Babies, chicks & bunnies makes one’s heart smile

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

Comparing the weather and animal/bird movements from years’ past to 2022 is like comparing apples to armadillos. A year ago this week, the electricity at Vern Bienfang’s farm was cut off by an electrical storm during a crucial fowl incubation period, causing the loss of ducklings, goslings and chicks. 2022 has been a different story thus far, as the eggs are peeping and popping with new life. (See photo). Vern has barnyard birds of numerous species responding to slow emergence of spring. No two days seem to be alike, other than the persistent unforgiving gizzard-chilling north wind. On March 11th a year ago, Vern brought the first garter snake to our attention; 13th day of same month a leopard frog was murdered by Vern’s hens while crossing the fowl yard. By April 4th, a year ago, chorus frogs were croaking on Lake Emily. Perhaps we’ll hear the ‘mallard duck call’ of a woods frog in nearby marshes soon. April 5th, 2021, found the first tractor in the field. As we travel today, same date different year, will we see farm machinery in the fields? We doubt it. Please let us know YOUR observations.

The winter kill of raccoons and deer will soon disappear, as welcome single vultures rolled up their feathers, sharpened their beaks, and went to work cleaning up highways and byways Sunday, March 27th. Eagles with young in the nest will now have competition for getting the best of the ‘goodies.’ One of LeSueur’s prime birdwatchers, Sandy Schultz, observed a regular armada of vultures over LeSueur April 3rd. Hail, hail, the gang’s all here, like it or not. What goes in, has to go out as well. Pity the homeowners where vultures spend the night.

Flood plain oxbow lakes such as Bucks’ Lake and the three Coachlight Ponds’ shallow waters have recently been a veritable birdwatchers’ delight! Perhaps because of the rumor that Highway # 93 will undergo vast changes the summer of 2023 make the bird watching more enticing. In addition, rarely in recent years, due to flooding, have the floodplains been accessible to birders. The ‘show’ on the southern-most Coachlight has been worthy of an Oscar. It began like this: The Canada geese, Ilsa and Izzy plus their birdnik buddies, returned to the ponds even before ice-out, believing their water home was swan free with a few muskrat cheap rental apartments. The arrival of Sylvia and Sylvester swan on April 1st seemed like an April Fool joke, provoking deep anger on the part of the geese. Skirmishes began Sunday the 3nd, with a battered muskrat hump being the prize. Sylvia and Sylvester
preened themselves on the contested mound, then began breakfast dabbling at the pond’s center. The geese gaggled, guffawed, spewing names you wouldn’t want your children or teens to hear. A brief feather-scuffle occurred, white feathers flew with the docile swans winning round one.

Not to be outmaneuvered, the geese enlisted male mallards, bufflehead ducks, plus a wood duck to join in the fray. S and S again emerged as winners. April 3rd found
the swans in control of the castle, but the outcome will not be known until more days pass. We fear the geese have more allies to assist in their attempts at a coup.

To the north at Bucks Lake,’ a couple of juvenile eagles locked talons for a bit, then began harassing a flock of common merganser ducks. Swooping and dipping, sending the mergansers zipping underwater in fear of their lives, the eagles appeared to enjoy bullying the white and black clad birds, who quickly formed a group of a dozen males, shielding the hens, and scudded for shore. Overhead, gulls flew effortlessly, ignoring the fracas below yet mewing complaints that the lake did not ‘freeze out’ the winter of 2021/2022, leaving no juicy decaying pisces for Palm Sunday breakfast.. As of April 4th, Bucks’ is now 98.6 ice-free…ice-out has occurred.

Are you keeping a notebook on this year’s events in the natural world? It may prove interesting to your offspring in the years to come!