May 23, 2013 | Volume 118, Issue No. 21

Wildlife appears with arrival of spring

Wick's World

If the spring of 2012 was proof of global warming, then spring 2013 style was the antithesis. Rewind to March 1, 2012, and check out the pond in my backyard in Eagan. Not only had the ice disappeared, but my normal flock of 10-12 ducks and a pair of geese had already set up residence. With temperatures hovering near the 70 degree mark that March, the migratory birds were already making families at their home for the summer. Before the month ended, my home on Sand Lake was sitting on open water and the dock was in. Spring had morphed into summer almost immediately and it would be December before my ducks and geese left the Eagan pond for their winter vacation down south.

The early months of 2013 brought a weather anomaly as drastic as the previous year; albeit in direct contrast from the certain proof of 2012’s global warming. The naysayers, who wouldn’t believe a scientist’s fact that the Earth was round, pointed to the never-ending winter that still held its grip throughout the first week of May 2013 as proof that global warming is nothing more than a hoax designed to create jobs for environmentalists. I often wondered if the existing controversy is more due to the misnomer "global warming" that should have been more accurately referred to as "climate change."

The spring of 2013 eventually came to Minnesota and then it immediately turned into summer. This year, the red cardinal that annually appears at my birdfeeder looked to be much smaller than usual. I soon discovered the reason why. Mom and Dad Cardinal had just given birth to a new baby boy. At least I think it was a boy. Aren’t the males of the species red and female cardinals gray?

That same morning, I took a good look at the pond. Momma and Poppa Mallard were accompanied by five tiny, fluffy fur balls swimming behind. An hour later, they were joined by another family; the neighbors were also blessed with five new baby ducks.

Meanwhile, I’m sitting on the edge of the pond, reading a book and watching my new puppy discovering the wonders of nature. She was totally transfixed by the Mallard family. The baby ducks were busy discovering how to duck under the water and look for food. Maybe that’s how they got the name ducks.

In a circle less than 20 feet in diameter, I counted seven ducks, one sparrow sitting on a rock, a chipmunk, one puppy and one human being. Every living creature is going about its business totally unperturbed by the other life forms around them. Mom and Dad duck show no fear when protecting their newly hatched babies. Even the dog was perceived as no threat to their young ones.

This really got me to thinking. How is it that these differing species of critters have the ability to live in such proximity yet still in harmony while the supposedly most intelligent creature on the planet can barely get along with their neighbors? Although we humans have far more similarities than differences, we find it necessary to categorize ourselves as Democrats, Republicans, and Socialists. We are black and white, yellow and red; we are Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Muslims, Pagans and Atheists who all live with the certainty that their way of life is right and everyone else’s belongs in the category of "enemy."

Especially in the city, the automobile can become a deadly enemy to wildlife. On Sunday, we had no sooner than turned the corner to our house in the "burbs’"when we came upon a crooked walking goose. With a damaged wing and a wobbly leg, this unfortunate creature was trying as hard as he could to get airborne. It was obviously not to be. Sometime early the next morning, shortly before sunrise, the goose began a loud desperate call that was soon silenced. The evidence of its demise pointed to the red fox that had been hanging around the neighborhood. A few days later, I observed a rabbit and a fully grown mallard in my front yard searching for food. I wasn’t too concerned with the rabbit who had long ago taken up residence. But the duck looked out of place, especially when it kept walking out into the street. Sure enough, the following morning yielded a flattened out pile of feathers laying in the street. While babies are being born, others of the species are dying. This is just another fairly normal day in another abnormal spring in the suburban lifestyle of creatures competing with humans.

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