Migrant Birds Coming & Going Makes for Busy Skies

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

Many Henderson Independent readers took trips hither and yon the summer of 2023 in spite of heat, drought and calamities. Reports are that wondrous times were enjoyed. But what was the first or second action you took upon returning home to your hallowed ground? First things first…you wiped the grime from your body, or took a good shower…shook the dust from your feet. Observers observed similar actions from migratory birds returning from the northland.

A rare shower occurred in early October, creating small ponds east of the LeSueur Community Center. Such a splishing and splashing occurred early afternoon, throwing rain water helter-skelter, as the first arrival of European tree sparrows bathed, oblivious to their human spectators. In our garden off Pumpkin Hill Road, twenty-or more American Robins discovered an up-turned barrel top plumb full of fresh water. Unwilling to share, they fended off the nomads, cedar waxwings, which had busied themselves in nearby tree-tops gathering fox grapes. The two species did not plunge into a feather-to-feather battle, rather vied for openings to the cool clear H2O.

Believe this or not, a hundred feet away, more than twenty American bluebirds shyly watched the frolicking foray from the safety of utility lines, hoping for the robins to continue southward in order for the blue jewels to seek life-saving liquid sustenance. Naught was the case, the bluebirds moved on. But it was with joy and rejoicing that they were observed in such a plenty, symbols of hope, as their numbers have been sorely depleted during the past years.

Our traveling nature notebook records “October 9th, many small birds appear suddenly in the grasses along gravel country roads.” The wee birds appeared to hide in the shadows of nearby trees, but whisked away before true Identification was possible. Then the realization dawned. Could it be that the junco families have arrived early? In our record keeping, the term “junco” appears normally close to the first of November, in fact, many term them “Snow Birds.” WHAT are they doing near Henderson/LeSueur so early? Are they portents/omens of things to come? Sure enough, as the juncos gain courage when exploring unfamiliar country trails and copses, one may more readily identify the shy, swift, small birds that will soon frolic in the snow while eating weed seeds; familiar little faces at bird feeding stations for folks to enjoy. Like it or not, the birds and we birdniks will probably receive our first taste of winter the last weekend of October.

One of the major surprises of the autumn has been that of giant puffball fungi in great numbers. North, south, east, west, woods folk have reported sightings of the sometimes-huge forest-floor growths. Grabbing the bull by the horns or the peacock by the tail, we decided as octogenarians it was time to consume a bite or two, as what harm could it do?
Slicing the white ball, size of a football, about as thick as a thin slice of bread, we dipped the white pieces into scrambled egg yolk, then coated each slice with dry Progresso bread crumbs. Next we placed the results onto a very large frying pan having first applied olive oil, grape seed oil, or even butter. Fry slowly until slices are a golden brown for fifteen-twenty minutes. Absolute yummers! In fact, we returned to the woods for more delicacies, and stored a ball in the refrigerator for another meal, or two, or three. This is what we did, how we did it, now it’s the readers’ decision. (Perhaps one may have to dig under the snow for future puffball meals?)