Golden-slippered snowy egrets fly over a golf coursePublished 6:10am Sunday, June 30, 2013
My neighbor Crandall stops by.
“How are you doing?” I ask.
“Everything is nearly copacetic. It has rained enough to wrinkle the grass, reducing me to a quivering mass of envy because there are areas with better crops than mine. Then I remind myself that there is no point putting facial tissues under the weeping willows. You seem down. What’s the matter? Did your wife have her wedding ring appraised?”
“No, a deputy sheriff found 200 dead crows near the recycling center recently and there is concern that they may have died from poisoning,” I say.
“Stop worrying. If I whittle long enough on this stick, you’ll see my point. Some bird nerd, a veritable cesspool of useless information, examined the remains of the crows and determined the cause of death to be vehicular impacts. He noted that varying colors of paints appeared on the birds’ bodies. By analyzing the paint residues it was determined that 98 percent of the crows had been killed by collisions with trucks, while cars hit only 2 percent. The bird nerd explained the disproportionate percentages of truck kills versus car kills. When crows eat road kill, they post a lookout crow nearby to warn of impending danger. The problem was that while all the lookout crows could cry ‘car,’ not one of them could shout ‘truck.’”
Birding North Dakota
I was following my hood ornament in North Dakota when I saw large birds on a golf course. It goose without saying that they were Canada geese. On the “Beverly Hillbillies,” a golf course was called a golf pasture. Golden-slippered snowy egrets flew overhead. Watching birds moves me from coach to first class, even when behind the wheel of a car. I found myself singing, “When whippoorwills call and evening is nigh, I hurry to my Blue Heaven. A turn to the right, a little white light, will lead me to my Blue Heaven.” I was pleased to be headed to a Blue Heaven in Carrington, N.D., where I would marvel at the avian delights of the potholes and prairies.
Coyotes versus foxes
Stacy Adolf-Whipp is a Wildlife Refuge Specialist for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service at Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota. As we watched a red fox run, Stacy said that part of her job is to make sure that area produces ducks. She added that the fox, skunk and raccoon could cause problems in that endeavor. She would rather see a coyote. Her reasoning is that the coyotes drive the foxes from an area and that coyotes are lesser predators of ducks than are foxes.
Q & A
Dale Waltz of Rochester wondered why there are so many ticks this year. There are so many I can hear them ticking. Our housing locations often bring people and ticks together. An increase in deer means that when the deer travel, they take ticks with them. Dry years are tough on tick populations. Dale asked why spiders are in homes in the spring. Last fall, spiders took refuge in warm homes where there were insects to eat. The spiders we see this spring could have been hiding all winter. Spiders hunker down in closets, attics, basements or other secluded areas. Many spiders hatch in the spring. The mother may carry her young around on her back or build a protective nursery web until the spiderlings establish their own webs. The elimination of household pests such as flies, ants, beetles and gnats will lower spider numbers. Spiders can be eliminated by simple, non-chemical means. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove spiders and cobwebs. Seal cracks in the foundation and gaps in windows or doorways to deny spiders entrance. Spiders thrive in dark, cluttered places, so keep debris and woodpiles away from the house. Spiders aren’t bad houseguests. They’re trying to make your house a no-fly zone. We outweigh spiders many times and we’re much more likely to behave violently towards them than they are to us. It should be the spider who is creeped out by us, not the other way around.
Craig Rayman of Glenville told me of a living ash tree, felled in a storm, that proved to be filled with carpenter ant tunnels. He wondered about emerald ash borers. Ants get into a tree because of wet wood, which is dependent upon the ill health or injuries of the tree. Ants, except in rare cases, don’t harm trees. The emerald ash borer (EAB) is a nonnative invasive insect that destroys ash trees. A quarantine has been placed on Ramsey, Hennepin, Houston and Winona counties. Using ash wood for the manufacture of pallets and wood crating is prohibited in the quarantined areas, unless the wood is treated by state-approved methods. The sale or movement of ash nursery stock out of a quarantined area is prohibited. The signs of an EAB infestation include heavy woodpecker activity on the tree, dying branches in the top canopy, sprouts around the tree base, vertical cracks in the bark, S-shaped tunnels under the bark and 1/8-inch D-shaped exit holes in the bark. To report a possible EAB, call the Arrest the Pest Hotline at 888-545-6684.
Harvey and Kay Berg of Waseca asked where the orioles went that had been at their feeders. Baltimore orioles arrived at our feeders in the spring with hunger and song. Many were moving through, headed for nesting territories elsewhere. For those nesting locally, June brings fewer feeder visits while the orioles are busy incubating eggs and feeding protein-rich insects to nestlings. When the fledglings have left the nest, they and their parents visit feeders. When the young become independent, the parents molt and become secretive due to an increased susceptibility to predators. Peak migration is August into early September. Orioles need to fatten up for migration, so they hit the feeders to put on weight.
Thanks for stopping by
“The problem in my life and other people’s lives is not the absence of knowing what to do, but the absence of doing it.” — Peter Drucker
“The appearance of a familiar bird immediately awakens a train of forgotten associations.” — Louis J. Halle
Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. Email him at SnoEowl@aol.com.