Hendeson Feathers Update 3/4/24

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

No more waiting, as “THEY” have arrived!
Robins and bluebirds, are among the first harbingers of spring. For the past three years or more, American robins have over-wintered in the Henderson-LeSueur area in unbelievable numbers. 2024? Nil. That is until February 28, whereupon Karen (Keith)
Swenson of Henderson spotted robins in her birdbath…our robin spotting champion of spring, 2024!!! Following Karen’s lead, Swanee the silver Focus hastened to the twelve flowering crab trees behind the LeSueur Community Center, to find stripped trees yet very tame (hop up to your car) orange-breasted birds eating apple scraps left by spotted villains, starlings.

By March 1st, our faithful photographer caught the five robins pulling … yes, you guessed it, tasty night crawlers from the earth. Imagine, brave worms in the grass on March 1st In broad daylight. Now we await flocks of foraging foreigners flooding the greening yards for sustenance. (Flocks of robins are also known as ‘rabble,’ ‘squabble,’ ’bobbin,’ ‘riot,’ and others, but those names are foreign to many readers.)

While enjoying the robins, a single stark, low-flying
black and white crow with a bright cardinal cap flew by. Twern’t no crow though. The neighborhood Pileated woodpecker hauntingly jostled for position, just a cackling away as pileateds are prone to do. He must have a home near the LS Community Center as he is often reported near there, yet covers many miles. We’ve always been confused as to the pronunciation of the name of that handsome bird, no wonder, they have three or more titles. Their name is Latin for ‘prominent red cap’ as shared by Cornell Lab. “Pilleated,’’ “Peeliated,” or “Pyeliated,” is comfortable with this bird with its 30-inch wingspan.

Along with ants, and beetles hidden under bark, the chisel-beaked birds do savor suet, and, believe it or not, pileate ds like peanut butter smeared on trees. (Fox grape, Virginia Creeper fruits, and other berries attract them as well.) Hmm, peanut butter/grape/bark sandwiches? How to tell males from females? The fellows have red mustaches. Although monogamous, upon losing a mate, the males will re-mate. When a male ‘lets loose’ in a deep ravine on a dead tree, one’s hair raises from its roots at the eerie jungle-sounding high-pitched vocalization. A couple of battling amorous pileated males would make quite a scene would it not?

Raccoons did not stay idle in hollow trees this winter, nor opossums as well, especially when bird-feeding station suet
was available. For the most part, the fifty sharp teeth of the ‘possum were poised for inflicting wounds on raccoons, but trail camera photos showed no blood in the snow.

Great broad wings of Sir/Madam Sandhill Cranes have appeared near swamps in the Twin Cities. Imagine Horned lark flocks moving north against the 50 mph winds over the March 1st weekend while gales took a toll on dead woodland trees. Wise birds kept their beaks to the ground; but this is March, typical wild weather! Brilliantly colored wood ducks stayed put on wind-swept ponds, as the ice on Buck’s Lake became a stark remembrance. Stocking caps serve well during current conditions, yet shorts and bare arms proved popular on March 3rd, along with bikers, hikers, cyclists, and babies lugged by loving parents and sun worshippers when the temperature boiled over at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Perhaps now is the time to put skis and sleds away? De-mouse/de-louse the bluebird houses and give them a fresh coat of light-colored paint. Ready. Set. Go.