When I was a boy at home and playing or working somewhere within earshot of Dad, when he wanted me for something, he'd whistle loudly. If I heard it, it meant that it was either suppertime or there was a chore or two to do. A distinctive whistle, I always knew it was Dad. One summer afternoon while exploring the small woodland behind the farmstead, I heard the familiar whistle and so I returned home. When I arrived and found Dad and asked him what he wanted, he answered, "Want what? I never called you." "Huh?" I said. "I never whistled. You must be hearing things."
Warblers belong to one of the most common and abundant avian groups, yet they're among the least easily observable wild birds, during the peak of Minnesota's short growing seasons after full leaf-out has occurred. Some species we tend to see much more often than others, such as the American redstart and yellow-rumped warbler. Others we strive to see just once, like perhaps the golden-winged warbler or blackburnian warbler.
A few days ago after a long day at work, I walked down to little Assawa Lake behind my house to say hello. My favorite month of June, nearly gone, replete with splendid greenery, warmth, and heavy with the scent of lush vegetation surrounding this serene and productive basin, provides an ambiance unlike at any other time of the year.
There are over 3,000 species of mosquitoes worldwide. About 176 of those species can be found in the United States. And of these 176, over 50 species call Minnesota home. Take heart though, because not all "skeeters" bite, and those that do are females. Some consolation, hey?
What a wonderful month June is. By now most resident and migrant songbirds are nesting. Some are feeding hungry mouths. And some of those little nestlings have already fledged. Two such species of wild birds are among them — the eastern towhee and the ovenbird. Most people familiar with eastern towhees first become aware of a towhees' presence by hearing them. Calling its name towhee throughout the thick understory of the forest is the common call-note drink-your-tea, but the towhee also calls chewink and joree.
Two more species of brilliantly plumaged neotropical migrant songbirds have returned to the northland once again — the scarlet tanager and the indigo bunting. Sights that are certain to delight, these birds are one of a kind. In fact, in 1951 the state legislature debated on designating the scarlet tanager as Minnesota's state bird. Ten years later, 1961, the common loon was adopted as the official state bird instead.
Without fail I observed my first Baltimore oriole around Mother's Day weekend. If memory serves, it seems that each spring I typically see hummingbirds a day or two before I catch sight of an oriole's vivid orange and contrasting black markings and hear the telltale call-notes of vocalizing males. A week following Mother's Day, something happened that I've never observed before. There evidently was a massive influx of migrating orioles to the countryside, because I wasn't the only bird lover that noticed it.
I stopped at the Becida Bar and Grill in downtown Becida recently for Taco Tuesday. Tasty tacos, a bowl of chips and salsa, and great conversation. Some friends and neighbors were there and it wasn't long and we were all talking about the welcome spring weather, wild birds, and other species of wildlife. One friend asked me, "What are ya gonna write about this week?" "Hmmm", I pondered, "I'm not sure yet. Have any ideas?" "Well", he answered, "ya wrote about hummingbirds last time, so ya can't write about them again."
Minnesota's tiniest wild bird, the beloved ruby-throated hummingbird, has made its way back to Minnesota in recent days. Although I haven't observed a hummingbird yet, a friend of mine 90 miles to the south reported seeing his first one on May 9. Indeed, by the time many of you read these words, I'll bet a 10 pound bag of sugar that some of you have observed your first "hummer" here in the northland, too.
About a week ago I heard the distinctive call of an eastern phoebe — "fee-bee ... fee-bee ... fee bee." Indeed, springtime has definitely arrived when this charming species of flycatcher arrives here in the northland. Known for the incessant jerking of their tail downward while perched, few other birds are as endearing as the eastern phoebe. This beloved species of bird that has a penchant for building their little nests on houses and other structures and objects, seemingly almost dependent on we humans for places to construct their delicate nests upon.