For Many Folks, White Pelicans Add Joy To The Day

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

We’re fortunate to have friends in high places, like the hills and prairie above Bucks’ Lake, who breathlessly announced, “The lake is absolutely covered in white, best you get out there, they won’t remain long” communicated two different parties on a hot sunny afternoon in late September. Both reporters were concerned that the spectacle wouldn’t remain long. As Jim Gilbert of Minnesota phenologist fame predicted in the September “Species of the Month” section of Minnesota WEATHERGUIDE Environment Calendar and Almanac for 2023, formidable yellow-billed, eight-foot wingspan with black wingtips had arrived. Yes, 400 white pelicans, give or take one or two, sailed pompously about the small lake area residents term “Bucks’” Lake. They were flanked by 18 white egrets, eyes focused on the edges of the muddy puddle, while around 20 gulls of random species raucously wheeled and dealed above the heads of the showy snowy birds in and around them. Bruce Bjork caught the action with his exquisite photography, capturing numerous photo specimens recorded for all to view.

As Highway #19 through Henderson remained closed the last week of September, more spectators than usual caught a view of a lifetime phenomenon east of Highway #93 between Henderson and LeSueur. To add frosting to the bird cake, Sylvia and Sylvan Trumpeter swans completed the picture, sedate and silent at the south end of the waters. We wonder if anyone experienced giant spirals of pelicans leisurely and effortlessly taking flight in great white circles until their leader signals a suitable air current beckoning them south to the Gulf of Mexico?

Bucks’ Lake has stood suspiciously silent all summer due to the drought. Yes, a lone fisherman tested the lake for the last three months, a scant few families tried their fishless luck, but no reports of Loch Ness monsters (hmmm, Loch Bucks’ behemoths,) have surfaced all summer. Little pimples of something have surfaced from lake’s face during a summer of historic heat bouts, but no giant leaps and splashes have indicated mammoth pisces activity. We wonder what might have brought the white bird world to Bucks’. A matter of late September habit? Any theories out there?

Shrews give us fits! First off, there are six kinds in Minnesota. We can identify the Eastern Short-tailed shrew because of its size, but the others??? Imagine this. You are straightening up your front out-doors porch, pick up a rug to shake the dust out, and find five baby shrews. Your pet cat has just had kittens, and she immediately pounces upon the wee mammals, kills them; but will not eat them as she might if they were mice.
(Shrews have an unpleasant repulsive smell detected by cats, the cats will kill but not devour them.) If you call a friend you have unfriended a “shrew,” doesn’t mean he/she has an unpleasant odor, rather, the person is always poking his/her nose into other’s business. Shrews have long pointy noses, thus the noun aimed at an ex-pal. We’ve attached a deceased shrews’ photo, but still are without a sure name to attach. Each has a two-inch-long body, a one-and-a-half-inch long tail. Beneficial little buggers, voracious insect/arachnid eaters, you often find shrews in home basements, fish houses and other unoccupied spaces. Looking at the photo, name that shrew, can you?

While most of us ‘sleep away the night,’ millions, yes millions of birds pass overhead from northward to southward in their annual autumnal migration. As research continues and new technological tools are created, accuracy of numbers and species increases. According to bird migration data gatherers, not all birds pass safely, as dangers lay ahead. Consider the ‘wee one’ found on the porch of Judy and Joe Luskey near Green Isle the morning of September 30th. The brilliant yellow creature appeared to be a colored leaf, instead, a yellow warbler attempted to fly through a window pane. Preferring coniferous forests to the north during breeding season, the south may find them in Mexico or Central America
during winter vacation. There are a multitude of web sites where you may Google to find exciting information on migrators!
Stray monarch butterflies continue toward Mexico; Ruby-throated ‘hummers’ are still packing for their long journey; a huge migratory flock of night hawks plied the skies above Henderson September 30th heading south to SOUTHERN South America. WOW!!! Many assorted surprises await human adventurers who survey the skies.