Dick Herfindahl: A true story about the birds and the bees

Published 5:35 pm Friday, June 28, 2019

Woods & Water by Dick Herfindahl


This year as we celebrate the Fourth of July we should take the time to pause and reflect on why we are celebrating. Not only are we celebrating our forefathers who created the Declaration of Independence, but we should honor those that have fought to keep our many freedoms that we enjoy today.

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I have said it many times before, it is so good to see all of the folks that are getting out and enjoying the many resources that we have in our community. They can be seen fishing the shores of Fountain Lake and the surrounding waters, biking, rollerblading, hiking and jogging the trails and paths of the area, kayaking, boating and swimming in our lakes. More and more folks seem to be taking advantage of all of the outdoor activities that our community has to offer.

I have always been amazed at the amount of wildlife that abounds right in my own backyard. I have two bird feeders in my front yard, which are popular not only to the common house sparrow, but also black capped chickadees, nuthatches, finches and the (not my favorite) blackbird. There are also a pair of cardinals and a pair of mourning doves that visit each day. At some point in time a flock of pigeons has moved into the neighborhood and occasionally they will visit the feeders as well. There are also a good number of rabbits and, of course, there is a never-ending supply of squirrels.

At times my yard, although not huge in size, can almost resemble a miniature wildlife sanctuary. The other morning I had gotten up at 5:30, which is my regular time to greet each day, when I noticed the birds in my backyard were in a frenzy and chirping noisily as if something had scared them. As I looked out the deck door to see what was causing such a commotion, I spotted what looked like a bobcat prowling (more like strutting) across the backyard between mine and my neighbor’s yards. I thought back to a time this past winter when I had spotted fresh prints in the snow alongside the house. These prints were way too big to be a cat and resembled a larger version of a cat’s print. I took a picture of them and sent the picture to my brother-in-law Lynn in Alaska. I reasoned with all of his hunting and trapping ability he could help identify them. He contacted me and said that they definitely looked like bobcat tracks. I never did spot any more of them that winter, but I knew he had to be right because of their size and how far that they had sunk down into the snow. I reasoned that the animal that had made them was a lot larger than the common house cat.

Over the years, I have taken many morning walks around the neighborhood and in the course of time I have seen deer, muskrat, woodchucks and once I even had a fox walking down Newton Avenue in the middle of the street while I walked on the sidewalk adjacent to it. I guess that just goes to show that you don’t have to live in the country to have all kinds of wildlife close by. I am always fascinated by wildlife and when I see a critter in what I consider to be out of its natural habitat, I find it intriguing.


Pollinators are key to Minnesota’s environmental health

I believe everyone at one time or another has seen a “bumble bee” and thought to themselves “I had better steer clear or I’ll get stung” and although there is a slim possibility that it could happen, they aren’t on the prowl looking for a human to sting. Without pollinators, we wouldn’t have some of our favorite foods. They are vital to a healthy environment. They’re also beautiful and fascinating to watch. They’re pollinators, and this week is dedicated to understanding, appreciating and helping them.

Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are needed to pollinate plants that provide Minnesota food crops such as fruits, vegetables and herbs. Some of these foods are important for wildlife, too. Black bears, for example, eat raspberries that are pollinated by bumble bees. Honey bees and native pollinators contribute millions of dollars to Minnesota’s agricultural economy.

Pollinators play a critical role in keeping our environment healthy. They help maintain the health of the many plants that stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. These plants also buffer waterways, store carbon, and provide habitat for other wildlife. Plus, flowering landscapes are beautiful. Without pollinators, our environment would look very different.

“Pollinators are so important, not just to flowers, but to our whole environment, and there are many simple things Minnesotans can do to help pollinators,” said DNR invertebrate ecologist Jessica Petersen.

To help pollinators:

• Plant a variety of flowers, especially those that are native to the area.

• Keep gardens blooming all season long; choose plants that provide pollen and nectar in the spring, summer and fall.

• Provide nesting sites by allowing dead branches and logs to remain, leaving bare earth for ground-nesting insects, or installing bee nesting blocks.

• Reduce pesticide use.

• Become a citizen scientist and help researchers collect data about pollinators and their habitat.

• Tell friends and family about pollinators and inspire them to take action.

Please remember to keep our troops in your prayers. We must not let ourselves forget those that are still putting themselves in harm’s way so that we can enjoy all of the wonderful freedoms that we have today.