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We know spring is here when the red-winged blackbirds return to the cattails. (Steve Maanum / For the Enterprise)
We know spring is here when the red-winged blackbirds return to the cattails. (Steve Maanum / For the Enterprise)

Blackbirds, Easter bunnies mean spring

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outdoors Park Rapids, 56470

Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Last Saturday's column mentioned the return of the great blue herons and Doug Rathbun called to say the Long Lake heron colony is beginning to look and sound pretty busy. He also said that he has been hearing red-winged blackbirds and seeing plenty of robins. They even had six mourning doves that came to their birdfeeders all winter.

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Some of the diving ducks are showing up. Last week I saw a pair of golden eyes and on Monday I saw a group of common mergansers swimming on the Fish Hook River. The first loon should be returning any day now. Those arriving before ice-out on the lakes will have to stay on the river or another open body of water that is large enough to allow them to take off and land.

Last Sunday evening I noticed one of my wood duck boxes was filled with leaves - an indication that the squirrels had been busy building a nest. When I opened the box to clean it out, I was too late. Baby squirrels, closed eyed and hairless, were curled up in the wood shavings below the leaves.

I thought it would be too early for that, but I guess nature has its own clock. The rabbits seem to be showing up more, too. Maybe it's because of Easter. That got me thinking. Where did the whole idea of the Easter Bunny come from?

As usual, when I have a question that I can't answer (which happens more often than I want to admit) I type the question into the computer and within seconds I have all the reading material I need right at my fingertips.

An article written by Maureen Wuelfing for "Lifescript" in October of 2007 stated that the history of the Easter Bunny goes back to ancient Babylonia. Two centuries before Christ, the Babylonians worshipped the pagan god, Tammuz.

The people believed he was raised from the dead by Ishtar. In celebration, fathers helped their children paint colorful designs on eggs and then the eggs were hidden so the kids could search for them.

Another version dates back to the Anglo-Saxon period, where it was said that the pagans placed colored eggs and seeds on the altar each spring to honor Ostara, their goddess of fertility. In connection with this ceremony, Ostara changed her pet bird into a rabbit for the spring equinox and the rabbit laid bright and colorful eggs for the children.

The traditions of the Easter Bunny and eggs were adopted by early Christians as an attempt to convert pagans to Christianity. German and Dutch settlers brought the tradition to this country in the 1700s.

I always thought that all the Easter Bunny stories were just the commercial side of Easter and it had nothing to do with religion, but in ancient cultures and in more modern times, the Easter Bunny and eggs signified that spring was a time of reawakening and rebirth. Isn't that what Easter morning's resurrection signifies, as well?

Steve Maanum can be reached at sdmaanum@

unitelc.com.

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