I could start by complaining about the weather, as I have many times lately, but I guess that won’t do much good.
Or, I could start by saying I haven’t been spending as much time in the park as usual, which is true, but I have been spending a lot of time outdoors. Mostly when I was outdoors, I was shoveling varying amounts of snow in very cold and windy conditions. And shoveling also for various neighbors who have been and/or are still gone for short-to-long periods of time. This gives me a chance to keep up on the yard birds, and I am seeing many more yard birds than park birds lately.
On some of my park walks, I have seen zero birds, or sometimes varying numbers of Crows, but none stopping by the park. Late in November and early in December, on a few occasions, I would see a few Mallards or a few Canada Geese making inspection flights over the lake and giving up and going away as soon as they saw the total ice conditions. I did see a pair of Brown Creepers on a Cottonwood late in November.
I have seen many Crows passing over on their northeasterly late afternoon commutes, but I didn’t see any large gatherings of Crows congregating in Powderhorn in December. I suppose I could have missed those. On a few December days, moderate numbers of Crows have made various backyard, frontyard and rooftop daytime stops in the neighborhood. In a recent Star Tribune story about Crows, Sharon Stiteler, a part-time ranger with the National Park Service and author of the Birdchick blog (and also my former manager at a bird store), estimated that there were 400,000 Crows gathering west of downtown Minneapolis in the winter of 2010.
The yard birds seem to be surviving the winter so far. The usuals are Cardinals, Goldfinches, Juncos, Chickadees and English Sparrows. I have seen no Brown Creepers in the yard, which I have seen in various other years. Of course, there are rabbits and grey squirrels, which don’t count as birds, but do steal my bird seed.
We did make a last- day-of-November down-the-Mississippi-River trip and saw many Bald Eagles, but the icing conditions were such that we did not get many good views of the ducks, geese and Tundra Swans that were still present.
Back to Powderhorn
The City Pages weekly newspaper Winter Guide in early December named Powderhorn Park for two of their top winter events. Sledding at the Park ranked No. 15 and the Powderhorn Art Sled Rally, on Jan. 25 this year, was named the No. 4 event. The Art Sled event has nothing to do with birds but it has all kinds of creative Powderhorn-type people, is lots of fun and you might see some birds or other signs of nature if you attend.
Another Powderhorn event, which has nothing to do with winter, is the Fourth of July fireworks show. There probably will be big changes this year and the changes will be discussed at the January Community Café meeting on Thursday, Jan. 23, at the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association office (821 E. 35th St.). The meeting starts at 6 p.m. and has been the topic of much discussion on the Powderhorn Neighbors Forum on e-democracy.com.
I spent a lot of my paperboy summer income on “legal in South Dakota” fireworks in my misspent youth in South Dakota and I still like good fireworks. After moving to Minneapolis, the July 4 fireworks are what got me to Powderhorn Park the first time, but after living and participating in the neighborhood for more than 30 years in the neighborhood, I have grown to value the nature, birds, bugs and animals much more than the noise and mess of one evening. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.
I hope you are all surviving the winter.
Comments and observations are always welcome. Send them to me, in care of Southside Pride. Thank you.