Autumn Lingers With Unexpected Sightings Galore

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

Have you ever observed a white squirrel in your neighborhood? If so, consider yourself among the ‘lucky ones,’ as (according to the ‘experts,’ only one in 100,000 Minnesota squirrels are white.) Yes, there are the common Eastern gray squirrels, thieving bird seed robbers; Fox squirrels, largest of the Minnesota squirrels; northern and southern Flying squirrels, which few fortunate souls observe as they are nocturnal; Black squirrels, the musclely relatively newcomesr in the valley; and then the White squirrel, albinos, with pink eyes. A family reported a single white squirrel in LeSueur this week, another observer photoed one in Belle Plaine about the same time. We won’t reveal names of the fortunate spotters, as we’re always concerned that unwelcome traffic in their neighborhoods might increase dramatically.

Should a white squirrel have any patch of gray on its body, it would be termed ‘leucitic.’ But in these two cases, both were true albinos. Why so few white squirrels ? Feral cat depredation is a major reason. However, as is the case of all squirrels, coyotes, foxes and other friendly beasts are always searching for a free meal. We mustn’t forget the little wiry nasty pestiferous small red squirrels, bane of the woodland and city bird-feeding stations. Once there was a family of the vermin living on Second Street in LeSueur. They had a bowling alley on the second floor of a home, and would use walnuts to bowl at all hours of the day and night. Once “little reds” gnaw an entry, an exterminator is one of the few answers to making the razor-sharp-tooth beasties vacate the premises.

The buntings are coming, the Snow buntings are coming!!! The neat little birds from the northland are on their way soon. Friends at Wolf Ridge near the Canadian border, and others at Grand Marais both experienced flocks over the weekend. A memory which persists is that of a wee lady coming to our Hilltop School classroom door on a blizzardly day in December, and saying, “I just drove through blinding snow on Highway 19, and I think there may have been birds on the highway!” We found three deceased snow buntings pinioned in the grill of her car. Those specimens remain to this day at the JR Brown Center in Henderson in the nature section.

Coyotes have had a great summer and go into winter in good shape physically. After the tough weather of 2022/23, they’ve had a super summer of tasty victuals, especially white-tailed deer fawns, turkey chicks, rabbits, pheasant eggs and various other mammals and birds. (Locals welcome the coyotes when it comes to dining on rabbits.)

Strangest sight of the week reared its head the 1st of November. During the early hours, a thin layer of ice had formed on Bucks’ Lake. While parked at the Schneider Landing, a whiskered brown mammal head suddenly appeared about thirty feet out in the lake. The animal spewed out shards of ice as it chewed its way upward. Looking about, and seeing nothing to devour, it descended into the murk, appearing again 20 feet from spot one. The procedure occurred another three times, then said critter disappeared for good. As all we could spot was the furry head, our initial identification was that of a hungry beaver, not a muskrat, but then, all photos appeared fuzzy, thus the mystery remains.

When exposed to a new situation, these writers find themselves uncomfortable and apprehensive. While sitting in the waiting room of the radiology department of the Mayo Hospital in Mankato, (although the welcome by staff had been profuse,) we were jittery. But then, scrolled on the room’s large walls, was the following inscription. “If you do not become interested in nature and find your avocation there, and get closer to nature, you have lost a wonderful lot of the pleasures of life.” Charles H. Mayo M.D. 1928. With that, we knew we were home.