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WINGIN’ IT By Kate Crowley photos Mike Link Typically the earliest arrivals in spring migration are waterfowl; Canada geese, followed by the myriad duck species.  We recently drove over the Moosehorn River north of Willow River and saw both geese and mallard ducks swimming about.  The rivers are opening up earlier this year which allows waterfowl to position themselves for prime territory before the lakes are ice free.  In recent years more and more people are seeing Trumpeter swans arriving with the other waterfowl. A couple weeks ago I heard one woman tell another about the swans that were out on the ice on Sturgeon Lake.  Her husband was concerned about their condition and was about to go out and check on them when they took off.  On the same day that we saw the geese and ducks on the river we spotted six Trumpeters in a stubble corn field.  It was an odd sight - not where we expect to see these large birds, but they were probably scavenging for leftover grain. The story of our Trumpe…

St Patrick's day bird thoughts

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WINGIN’ IT By Kate Crowley
Let me tell you a little bit about how my brain works and the challenge I face every two weeks when a column is due.  The week before I start thinking of possibilities.  The closer it gets, the more my brain and eyes search for possibilities. Sometimes it’s really simple because a unique bird or behavior appears; more often it’s like this; ME: The article is coming out right before St. Patrick’s Day – a most important holiday because of my ancestry – what could I write about that relates to that and birds?  St. Patrick is famous for driving the snakes (paganism) out of Ireland, not the birds; so that’s out.  What about green?  Hmmm --- the only green birds that I know of are parrots or parakeets – I have seen them in various places, not here of course, I wonder why there are so few green plumed birds in the world;   Lots of people keep these types of birds as pets……. (then wandering past the windows as I’m thinking) Wow! Look at what the sun is doing to the fe…

Sense of Place

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GOING NATURE’S WAY By Kate Crowley I am intrigued by the idea of Sense of Place; to feel completely ‘at home’ in one particular place.  I have read that people who grow up on the Great Plains feel claustrophobic when they are in forested environments and in reverse,  people who have grown up surrounded by forest find the openness of the plains unnerving, with nothing to break the view to the horizon. I grew up in the city, but the Minnehaha Creek and Parkway were just two blocks away and I spent countless hours playing and exploring there.  The city lakes were within biking distance. The Mississippi River was just blocks away from the apartment where I lived the first four years of my life.  When I was 36 I married Mike and moved to our current home and it was perfect.  When my dad first visited us in our new home, he said, “Kate must think she’s died and gone to heaven”.  This is where I am supposed to be.  Scientists who have studied the evolution of humanity have proposed that over th…

WAXWINGS

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WINGIN’ IT By Kate Crowley In a recent column I talked about the unexpected encounters with birds that add to our daily enjoyment of nature.  A week ago Mike and I were out cross-country skiing near our house when we heard a flock of birds making an unfamiliar sound.  We stopped and looked up into the top of a Jack Pine and saw them moving from branch to branch. Because it was a sunny day, it was hard to see their colors clearly because they were so strongly backlit, but we both came to the conclusion that they were Waxwings.  The question was; Cedar or Bohemian?  Neither one of us had binoculars, but Mike has better long distance vision than me and he was able to see their features better.  In order to bring them closer I started ‘pishing’.  I have talked about this technique before.  It is just as it sounds.  You purse your lips and make a ‘pishing’ sound –sort of like ‘shushing’ someone in the library, but using a ‘p’ at the front.  In more cases than not, this sound will intrigue th…

The Cardinal comes calling

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``WINGIN’ IT
By Kate Crowley By mid-January we are beginning to feel the oppression of too little color in our lives. The scene outside the windows is white/brown/gray, with some green thrown in if you are lucky enough to have conifers on your property. One of the ways we deal with this monotone world is by encouraging the blooms of Hyacinths – those ubiquitous boxed bulbs found in stores before the Christmas holidays. I have two from previous years that have refused to regenerate new flowers, though they are supposed to. Mike on the other hand has one plant in his office that he started from a seed given to him by a cousin and said to be from his Great Grandmother. For two years in a row now, it has produced the most beautiful coral/orange blossoms – 7 this year! I have a new Hyacinth my mom gave me this November which has just opened its first flower – in a gorgeous red and white stripe pattern. Since Mike’s office has east facing windows and apparently the right touch with water an…

The year of the Pileated

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WINGIN’ IT By Kate Crowley
Photos by Mike Link I decided that the first bird I saw this morning (January 1) would be my bird for the year – as in the Chinese New Year custom, i.e., Year of the Rooster, Year of the Ox, etc.  I was in my usual morning location – reading in bed when I saw a flash of black pass over the skylight.  It could have been a crow, but I didn’t see it well enough to ID with certainty, so I thought I’d wait for a definite sighting.  A moment or two later there was a loud pounding on the front of the house.  Mike yelled upstairs, “Is that you?”  I let him know it wasn’t as I went into my office to open a window and shoo away what by now I knew to be a Pileated Woodpecker.  As I reached the window the large black and white bird flew off to a nearby dead aspen where it gripped the trunk and looked around.  So – this is the Year of the Pileated, which I will consider auspicious since these largest of the woodpecker family are strong, striking and with the behavior of a m…

Air, water and Sun

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GOING NATURE’S WAY By Kate Crowley
As one calendar year ends and another begins many of us take stock of where we’ve been and where we hope to be (literally as well as philosophically) in the coming year.  I would hope that everyone would also stop and think about all that our earth and our fiery star gives us.  Every day we get up and take a deep breath of oxygen without a second thought. In one day, the average adult takes 17,000-30,000 breaths per day.   Clean, breathable air; how much does that mean to you?  Then you head into the bathroom where you brush your teeth using this incredible life sustaining resource called water. Depending on what report you read, we are told that the average American drinks anywhere from 2.5 cups to 4 cups of water per day.  And we never question the safety of our water, although there may be more anxiety about this since the people of Flint, Michigan found theirs was severely polluted with lead. And then there is the sun.  Though it has hidden behind …