Sometimes called by their nickname, "butcher bird"—although I've never been one to call them that—few birds in Minnesota are as rarely seen or understood as shrikes are. A bird of interesting, albeit implausible, habits, their appearance, peaceful-seeming dispositions, and anatomical features bespeaks of the songbird they are rather than the raptor they behave like.
Before I begin, I want to thank each and every one of you for taking time out of your busy day to read my "wildlife weekly." Over the years it has been a great privilege of mine to spend a couple of hours each week to write about a topic, observation, or experience that I hope you'll enjoy.
I recently spent some time inside a ground blind hunting deer in northwest Minnesota, mainly to escape subzero wind-chill factors and blowing snow. The other reason was to hunt in the open landscape where concealment was critical if I were to go unnoticed by deer either nearby or far away.
There are only a few species of wild birds that garner the attention and admiration as those wild birds that are colored red or blue. Think of the scarlet tanager, or the eastern bluebird. Both species are brilliantly plumaged and a joy to observe in nature.
With wildlife viewing, being in the right place at the right time (along with a lot of luck!) is often what spells the difference between observing something unique and missing it altogether.
In a Cree Indian creation story of how cranes acquired their red crowns and long legs, a rabbit wished to go to the moon and asked many birds to help him get there, but no bird could help out. Crane eventually offered to take Rabbit to the moon, so Rabbit grasped Crane's legs and up they went. Once the pair arrived at the moon, Rabbit wanted to give a gift of thanks to Crane, so he touched Crane's head, causing it to become red. And because of Rabbit's weight, the legs of Crane became stretched. And to this day, all crane heads are red and their legs are long.
On a recent October three-day weekend at my Kittson County hunting camp, I was overwhelmed by my good fortune. The grouse hunting was very good, work was getting accomplished, and the weather was the nicest I've ever remembered — bluebird sky and warm and dry. I was in heaven. Or so I thought. After spending most of one afternoon doing various tasks such as trail clearing, brush cutting, and moving and repairing a few deer stands, it was time to return to camp, grab a quick bite to eat, and change my clothes for an evening grouse or deer hunt.
Following another long day at work this past week, staying late and leaving the office for home as the autumn sun began its rapid descent to the western horizon, I didn't think I'd have time to slip out to the woods for a last-hour ruffed grouse hunt on one of my favorite trails.
Some childhood images persist in our minds long into adulthood. Those endless summers spent doing whatever are but a blur for most of us, yet bits and pieces of those carefree years can be remembered as if they happened just yesterday. I can still see the look on the man's face. He was raking his lawn while I was pedaling my bicycle down the street of my Coon Rapids, Minnesota neighborhood two years before we moved to our Otter Tail County dairy farm. I was just eight years old.
Common, yet rarely observed, few species of Minnesota's mammals are as revered as they are feared as the American black bear. Though keeping mostly to themselves, these "black ghosts of the forest" are the most abundant and widely distributed of the three species of bears that inhabit our continent.