Pine, evening grosbeaks bring warm glow to feeders
Sue Hillberg, who lives on Highway 113, saw seven pine and more than 13 evening grosbeaks on her platform feeder Nov. 29. It's the exact opposite ratio over at the home of Delores and Milton Knudson on Lake Itasca. They have numerous pine grosbea...
Sue Hillberg, who lives on Highway 113, saw seven pine and more than 13 evening grosbeaks on her platform feeder Nov. 29.
It's the exact opposite ratio over at the home of Delores and Milton Knudson on Lake Itasca. They have numerous pine grosbeaks but say the evening grosbeak numbers seem to be down a little this year. They also regularly see red- and white-breasted nuthatches, chickadees, goldfinches and blue jays.
Sounds like a pretty nice crowd to me.
I saw and heard a variety of cool things this past week.
n Thursday, Nov. 29, I saw my first sun dog of the season around 4:15 p.m. on the way out of Lake George. I only saw the "southern dog." Then, when I got home to the meadow and was sweeping snow off the patio, I heard coyotes howling in the distance.
n Friday, Nov. 30, I saw a mature bald eagle wheeling low through a field just north and west of Osage.
n Saturday, Dec. 1, I watched a blanket of about 10 inches of snow fall and cover up all the hibernating amphibians. OK, so I couldn't really see the wood frogs and spring peepers sleeping under leaf litter and logs, or the American toads burrowed in the ground past the frost line, but I knew they are there, and I knew they appreciated the cozy blanket of snow.
I bet northern short-tailed shrews also appreciated the insulating snow. They can now tunnel through it and make pathways to good food sources. As long as they stay under the snow, the temperature right next to the ground will always be right around 32 degrees.
The subnivean space that so many little animals depend on for winter survival requires at least 6 inches of snow cover. After Tuesday's round of snowfall, we now have more than twice that amount in the meadow.
n Monday, Dec. 3 I saw a small flock of snow buntings explode off the side of Highway 71 between Lake George and Kabekona.
Last Saturday's paper included a report from the National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy about 37 Minnesota birds that need "top-priority conservation attention to ensure their continued survival." That article mentioned five birds that regularly breed in Minnesota, including the piping plover, yellow rail, short-eared owl and golden-winged and cerulean warblers.
Unfortunately, the list does go on. Some other birds from our area that have been classified as "Minnesota Species of Greatest Conservation Need" or "US Fish and Wildlife Service Region 3 Priority Species" include the horned grebe, American white pelican, American bittern, northern goshawk, black-billed cuckoo, red-headed woodpecker, wood thrush, trumpeter swan and whippoorwill.
Even though we see many trumpeter swans, the species was once "extirpated" from our state and is only now present again as a result of reintroduction efforts. According to the "Minnesota Action List" on the Minnesota Audubon Web site www.mnaudubon.org , there are about 2,000 trumpeters in the state, but the bird still concerns conservationists because it is "vulnerable to habitat loss, lead poisoning, and illegal shooting."
You all can guess I was alarmed to see whippoorwills on the list, since I enjoy hearing them so much on summer nights. The decline in whippoorwill numbers is occurring nationwide, and it is being blamed on "habitat changes, forest fragmentation and spraying for insects." Since there is not much information available about these birds in Minnesota, Audubon is noting the need to learn more.
For a full listing of the species of concern in the state, visit mn.audubon.org and click on the story, "Some of the US's Most Imperiled Birds Make Their Home in Minnesota."
OK, here's the first stanza of my woodpecker Christmas carol, set to the tune of "The Little Drummer Boy."
Drum they told me, rat tat tat tat tat
Drill a nest cavity, rat tat tat tat tat
A hole that's 4 inches wide, rat tat tat tat tat
Where mom and kids can abide, rat tat tat tat tat
Rat tat tat tat tat, rat tat tat tat tat
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 email@example.com .
This column is brought to you by Park Ace Hardware.
Ace the Holiday Helpful Place has gifts for everyone on your list. Stop in and see us today.
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.