Where have all the humans gone?
As everyone knows, the weather has been very strange for some time now and many creatures of all types are lying low, or whatever they do, just to survive. So who knows what I will write about this month.
I recently noticed that I had not seen much of several neighbors or park walkers that I would often see and talk to. I assume this is because of the weather. Usually I realize this in the middle of winter when I don’t see many people except when shoveling snow or helping a neighbor or stranger get a car unstuck in the street or alley. And that didn’t happen much last winter. So I guess this means I will soon become a complete hermit and only be talking to various small creatures such as toads, birds, butterflies, mice, etc. But for now I will try to write a little bit for my nonexistent readers.
The Cooper’s Hawk family seemed to all do well. I would see one or more of them often, for some of the month, including one spending some time standing in a few inches of water on the north side of the island for some reason. I have not seen any in the park for the last 10 days.
I have seen the usual Mallards and Wood Ducks most days but of course the colorful adult male Wood Ducks have all gone up north with “the boys” as they do every summer. The Canada Geese, young and old, have completed their molt, and the young ones, their flight training. Now the entire group leaves the lake on many evenings, going I don’t know where (somewhere southeast), and once in a while, staying away all day.
The Herons are at the park most days, but often out of sight. The Great Blue Heron is of course the biggest, most forward and easiest to see, but even he (or she) is sometimes hiding. The Black-crowned Night Herons are mostly hiding. I am quite sure there are one or two Green Herons on the island most days, but they really stay hidden a lot. I have not seen a Great Egret in the park for some time. The best time for seeing Herons is, unfortunately, sunrise, although one hot dark night (July 26) I heard quite a vocal dispute between the Great Blue Heron and a Black-crowned Night Heron. Soon after, I got a good look at the Great Blue Heron fishing in the northwest corner of the lake.
I saw a Ring-billed Gull in and around the lake several times early in July. In early July and a few hundred miles away (southeast), I saw a lot of immature Ring-billed Gulls, but I have never seen an immature Ring-billed at Powderhorn.
Chimney Swift numbers are actually increasing over the lake as summer goes on, a really good thing as they eat lots of insects. Chimney Swift numbers are declining a lot lately in the U.S. because of habitat problems. I have probably mentioned this before: I want to get our neighborhood to join in creating some Chimney Swift housing if the world keeps going long enough to do that.
Another fly-like-mad, hardly-ever-stopping, insect-eating bird is the Nighthawk. I mentioned earlier this year that I had seen and heard a couple of Nighthawks passing by the neighborhood on a couple of evenings. Lately, I have heard, and once in a while seen, Nighthawks in other parts of South Minneapolis, but I have not seen them happily going crazy chasing insects around Powderhorn street lights late in the evening, as they used to do a few years ago.
I have also still not seen bats in Powderhorn this year. I remember not seeing any until National Night Out one year, so maybe I will see them next week on National Night Out (Aug. 7). Of course, the 3500 block of 14th & 15th Avenues will, as always, have the best Night Out party. Minutes ago, I talked with our block-residing fire dancing expert, who, along with her fellow expert fire dancers, will again provide some of the great entertainment for our well-above-average blocks.
Early in July, while staying at my Eagan Estate, or rather at my house-sitting job at a former Powderhorn neighbor’s Eagan Estate, I did see bats, many buzzing right past my head, and did see a moderate number of fireflies, lots more than the one firefly I have seen at Powderhorn. Next month (September), I am going to be passing through an area of eastern Iowa where I once saw thousands and thousands of fireflies. Of course, I don’t know if it will be good firefly conditions then.
Back to Powderhorn and the Powderhorn backyard. The usual backyard songbirds seem to be doing OK in the difficult weather. Lots of Goldfinches, House Finches, Cardinals, House Sparrows, Chickadees and some Downy Woodpeckers are often at the feeders and bird “water feature.” Nuthatches are appearing both in the yard and the park lately. They may be around all summer but I hadn’t seen any for quite a while. And the Song Sparrows and Chipping Sparrows in the park seem to be doing OK. For years, the Song Sparrows in the park seemed to hide from me. Lately some have come within a few feet of me. The backyard birds come quite close on these hot days, including this warm evening when I was writing this piece in the backyard until dark.
I have not seen Todd the Toad in the backyard lately, but I did see a way larger toad late in July. But for all I know about toads, which is not much, Todd could have grown a lot. The toads in the park seem to be surviving well, but I have not seen the lots of tiny toad babies that appear some years. I have no idea if the weather is affecting the toad reproduction.
And as I often report in July, various birds, usually shorebirds, have already started migrating from the very far north (the Arctic) and a few have already come to Minnesota. As far as I know, none have ever come through Powderhorn in July.
By the time this comes out, the Powderhorn Art Fair will have just ended. I hope it has gone well for all residents, organizers, artists and the other people who are not lucky enough to live here.
Comments and observations are always welcome. Send them to me, in care of Southside Pride. Thank you.