5/9/2018 9:11:00 AM Spring dispersal is important to local wildlife
Ron Kuecker Outdoors Columnist
The Harris's sparrows feeding on the ground below my bird feeders, the robins nesting on the downspouts and the wood ducks using the boxes designed for them in our maple trees are all the results of continental length migration. At the same time there is a much shorter migration of local wildlife called the spring dispersal. That is the movement of some of our major local wildlife inhabitants from their winter habitat to their spring and summer reproductive sites. It is mainly seen by most as deer leaving their winter yards. There they had protective cover to escape the cold and snow of winter and a nearby food supply. Pheasants too, are becoming more concentrated each winter as their areas of possible winter survival diminishes. This year, in particular, as snowstorms moved across our area seemingly every week to 10 days, our favorite game birds have been seen in large groups. It has led many to conclude we have good numbers of these beautiful birds when we really don't. Now they are spreading out, hens are being called by roosters morning and evening, and we can see their true status as they disperse to suitable nesting cover. Unfortunately, I am once again seeing a poor hen to rooster ratio. Most harems I have seen are just one hen to a rooster and that's not good. Considering we hunt and shoot roosters and not hens each fall, you'd expect a much better ratio of three or four hens per rooster, all joking aside. Since the successful reintroduction of the large eastern strain of the wild turkey to our region we can now see their propensity to bunch up in winter, then also disperse in the spring. Winter cover for them usually includes oak or pine trees with a nearby food supply such as a feedlot of cattle being fed corn. Corn food plots planted and left over winter near those winter roosting trees are also of great value. A good crop of acorns are the best of all as they supply a more nutritionally-balanced diet and are high in fat content. A couple of evenings ago I had 10 deer cross in front of me on a township road. All of them were grown fawns from last year. They are gradually being pushed away by does in preparation for this years fawning. That will begin in later May, peak in June, then taper in July. Figures I have seen for fawning indicate 10% in May, 80% in June and 10% in July or later. The big swans I think it is now safe to say that the trumpeter swans have been successfully reintroduced to our area, just like the turkeys. It's also safe to say we owe the North Heron Lake Game Producers Association, the Windom office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Como Park Zoo a big thank you for that. Their annual release of several swans onto Wolf Lake has been a great success. And, the kids who opened the dog carriers and released them will likely remember that forever. Those swans like to feed on submerged vegetation such as sago pondweed. Unfortunately, decreasing water quality and carp have damaged production of that favored food. Now we are increasingly seeing those big white birds out on farm fields with their preferred food there being soybeans. Not coincidentally, I'm guessing, soybeans and sago tubers look amazingly alike. A picture of two swans on a farm field accompanies this column. They were observed and photo'd at 50 yards this spring looking for food as their marshes remained frozen solid. A bit about horses The greatest two minutes in sports was wet and rainy for the 20 horses that raced in this year's Kentucky Derby. Those horses fared considerably better than the traditional ladies hats and the nearly 200 dead wild horses in the drought stricken Arizona desert. Justify, a big, strong, 3-year-old thoroughbred horse doesn't seem to like anyone in front of him. He won the race and seemed proud of it. I was reminded of other horses that seemed equally great though in a different sense. One such horse was the one called Traveller, an American Saddlebred, which Robert E. Lee rode through most of the Civil War and to Appomattox. There was certainly nothing very civil about that war. Three weeks ago I saw that statue of the southern general astride Traveller in Charlottesville, Va. It was across the street from where we parked for lunch. Too bad such civil strife still surrounds it. We can also be reminded of another great gray horse ridden by an equally great horseman named George Washington. Blueskin, as he was called, was the horse the general usually rode in photos of him and non-battle riding. Being of at least partial Arabian heritage it was a little spooky in battle. There, George W. road Nelson, a thoroughbred I believe, who was not startled by rifle or cannon fire. Both of those horses retuned to a Mt. Vernon pasture and lived to be nearly 30 years old. Traveller, too, reached retirement age, only to step on a nail and, being prior to tetanus vaccination and penicillin, was put down when his tetanus seizures became so great. Puppy party I invited myself to a new puppy party at Gary and Betty Olson's house last weekend. Black lab of course. There, daughter Sarah and grand-daughter Megan had come from Indiana to pick up the new puppy. I sure wish someone could come up with a way to bottle up that smell of a young puppy. Nothing like it if you are a dog lover like me.