Great Blue Herons, toads and the ‘Dalliance of Eagles’
Last month I started with a complaint about not seeing many neighbors and park walkers because of the extreme weather.
August has not been quite as extreme and I have seen more people, but the weather has still been hard on many people and other living creatures and plants.
The usual three kinds of Herons have been pretty regular at Powderhorn but with some behavior differences. The Great Blue Heron has been on the lake or island almost every day I have been there. Then last night I did not see him (or her). Then I saw a large bird overhead going west. I got the bird in my binoculars and it was a Great Blue Heron, probably 150 feet above me and just passing over the lake. I have no idea if it was the usual Great Blue, but it had not started its very high flight from the lake. The two to three or four Black-crowned Night Herons are around but often out of sight. The two Green Herons, which spent most of spring and summer hiding, are now often in plain sight, sometimes nearby on the water, or on the cement railing around a portion of the lake. I saw a Green Heron catch a medium-size Goldfish, but the fish got away as the Heron tried to take it to shore, as they always do, to eat.
The Canada Geese group that started with four adults and a bunch of goslings now has about 65 or 70 geese (I don’t know if they all started out as Powderhorn Geese) and they don’t stay in Powderhorn all night. But for some reason, a couple of days ago, one Canada Goose remained by itself and left later, in the usual southeast direction. Of course, Double-crested Cormorants, from two to 10, are almost always on the lake or island.
The ducks are the usual Mallards and Wood Ducks, with almost all of the mature male Wood Ducks gone “up north” for most of the summer. I have seen a few times what I assume are the Cooper’s Hawks from the Powderhorn family. In mid-August, I saw a Cooper’s Hawk hassling one member of the fairly regular three-member Crow family and, the next day, I saw a Cooper’s Hawk hassling the usual (I assume) Ring-billed Gull that checks out Powderhorn. I assume this is just a young hawk practicing and learning, as I saw some do a few years ago hassling a Great Blue Heron. Both the Hawks and the birds being hassled seem to know that the hassled birds are too big and mean to be taken by the young hawks.
Also, mid-month, I saw a Spotted Sandpiper on the island, making its return southern migration from way up north. Another mid-month find was a Kingfisher. I heard a sound and saw something on the island, and then my really skilled birding neighbor said he had seen a Kingfisher, and I realized that is what I had seen and heard.
A fairly good number of Chimney Swifts have been over the park and neighborhood many days and evenings of August.
The usual regulars—Chickadees, Goldfinches, House Finches, Downy Woodpeckers, Cardinals and English Sparrows—have been regulars in the yard with a couple of new arrivals. I sometimes mention the Nuthatches in the backyard and the park, and I usually just call them Nuthatches because they are always the same White-breasted Nuthatches. A few days ago (August 28), a Red-breasted Nuthatch came through, just as “the bird tape” was saying that Red-breasted Nuthatches were migrating through the state. The Red-breasted Nuthatches are somewhat smaller than the White-breasted, have an eye stripe, a slightly more nasal voice (as the bird books say), and of course a red breast. A person can walk up close to them, about 5 feet, the same as you can with a White-breasted, when they are at the bird feeder. A House Wren also made a few mid-month visits to the block and the yard, the first Wren I have seen in the yard for several years.
On the few wet evenings we have had in August, I have seen toads in the park and the yard, but not in the numbers I would see on a really wet night. During the very pleasant Powderhorn Art Fair, someone, possibly a group of toads, bought a very nice toad house at the fair and placed it in the backyard. I am not sure the toads are using it yet, but they are a fairly secretive group.
A non-neighborhood bird item: The National Eagle Center on the Mississippi River in Wabasha, Minn., is celebrating its fifth anniversary on Sept. 29 and 30 (Saturday and Sunday). There are various events both days with live Eagles and other raptors, various artists and photographers, a Native Hoop Dancer and who knows what else. They can be reached at www.nationaleaglecenter.org. I hope to make it to some or all of the celebration.
Other eagle information: On Aug. 18, we made a strange but interesting trip (not a birding trip) to somewhat northwest of the Twin Cities and then somewhat southwest of the Cities. Over the Minnesota River and river valley, a little northwest of Belle Plaine, we saw a pair of mature Bald Eagles doing what I would call an acrobatic flying duet (see “Dalliance of Eagles” below). Maybe one was the spring Powderhorn Eagle, with a mate he or she had found to take back to Powderhorn. The next day on a trip to see a friend’s lake place, we saw a single Bald Eagle near Lake Pokegama. Maybe this was the spring Powderhorn Eagle, still looking for a mate to bring back here. I encouraged all three birds to come back here.
Now back to the fantastic Powderhorn neighborhood. Of course, our National Night Out block party on Aug. 7, which does include people from blocks to the east and west of us who are fortunate enough to live close to our block, was the best one in the city or probably the country. We had attendees (neighbors) from four continents, I realized afterwards. If I had asked, we very well could have had people from five or six continents, or if I counted people from past years. Of course, we had our City Council person, along with a representative of our U.S. representative. Next year, I will try to see that we have our now new Minnesota state senator and our now new Minnesota state representative and our county commissioner (the latter who often does come to the get-together). Then of course we had a very professional fire department crew (all male this time) from Station 5 on Bloomington and 27th Street. The firemen answered all kinds of questions from kids and adults, and carefully explained the equipment and how it is used. They let any kid (or adult for that matter) monkey with anything as long as it was not dangerous. Many people like it when female firefighters show up; this time, for variety, two female police officers arrived on horseback while the firemen were here. Of course, this whole event was ended with an outstanding fire dance performance by our neighbor, the Fire Mama, and one of her associates. This fire group, the Minneapolis Fire Collective, quite large in all, is gone right now to perform at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada.
This was of course all well and good until I learned three days later that another Minneapolis block party had Native American dancers. I was in shock and almost collapsed on the soon-to-be-repaired Powderhorn Park sidewalk when I heard this. I now have a new plan to add Native American dancers next year. We have a Native American on our block that I sometimes see at Powwows (wacipis) and of course when I wasn’t being raised by wolves I grew up near the Plains Indians in South Dakota. For a final touch I would like to have a very small herd of buffalo corralled in the middle of our block.
After some people read this month’s writing, there may be thoughts that the heat has gotten to me, and that may be correct.
The Dalliance of the Eagles
SKIRTING the river road, (my forenoon walk, my rest,)
Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of the eagles,
The rushing amorous contact high in space together,
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling,
Till o’er the river pois’d, the twain yet one, a moment’s lull,
A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing,
Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse flight,
She hers, he his, pursuing.
Comments and observations are always welcome. Send them to me, in care of Southside Pride. Thank you.