Powderhorn Birdwatch “Growing up in the park”

hairy-woodpeckerBY JOHN KARRIGAN

My almost regular monthly beginning:  Once again, we had a lot of really strange weather last month. The lake is still very high. I believe all the land on the island was under water at some point and I know, on at least one day, lake water was over the northwest new sidewalk and onto the ball field area. Various people are concerned about the high water levels and maybe some of the birds and mammals are also concerned and affected by it. I know the songbird, heron and egret numbers seem to be down somewhat, but the Canada Geese, Mallards and Wood Ducks seem to be doing fine. The three goose pairs with litters (of two, six and seven goslings) are doing their somewhat usual communal family raising. I think the goslings will be starting their flying lessons soon. The male Wood Ducks have, as usual,    all gone up north, leaving      the females to raise the “kids.”  The male Mallards stick around, but they also leave most of the “kid” raising to the females. The Double-crested Cormorants are around in about their usual numbers, but the Cormorants do not raise their young at Powderhorn. They raise them in very large colonies, or rookeries, probably in some fairly faraway lakes or wetlands.
The Cooper’s Hawk family, nesting north of the park building, succeeded in hatching three or four new hawks. (I thought I once saw four; some say they have only three.) Anyway the new hawks are now doing basic close-to-the-nest flying and are growing like mad.
Chimney Swifts are back, and can be seen and heard over about any area of the park, looking for and catching flying insects, but there are not nearly as many as there have been in some past years, and they are often flying very fast and/or quite high.
Nighthawks are also back in various parts of the city, catching flying insects like mad, but like the Swifts, they are much more scarce in the neighborhood than they used to be, for some reason. Around dusk, you can hear their high-pitched buzzer-like sounds as they circle above.
And lastly, a belated report of a rather rare visitor: Last month I overlooked writing that a couple of good neighbors mentioned that a swan had visited Powderhorn Lake.
Now to some four-legged critters. The Minne the Lake Monster has returned to the lake after a long absence. When a Black-crowned Night Heron or a Great Blue Heron (more often) lands on the sea monster’s head, it produces an interesting effect, especially when the heron is facing the same direction as the sea monster.
Another four-legged-critter-at-the-lake item:  I was wandering around the lake after one rainy day, near the shore on the south side of the lake, where the big cement drain used to go into the lake. I was looking at something out on the water when my right foot suddenly went into the ground about 8 or 10 inches. I quickly moved my left foot to the left, yanked out my right foot, no problem, and then my left foot went down about 5 or 6 inches. I was quite sure I was not going to be sucked down into the quicksand, as in a Tarzan movie, but I was quite curious about why this happened as I quickly backed away. I was not in sand, just normal lakeshore growth. I would go by the area regularly on my walks. I could see my deep footprints and wonder why the heck this happened. Then a couple of weeks later, after of course more rainy days, I noticed a large hole had opened up there. The area is above a muskrat tunnel and den area. I knew there was an underwater muskrat entrance not too far away, but it never occurred to me, or probably to the muskrat, that the continuing rain and rising lake level was going to affect his home, or one of his homes. (They have more on the other side of the lake.)  The muskrats made it through the hard winter, but I have not seen any lately. They may be having trouble or they might think all this extra water is great.
On to more four-legged residents (of my block this time, not the park):  There were at least three rabbits on the block. That number could go down or up, but I think they are doing OK. One of the rabbits takes care of the lawn for some across-the-alley neighbors. He (or she) is naturally named Lawn Boy.
Another named four-legged block animal is Randy Raccoon. We had regular raccoons for some time, but not for several years. Last year, after the big storm, two raccoons came through a next-door neighbor’s yard. This year, on June 6, Randy (he doesn’t yet answer to this name) came through our yard.
Back to birds again. The backyard birds have been the usuals:  Goldfinches, House Finches, Chickadees, Chipping Sparrows, English Sparrows, Robins, Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Downy Woodpeckers, a few Blue Jays, and a great-looking male Hairy Woodpecker.
And now for something completely different …
I do not know why or if I should be writing this, but I am. There was a shooting in the park on Thursday evening, June 12. No one was hit, but bullets flew through the playground area near the corner of 15th Avenue and 35th Street. Many children and adults, some of whom I know and some who are neighbors, were in the playground. I had just walked through the area, as I often do. I then walked past a collection of young people who were obviously looking for trouble—with each other—and not showing any common sense or intelligence. Some of them headed west and the rest east, and I continued down the diagonal path down to the lake. About when I reached the main sidewalk around the lake, the west group fired a handful of shots at the east group, with the shots going through the playground area. I was nowhere near the shots, or either group, but I knew where the shots were coming from and quickly called 911. Lots of other people called 911 after they made sure that their children and friends were OK. And lots of police arrived. The police quickly found and arrested three people and may have found others by now. I. and various other people, talked to and were interviewed by the police.
A meeting about the shooting and other police and safety issues was held the following Monday (June 16) at the park. The meeting was well attended by neighbors and various park and police people. Hopefully the police will find everyone that was involved with this incident and all the good people will continue to use and enjoy the park. If I could sum up everything the good guys and gals at the meeting were saying I would say, “Use the different anti-crime services provided by police and government (such as block clubs, crime alerts, etc.), stay alert, use common sense, and call 911 over anything at all that does not seem right.”

Comments and observations are always welcome. Send them to me, in care of Southside Pride. Thank you.

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