June 16th Weekend Adventures Left One In Awe

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

A phone communication early Sunday morning was a puzzler. A feminine voice said, “I’m on the way to church, but after last night’s deluge, there’s a huge pond in the ditch in front of our home, with an immense turtle lying nearby.” Another call was forthcoming an hour later, “The water is gone from the ditch, so is the turtle.” Shortly thereafter, a third communication, “The turtle is trying to get into the barn, can you come see?” Curiosity took over, thus away flew Swanee the fearless Ford ten miles into the countryside, and as reported, a giant snapping turtle greeted us. In that the turtle was a menace to children and dogs, it was relocated to a waterway miles away. The landowner stated, “That’s the first turtle we’ve encountered on this property in seventy years!” Hmmmm. The farm was on the flats of a high hill?

When our Nature Neighbors program was in full swing in June of years ago, we were almost sure to encounter giant ‘snappers’ laying eggs alongside Highway # 93 close to Henderson. On one occasion, an immense reptile was in a child’s sandbox in the heart of Henderson. Imagine a curious and unsuspecting child petting that huge reptile, and losing toes or fingers! Area turtles deposit their eggs in early June, depending upon sunlight and heat, the turtlings hatch come early September. Warm weather is a major factor.

The turtle adventure was just the first of the day.
A message came from the area of Rush River Park.
“There are hundreds if not thousands of strange butterflies on the road near our home.” Off soared Swanee, and YES, there WERE hundreds if not thousands of reported butterflies, eager to have their photos taken. In assessing photo images later, we determined that their nomenclature was most likely Hackberry Emperors, a medium-sized butterfly, whose color varies from dark to light. According to Google, (UF/IFAS) they gather in DENSE swarms, feed on fruit, dung, carrion, mud. Imagine if you will, a dense swarm of butterflies, and that is what was reported and observed. Why the gathering on the gravel road?
Further research indicated that they siphon salt particles, and the road on which they gathered would have been heavily salted in winter.
Deducing that if the phenomenon was occurring on the west side of the Minnesota River, but only in a particular habitat, we chased to the east side of the Minnesota River near the NEY Center on East Henderson Station Road to a similar habitat. Guess what? No emperors, nor monarchs in the area!

BUT. As we gazed skyward, we noted eight vultures circling above. No big deal, vultures are very common these days with all the roadkill in the area. Then, what should appear but a vulture towing a three-foot-long white banner! Bats could have flown in and out our gaping mouths! Yes, a vulture with what we surmised was a piece of plastic streaming from its feet! We were reminded as to how sometimes small aircraft will have banners with advertising trailing behind. The action occurred so quickly, we didn’t get a photo. We had no way to prove we weren’t prevaricators. How disappointing, no picture proof.

We decided to visit the ‘communications tower’ adjacent to Doppy Lane near LeSueur, where, in spring and summer, vultures gather as the sun disappears over the western horizon, to discuss the day’s menu of carcasses. As we neared our destination, we bumped into a well-known bicyclist out for exercise. She too was observing the hundred plus vultures gathered on the tower, and then said, rather sheepishly, “Did you happen to see a vulture towing a white streamer a few moments ago?” Aha!!! The proof we needed. Our imaginative tale could now be told. We were vindicated. OUR vulture had flown eight miles ahead of our mission, and another naturalist fortunately observed our quarry. Sometimes adventures end well.

Many a tale (tail) was noted the weekend of June 16th. Aren’t you disappointed that you don’t keep an eye on the sky? Although, then you might miss the massive turtles wandering about the earth.