Powderhorn Birdwatch: Birds carry on in face of loss

Photo by Rebekah Teague.BY JOHN KARRIGAN

The Cooper’s Hawks seem to be the major bird and nature issue at Powderhorn for June, but there are others I will get to.
Five Cooper’s Hawks hatched about the time last month’s Southside Pride came out. I thought there were three hatched hawks, but the final number is five. They all seem to be doing well now, though there have been a few minor problems. A pair of good Powderhorn people found one of the young hawks on the ground (I believe on June 22) and called the Raptor Center (University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Science) and they promptly picked up the bird, checked everything out and soon returned the healthy young bird to its Powderhorn home. There are lots of good people in Powderhorn and other places also. The hawk-watching is great on about any day with reasonable weather and there are often active community gatherings of people of all ages and dogs of all sizes and ages in the hawk area, just north of the intersection of 12th Avenue and 35th Street.
I received a long and interesting letter from Mr. Raab of Chicago Avenue in Powderhorn in June. He said nice things about me and my writing, nice things about trying to get young people to care about nature and birds and animals instead of their phones, electronics and such, and nice information about the successful birding and nature in his yard and life. But he did not say nice things about hawks, Cooper’s or otherwise. Perhaps he was one of the people that talked to me about bird loss in the park on one of my hawk watching days. Peregrine Falcons, Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles and the Cooper’s Hawks may be causing some loss in Powderhorn. Cooper’s Hawks, according to my Stokes bird book, usually hunt medium-sized birds such as Mourning Doves, Jays and Starlings. I still blame this year’s park bird loss on quite a bit of large and small tree loss in the park and other natural and environmental changes happening in many other places. We may have various different opinions about various things but I am glad we have lots of people that care about Powderhorn Park and Powderhorn neighborhood.
The Canada Geese, or rather the Cottonwood Geese, as I call the family that nested in a cottonwood tree, hatched their three goslings about the same time as the hawks hatched their family. The goslings somehow made it out of the tree and to the lake in good shape. They are the only goose family with only three goslings, and the group with the smallest goslings, but they are growing fast.
All the Canada Geese families seem to be doing well, and in doing well they produce quite a bit of goose poop in many areas of the park.
There is a new group of twelve Mallard ducklings today (June 30). How new are they?  They look to be one or two days old.
The wading birds seem to be doing well. The Great Egret is now back to being quite regular and there are now two Great Blue Herons quite often. They are not usually trying to chase each other away as they sometimes do. The Black-crowned Night Heron numbers are down a little. This probably has to do with raising new young back at the rookery. I accidently found a Green Heron hiding place and that surprised the heck out of both of us. Now I know where to sneak and get some close brief Green Heron views.
Of course, Double-crested Cormorants are in and around the lake about every day.
Now to some non-flying lake characters. The Painted and Snapping Turtles are back to creating more turtles. On June 17, two Snapping Turtles were laying eggs close to the lakeshore, just a few feet apart, near the ball fields. A young kid was considering bothering the Snappers. I nicely told him what they were up to and nicely told him he might lose an arm or a leg if he bothered them. I think he believed me, and I think the turtles sometimes might try things like that in the right (or wrong for you) circumstance. A few days later, I accidentally (and gently) laid my binoculars on a quite new baby snapping turtle at the opposite end of the lake. The binoculars wiggled a bit, I lifted the binoculars to find the turtle (unharmed), had a small talk with the turtle and the turtle assured me he would be my buddy for the next 75 years.
On June 23, a Painted Turtle was laying eggs about 25 feet from shore, about straight south across the lake from the Snapping Turtles. Several adults (human adults) were watching that process. I have also seen quite a few Painted Turtle babies.
The lake water level went up about one foot in one day (June 23) after a two-hour, two-inch rain in the morning and another very short but heavy rain that afternoon. The present high water levels seem to provide some advantages and some disadvantages to the various animals and characters that use the park.
I have neither heard any reports of nor seen any muskrats or wood chucks in the area in June. There was a dead mink report in late June in the park, and as far as I know, the only mink report. When I used to work on Lake Minnetonka, I would occasionally see a mink at quiet times on the lake or lakeshore, but there are not too many quiet times on that lake. I am referring to the wild, natural mink animal, not mink garments people wear.
Chimney Swifts are back making somewhat regular trips over the lake and park, catching insects. They never stop in the park or anywhere else, except in their homes in chimneys or empty buildings. A few nighthawks are back in South Minneapolis, making their interesting insect catching flights, but as in the past few years, I have seen none in the Powderhorn Park or neighborhood.
One thing I have seen—and don’t want to see—are more medium and large trees, in and near the park, marked for removal. Always troubling to me.
Another thing I saw, interesting to look at but not really good, was a very orange, almost full moon on the night of June 29. It was caused by smoke from northern Saskatchewan forest fires. And there are currently many such fires around Canada and the country, mostly in the western United States, impacting the atmosphere.
The backyard birds (and plants, and grass) are doing great in this weather with birds young and old enjoying plants, the bird bath, etc. There are quite a few butterflies, bees, dragonflies and other insects enjoying the season, not counting the ones that are eaten by various birds, bats and other insects.

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

One Comment:

  1. Hi John,

    Went on-line to identify (maybe) the medium sized hawk with grey over-feathers which had visited the Community Peace Garden recently (the garden is located at the southwest corner of the junction of Hwy 94 and Cedar Avenue and features an adjacent pond with associated bird life, along with far too many rabbits and voles). I looked at the Cooper’s Hawk as per your column, but preferred to believe it was a Goshawk. Are you sure about your identification?

    Peter Molenaar

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