Mallard freedom and Cardinal “Cheer” set tone for 09
It seems like forever since there has been open water or much of anything happening at the park, but I know that is not the case. I’m sure lots of dogs and dog walkers, skaters and others are enjoying the park and lots of crows are passing by each day, but I have not been there as often as usual.
On Dec. 7, I helped release two female Mallard ducks into the open water near the Black Dog power plant on the Minnesota River. The ducks had been at the Wildlife Rehab Center in Roseville. One of the two was a Powderhorn duck that my next-door neighbors had taken to the Rehab Center many months ago. If the Powderhorn duck had recovered when there were still ducks and open water on Powderhorn, it would have been released here. As it was, both ducks seemed to enjoy their new freedom. A mature Bald Eagle was watching and a small group of Mergansers were enjoying the open water. Later in December, there were eight species of gulls in that area along the Minnesota River but I did not see them.
Yard birding is going well so far this winter. The early and abundant snow means more birds are using feeders rather than finding natural food, but on really nasty days, there are few birds to be seen anywhere. There are the usuals, Cardinals, Juncos, Chickadees, Goldfinches, Downy Woodpeckers, English Sparrows and Pigeons, and there are some visits by Nuthatches, Crows, Blue Jays and, rare for the last few years, House Finches. Circumstantial evidence indicates that a Flying Squirrel is around, but I have not seen it yet. Last minute addition: In retrieving the morning paper today (Dec. 31), I heard the spring, or mating, Cardinal song, “What cheer, cheer, cheer.”
I and a couple of friends went on a successful Tundra Swan and Bald Eagle watching trip in mid-November along the Mississippi River, from Hastings to LaCrosse and back. There were thousands of swans this year, way more than last year, but not as many up-close viewing opportunities, and many ducks, geese, gulls and coots. Eagles were very common most anywhere near the river.
One thing that helps make up for the lack of birds in winter has been a fantastic series of sunsets, sunrises and moon-, star- and planet-watching opportunities. There was a pink sunset in early December that I could not begin to describe and a perfect set of sundogs on the morning of Dec. 15.
Thanks to those who told me they missed my columns. (I did not write a November or December column.)
As some may know, this has not been a very good year for me. In May, I wrote a little about losing my dad in April. In October, I lost my No. 1 fan, my mom. I could, and will, say the same things about her as I said about my dad. She taught me to keep reading, listening and learning with an open mind, and to participate in my neighborhood, community, government and the world, and to volunteer and give back. She obviously shared most life experiences with my dad for 68 years (except for WW II in Europe). I suppose I learned more about music and the arts from her and more about politics and government from my dad, but she knew all the politicians that dad knew and was reading the daily paper and every book she could get from the library until the last couple of days of her life.
Yes, I know this is a bird column, but I have one more personal note to share. On my last day of vacation in early October, I ended up in the emergency room 1,000 miles from home and Powderhorn Park. Medical people there thought it could be a minor infection, or something really bad. After 10 weeks and various very invasive and sometimes very painful procedures, it turns out not to be minor and conversely not to be cancer. Between various physical conditions and the “real winter,” this year I have not made nearly as many trips as usual to the park. There are some more things they (the medical people at the U of M) are going to do to me in January, but hopefully, I will be fine when spring and migrating birds return. I was planning on staying young forever, but, as I said earlier, this has been a hard year.
Happy New (and better) Year to everyone.
Comments and observations are always welcome. Send them to me, in care of the Southside Pride. Thank you.