That was a result of 170 miles of hapless travel through Le Sueur, Nicollet, Scott and Sibley counties; within eight towns and burroughs; past and around seven lakes, countless large ponds; and in the end … not a single white pelican (our quest) in the azure sky or alighted upon a water quiet lake waters.

Great blue herons were on our hunting list as well. Same result. Negative report.

Often, with early ice-out, pelicans, symbolic fish-gobbling bird species, would be feasting their way west and north. Not so, spring of 2021, not so. Normally, pellies may be found on the former Le Sueur Water Treatment ponds. This year, the ponds are almost dry, as the Minnesota River has been curtailed of its entry into the ponds, usually delivering all manner of Pisces.

Yet this spring, record low water, if any, was in the pond. Besides that, last October, hundreds of pelicans feasted day after day in said ponds until few fish remained, and the bald eagles finished off the bones come February/March of 2021, their numbers being on the upswing. One expects Lake Elysian, Clear Lake at Lexington, Jefferson, Emily, and others water bodies to abound in the white frigates as they feast their way north and west.

To add insult to injury, second bird species on our list were great blue herons. Search as we might, nary a slate-blue long legged frog-lover in sight. A considerable heronry has developed over the years east of Hwy. 6 and the intersection with Hwy. 25 near Belle Plaine. Empty sloppy stick nests have been obvious in that area in weeks gone by, with a few scout herons flapping about, but not on Easter Sunday, 2021.

A shallow marsh presents itself at the south end of the golf course on Lake Emily, and the rumbling of a number of frog species drowned out the cheering of red-winged blackbirds…but no herons were seeking breakfast there. In fact, if there had been a contest on this particular morning, Trumpeter swans would have won the bout feathers down. On every marsh with a sizeable open water centerpiece, swan couples were observed dipping for cattail and other roots, or exchanging verbal insults with the many Canada geese gabbling about. These two species are not compatible with one another, leading to feathers flying in the wind when nesting competition occurs.

Our church goals having been fulfilled, with peace descendant upon the land, a heartening sight was that of church parking lots plumb full of autos, testimony that after a long year of hermithood, people are anxious to gather to rejoice in new life. Curly-wooled lambs, unsteady calves suckling their mothers, ducks and geese noisily chasing about, the wicked drying winds of the first week of April were forgotten.

With many peaceful miles traveled, not a single instance of an agriculturalist preparing dry farmlands was encountered other than a single tractor pulling a load of natural barnyard fertilizer down a gravel road, leaving a trail of ‘stuff’ behind. This a gift of wonderful residue for the earth upon the arrival of a spring rain.

Which leads us to a wonderful but humbling experience of the past week. A cheery rural neighbors made contact on an early April evening asking for an identification of a white duck in the company of a dozen Canada geese on a small pond near their property. Hastening to the scene of the mystery, we discovered there was indeed a white duck apparently being escorted and guarded by a goose squadron.

In fact, at times, the geese surrounded the duck as if to protect it from onlookers. Was the winged wonder an escapee from a nearby farm? Could it be a small mallard with two protruding black rear feathers? Muscovy ducks are sometimes white, but rarely fly any distance. Long story short, we immediately contacted Chad Heins, professor at Bethany College, who has been incredibly helpful on past occasions identifying bird species.

His immediate response was, “It’s not a duck, it’s a goose, a Ross’s Goose.” Well blow us over with a pinfeather! It seems that a Ross’s goose is a small snow goose, probably migrating to the Arctic. They often migrate with their cousins, snow geese, but through the Dakotas, Canada, and hence to the north. In fact, there are so many of this kind of goose, that there is now a spring and autumn hunting season for their kind, as they are denuding a spot in the Arctic of all vegetation!

What was the bird doing in Le Sueur County, Tyrone Township, Pumpkin Hill Road Pond? Go figure!

Eyes and ears to the skies, nose to the ground. Woof!

Art and Barb Straub are local naturalists, spending time observing and recording wildlife in the area. The couple lives together in Le Sueur. Questions? Call 507-665-2658.

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