Ney Christmas Bird Count Results In

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

A gray misty December 16th greeted participant in the 2023 Audubon Christmas Count, tabulating bird species within 7.5 miles of the Ney Center near Henderson. Citizen Scientists’ initial reaction was, “Where were the birds?”

Ney personnel collaborated on December 26th to begin tabulating citizen scientists’ observations of bird life and other. Initial results include: 3,213 birds counted; 39 species of birds spotted; chickadees and dark-eyed juncos dethroned! Yes, house sparrows, grackles and starlings outnumbered most other species. Readers may remember that Minnesota lakes and the Minnesota River had been frozen over on December 16th. That ruled out most waterfowl numbers. (The river opened up again near December 25th, but it was too late to count by then.) Final results may be obtained by email at
Ney Center personnel AND the birds THANK the more than 60 participants in this 27th year of this world-wide event

More surprising out-of-the-ordinary natural events occurred from December 20th on. For instance, if you check a lawn or boulevard, you may find ‘worm’ castings abundant. In addition, ‘mole mounds,’ (earth thrown up by moles exploring the earth’s surface for food) are commonplace. They are so obvious in some areas, one doesn’t see them. Squirrel species dot city landscapes searching for the treasures they buried beginning in September. Their tasks are made easier due to thawed earth in many a spot. WHAT a CHANGE from past LeSueur/Henderson winters.

We’ve been keeping a nature notebook/diary for thirty-five years, and find the comparison between then and now interesting. Believe it or not, LeSueur/Henderson experienced a ‘record-breaking’ temperature of 50 degrees on December 28th of 2004!!!

Emily, daughter of a couple of our LeSueur nature observers was taking a walk in Minneapolis (around Lake of the Isles) on Christmas Day, 2023, and it was brought to her attention a real societal problem, that of discarded plastic and plastic fishing line. We’ll let Emily tell the story as she viewed it. “I sat and watched a Merganser duck lounging around with a flock of mallards having afternoon tea. He was just standing and bathing, and fussing over a plastic line wrapped about his beak. The ‘line’ looked like twine or something, with a gold dangle, definitely some sort of fishing item. I did see him open his beak a good inch at one point, that was good! But it was very tangled around his beak. I am calling DNR tomorrow first thing!”

A photo illustration by Emily appears to lend itself to the merganser duck, a fish eater, having eaten fish prey, found itself caught in plastic line with a ‘fish spinner bait’ attached. In that it can probably not fly nor eat, it would seem the duck will meet its inevitable fate…starvation. Emily did just the right thing, and we await the DNR report. Plastics in their varying forms are wreaking havoc on many creatures. What to do? Suggestions welcome.

Ssssssssst! Ssssssst! That’ssssss no goldfinch calling, rather, a pine siskin. The siskins arrived at Karen and Keith Swenson’s home for Christmas, 2023. This small finch is a nomad, that is, you never know where you might find them in Henderson or LeSueur. They’ve dropped in from Alaska, Canada, northern forests for winter dining, liking in particular Nyjer or thistle seed, plus seeds found in area fields. Their yellow-edged wings and tail, plus ability to hang upside down, differentiate them from others, plus the throaty call. Do be on the lookout, as you celebrate a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!