diurnal bird from the far north expanses.

A news bulletin came from the Raptor Center on December 17th. “We are very sad to tell you that the juvenile (hatch year) female snowy owl that was found could not be saved as its injuries were too severe. The owl had suffered severe head trauma along with irreversible blinding eye trauma. In cases like these, the kindest act to prevent future suffering is humane euthanasia. We are deeply grateful to those of you who have taken the time to transport or rescue a raptor patient.”
What’s an owl with one eye to do, how might it have survived?

Sounds as though Father Nature has exacted punishment upon the naïve owl which had entered the air space of its non-native Minnesota. What good can come of the death of an owl? Consider all of the humans affected by this unfortunate accident, from the sharp-eyed Fixsen family to attendants at the Raptor Center to gentle readers of the Henderson Independent. As we piece it together, love and care shines bright in the Christmas sky. Concern for Mother Earth and its inhabitants, including the most minuscule creatures that exist together on the planet is evident, even when distress clouds one’s perspective.

There will be more owls, there will be more deaths and dying, but for those humans involved in the Snowy Owl episode, precious moments of compassion are at the forefront of their emotions. In this maelstrom of hate, discourtesy and ‘me first,’ most people still reach out to one another with care and concern for all creatures during this special season and beyond.

A good example of citizen scientists coming forth to volunteer was the Christmas Bird Count of December 18th, 2021. Soon we’ll know if more Snowy owls were spotted within a 7.5 radius of the Ney Center, along many other birds as well. Carolyn Boettcher of Blakeley was the first volunteer to submit her count results. Her final list included chickadees, juncos, nuthatches, blue jays, cardinals, bald eagles, house sparrows, pigeons (rock doves,) starlings and a variety of woodpeckers. Also, she saw a ‘mystery’ bird which we’re currently attempting to identify.

Our co-writer, hiding out in her photo shack December 18th, snapped a Fox Sparrow, mixed in with a batch of common house sparrows. Fox sparrows migrate through the Henderson/LeSueur area, but breed in Canada/Alaska. This single bird scratched for bird seed, a leftover straggler from the main migrators. Another highlight included an encounter with close to fifty Snow Buntings near the Algona Colony west of Henderson. Hunting for Northern Shrikes, which usually inhabit the poplar trees on County Road #62, the ‘flying snowdrift’ took us by surprise, but, due to their sudden spontaneous flight, our photographer was able to ‘snap’ just a couple of fuzzy unpublishable photos for proof of the buntings’ presence.

Readers! Consider what you’ve experienced in the past week, not to mention the PLAGUE that abounds among us. December 15th, sixty-degree temperatures melt sixteen inches of snow, creating stifling dense fog at 9:00 a.m. Noon brought sunshine. At 3:30, a slight shower/sprinkle occurred enhanced by a 60 second DOUBLE RAINBOW. YES, we have photos, but need color to enhance. 8:00 p.m., historic storms swept through region sparing neither human nor beast with fearsome ferocious mind-boggling gales. Somehow, YOU were spared! What hardy souls you are, survivors beyond comprehension! YOU and YOURS have a happy and blessed Christmas. Stay SAFE!!!!!!!!