Weather and Winter Survival For the History Books

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

The year 2022 will go down as one of the weirdest we’ve ever experienced in our 86 plus years. Yes, we remember blizzards of the past; the drought of the past summer formed indelible etchings in the gray matter, and we can’t even utter the hackneyed statement, “This is for the birds,” as this ‘white stuff’ isn’t even FOR the birds. White-tailed deer stand in barren woodlands with humped backs…a sign that it’s cold for them even with their long underwear on. Turkeys trudge in solitary file searching fruitlessly for a last acorn. Skunks, raccoons and opossums are wisely ‘holed up’ for the duration, utilizing their stored body fat. For once, obesity pays off.

Christmas Eve found rollicking bluejays scrambling for whole peanuts at Karen and Keith Swenson’s generous feeders, busy as US Postal Carriers attempting to deliver late mailings in spite of the crystal-shattering thermometer plunge. Usually the members of the clever corvidae family will weigh each peanut as to its weight, choosing only the heaviest of the energy snacks. The opportunistic omnivores seek out hiding niches to secure their store of corn, acorns and black oil sunflower seeds.
A most surprising habit is their ability to carry more than a dozen treasures of the same kind at one time! Close observation will find a bird plucking seed after seed into its gullet, than racing off to hide the treasures. We’ve watched this bird pick up as many as a dozen corn kernels, suck them into their throats (gular pouches,) then race off to stash the food for another day.

Two of our favorite habits of the blue jay is their ability to drop down on a feeder, squawking all the way, and frightening intruders away. This is especially true of their high-pitched ‘siren’ when small hawks are in the area. Their alert system saves many a small bird. Speaking of hawks, Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks are busy in the area, much to the dismay of loyal bird watchers. A day or so before Christmas, LeSueur’s Sandy Schultz heard a crash at her feeding station window, rushed to the scene, found a hawk looking dazed and surprised lying very much alive on the snow-covered earth outside. Sir hawk was so intent on his/her prey, he misjudged speed and glass, and might have easily dispatched itself.

Christmas Day found some interesting behavior, even in the bitter cold. A half-dozen robins cruised the south end of LeSueur; mourning doves sat quietly in a tree overlooking feeders on LeSueur’s 4th Street; 30 (yes thirty) cardinals came for black oil sunflower seeds near coniferous trees next to a home feeding station west of Henderson. House finches, purple finches, were absent from feeders, while sixteen downy and hairy woodpeckers consumed suet pecked on fatty bones near Henderson. Wise birds and animals hunkered down, not wasting energy in the wild northwest wind.

Feeling bad? Can’t blame oneself, but we are aware that others are suffering as well. Consider this Christmas Eve message from friends near Jacksonville, Florida. “Most plants didn’t make it through the night…begonias, roses and others are black and brown. People set poinsettias outside here in many places, …. Those plants didn’t stand a chance unless you brought them in. ……. People keep running water at all faucets to keep from frozen pipes! Merry Christmas from the frozen South.”
Doesn’t that make our faithful readers feel better?
Blizzards, ice, more snow. Aren’t you glad you bought a couple new shovels? That’s what makes Minnesotans a cheerful hard-working populace.