WHEN BIRDING, EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED!
Submitted by Art and Barb Straub
Due to other commitments during the 2022 Ney Christmas Bird Count, which for twenty-six years found our small team traveling the outskirts of the NEY Circle; we decided to scout Henderson/LeSueur city environs. What surprises were in store! Robins have become more frequent in cities and towns, but when we came across over a hundred, accompanied by cedar waxwings, and hounded by starlings, we were aghast! In LeSueur on south Fourth Street, we encountered a treasure trove. The homeowners have a variety of bird feeders and suet dispensers; but the object of the birds’ affection was a heated bird waterer. Eight of the orange-bellied birdniks were gathered, just a-sipping away. Above their heads was a faithful flowering crab tree covered by birds, a veritable feast and frolic. Upon exploring further at the south-east end of town, more robins and waxwings feasted in the crab grove behind the LeSueur Community Center.
Later in the day, while visiting the Henderson area, more small squadrons of robins could be observed wherever folks had the wisdom to plant flowering crab trees, and it was from Henderson that, to us, a wonderful event had taken place. Karen and Keith Swenson are ardent nature observers, and to prove their astounding observations they keep a camera (indoors of course) posted at a window. It was there that a few days hence, a Carolina Wren (see photo) made its appearance, poised upon a special suet feeder. In all the years of the Ney event, only one has been reported in the past, and the observers obtained a photo of the same.
Such good fortune on the part of Karen and Keith, that the bird, accompanied by photo, was uncommon enough to be reported to State Audubon folks who keep track of such phenomena.
Other bird stalkers in diverse parts of Minnesota were on the trail on the 17th. Our ally, Chad Heins, of the Mankato group at Bethany College, sighted 52 species, which included fox-sparrows and white-throated sparrows! Usually, the NEY Center group enumerates 32 species. We are anxious to see what our species count will amount to for 2022.
As mentioned, we’ve never observed nor knowingly heard a Carolina wren in ANY season, much less winter. Our common jenny wren is smaller, and has the nasty habit of kicking competitors out of house and home, and may resort to piercing eggs, young, and wrecking havoc whereever they go. They DO eat spider eggs, into whose webs hummingbirds often die or are devoured. Plus, they have a beautiful call. The Carolina wren bests them in that respect, singing from dawn to dusk. In winter, the Carolina survives upon suet, peanut butter and shelled peanuts, and are NOT known to destroy the nests/eggs/nestlings of other bird species.
A second special sighting of a bird occurred in Mankato AND LeSueur on CBC day…that of the White-throated sparrow. LeSueur’s Doris Winter captured a photo of the white-throated on CBC day. A resident of Manitoba and the Yukon, the white-throated migrates through our area, from the south, during May each year…very common… but winter? Nix! Most are in northern Mexico. (Wise birds indeed.) Black strips atop the head, with bright yellow blotches between the bill and eyes, a white throat, and especially, one will note PINK legs. While in Henderson/LeSueur/Mankato they subsist on cracked corn, nyjer thistle, millet and black oil sunflower seeds.
Our CBC team was entirely missing a set of bird species on December 17th…that is…raptors. Where red-tailed hawks have been common, they were missing this year. No one reported (thus far) kestrals, a few eagles, yes. That may have something to do with the red-tailed hawk found dead near Henderson in May…a casualty of West Nile. All of this may be related to the many reports of fallen raptors throughout the country due to disease. Readers will be reading with increasing frequency as to how the chemical mercury affects birds, and that air pollution is a major cause of birth deaths, especially, (get ready Karen and Keith) the Carolina Wren!!!!
The world continues to go round-and-round.
GOOD still towers over BAD. As we celebrate the winter solstice December 21 and 22, pass on your smile and HOPE for a great 2023. Thank you for reading, folks! Merry Christmas!!!