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Portage Lake bald eagles feast on ice-fishing 'leftovers'

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outdoors Park Rapids, 56470

Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Bonnie and Glen Grant sent me an article about an unusual squirrel.

The Grants have a summer place on Loon Lake, also known as Thomas Lake, which I believe is down around Badoura. When the Grants aren't at the lake they live in Oklahoma and that's where the squirrel story originates.

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As you'll recall, Oklahoma had some terrible ice storms in December. There was tremendous property damage as well as damage to trees and the whole thing had a ripple effect.

"Many of our furry and feathered friends have lost their homes with the removal of the downed trees and bushes," Bonnie wrote.

She said one "upbeat" thing that happened after the ice storm was the appearance of an unusual red squirrel in a Tulsa neighborhood.

Or shall I say a Creamsicle squirrel?

Judging from the picture Bonnie and Glen sent from the paper, the squirrel has a white back and head, and an orange belly and under-tail.

The newspaper article says the Creamsicle squirrel fits in with all the other red squirrels in the neighborhood, and that people are guessing he's partially leucistic.

Leucism, or whitened or light pigmentation, doesn't have to affect all areas of an animal's fur or feathers. It can occur in patches or segments, leading to unique color patterns.

As I looked at the squirrel photo I did wonder about the squirrel's orange belly. Red squirrels usually have cream-colored bellies. Maybe it was just the contrast with his vanilla back that made the squirrel's belly appear orange. Or maybe nothing about this little guy is "usual."

Without all the downed tree limbs, this squirrel might have gone unnoticed. It sounds as though he brightened the day for a few people who had to clean up after the storm.

Speaking of

Speaking of day-brighteners, a couple of male cardinals have been eating breakfast and lunch at Jean Ballard's feeders up at Blue Lake. They come every day and have been spotted at other feeders in the area as well.

Marilyn and Paul Peterson watched as two mature bald eagles visited the east end of Portage Lake Jan. 11 and 12. Marilyn said someone had taken a fish house off the lake, and that the eagles were probably attracted leftover bait and fish remains.

We heard a barred owl in the woods around the meadow Saturday evening, Jan. 12, at dusk. The owl gave the standard, "Hoot, hoot, hut-hoo," call, sometimes described as sounding like, "Who cooks for you?"

Beer drinkers

Ok, I'm admitting it - that's what my husband and I call deer: beer drinkers.

We named them that as a result of the crazy way they dash out onto the road and because we had two deer hits in less than a year. After forking out $1,000 in deductibles, I started telling my husband things like, "Be on the lookout for fearless beer-drinking deer," and it gradually got shortened.

Anyway, this week Edric Clarke of Park Rapids forwarded me a funny photo of a couple of beer drinkers standing on the deck of someone's house. The deer just about had their noses pressed up to the sliding glass door as they peered through the glass at a curious housecat. The cat almost has its nose on the glass, too.

It's a cute picture and I wish I could print it. Like most e-mail forwards, though, it's impossible to tell where it came from.

Internet spring

If you can't afford a trip to Mexico to escape the winter doldrums, go to www.midwestfrogs.com and view the toad and frog videos. The Web site is sponsored by the Chicago Herpetological Society and it features videos produced by Ravenswood Media that show amphibians up close. You can watch as American toads, wood frogs, tree frogs and many other species inflate their throat sacs and call.

The close-up videos are amazing. For instance, I now know when a gray tree frog calls, his entire body vibrates. Spring peepers look entirely different: each peep looks like a single breath, like the peeper is blowing up a balloon.

If you have high speed Internet service, check out the Web site - and be sure to turn up the volume on your computer.

Thanks to all who wrote with news. When sending your reports, be sure to give your name and a little information on where you made your sighting. Send to maureeng@unitelc.com.

This column is brought to you by Park Ace Hardware.

Don't slip and slide, pick up your pair of Yak Tracks today. Slips easily over your shoes or boots to give you safe walking on slippery surfaces. Available at Park Ace Hardware.

Open seven days a week, Ace is located on Highway 71 south, Park Rapids, 732-4513. Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks.

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