A Spring Unlike Any Before, the Glorious May 2024

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub,

Henderson Independent readers who ‘bird” have had a long wait. Yet to awaken in the first days of May to experience the Mom Nature’s vivid tree, bush and myriad colors, makes up for the drab dry autumn and sparse snow winter! Can you recall a spring like this one? Plentiful peaceful rains! Hurrah! In spite of the dastardly drought of 2023, trees of many species began blooming, first limes, then subtle sickly hues, followed by bursts of emerald Irish green! Brown barren branches of wild plum poke their brilliant white plumes along highways and byways, a relief from many brightly hued trees.
Blossoms of pear trees are followed by various shades of purple, lavender, rose, brilliant shades of red…a generous free gift from flowering crab trees and the like. Lilacs shriek for attention, while the hues of flowers on the forest floor go largely unnoticed for now……..

2024 is a springtime ‘birders’ have longed for, dreamed about, envisioned, after the browns and barrens of the autumn and in a semi-snowless winter. Starlings just don’t stir the soul as American robins and Northern and Orchard orioles do, or the Rose-breasted grosbeaks, Harris sparrows, hummingbirds, Gray catbirds, Eastern towhees. Until the May 5th weekend, indigo buntings, hadn’t arrived. Forehead furrows were ones of anxious concern. Perhaps they decided to move south instead of north? Did a storm wipe out an incoming flock? Did they take a fatal turn at the O.K. Corral? Usually they arrive to dig snow from the feeding stations. And then, hallelujah! Startling blue males were welcomed by many birders on Saturday and Sunday the 5th! For the most part, as migrating birds do, the females will soon set down as well to begin nest building. Veritably dozens of the brilliant indigo creatures dropped their landing gears seemingly overnight, some staying for the summer, others moving further northward.

With migrating birds, there is a semi-continuous pattern. Sunshine to the south sets off something in the brain that says “Ready, set, go.” Earth warms the earth to the south releasing insects and other energy morsels; thus, birds take flight; arrive in Minnesota to battle over territories; build; skirmish; guard; feed young; and before one knows it, time to start south and repeat the pattern, that is if nature has been kind.

Other wings need reporting however.
From our vantage point above Coachlight Pond, we watched the enormous growling machines preparing the rebuilding of Hwy #93 with roar and tear. Canadian goose pairs left the marsh, abandoning their nests. Sylvia and Sylvan Trumpeter swans had labored intensely rebuilding their nest on Coachlight # 2 east. The first two days after highway construction began, they hid in the bulrushes, apparently abandoning eggs and nest. Time will tell.

However, a set of wildfowl drew one’s attention away from the swans. In a usual late April, early May, Highway #93 from Henderson to LeSueur is covered by flood water, no access past Coachlight Pond. This year, last week of April, a pair of ducks alit near Sylvia and Sylvan, stayed for two weeks. The swans’
male guest appeared to be ready to topple forward into the water, beaks so heavy-appearing it appeared he’d fall beak forward into the pond. His bill appeared heavier than his butt, a spatula/strainer for siphoning invertebrates from surface water. A bright green iridescent head swept from side to side while the breast was large and white. Nearby, its apparent mate faded into the background, a simple buffy brown. We were observing a NORTHERN SHOVELER, Spoonbill or “spoonie,” a dabbling duck which sang “Oh, Canada” as the pair wended their way north. We questioned ‘experts’ as to how a roasted ‘spoonie’ would taste. The reply was “Yumm” or “Yuck,” depending upon how hungry one might be.

Friendly readers, gardening can wait. The earth is too soggy to plant. Why not go ‘roon’ hunting instead. We are told that they are abundant. Sit back, enjoy these brief days prior to the appearance of black flies, gnats, ticks, and the beloved chummy mosquitos.