Phrase Association: Lame Duck

Lame duck, varied thrush, wintering robins, and sleeping raccoons

We think of a lame duck as an elected officeholder continuing in office during the period between a failure to win an election and the inauguration of the successor.

It could also be a mallard with a broken foot. At the time in which I was doing Christmas Bird Counts, I tried catching a lame Canada goose (bad leg) and a lame American white pelican (wing). I had hopes of nabbing them and taking them to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville. Securing the big birds would have allowed me to say, "Yippee!" I don’t use that word near enough.

I had no luck.

My attempts at capture were lame.

A varied thrush

This from Tom Jessen of Madelia, "Our varied thrush is still here in Madelia and getting famous! (Deb said she first saw it around Dec. 15 and it was positively identified on Dec. 21). Birdwatchers from all over have either driven by and seen it from the street or have sat right here by the kitchen window for a front row view." 

TJ added that birdwatchers are wonderful people. I agree and I was pleased to have passed the word on the bird.

Q and A

Rich Chapman of Albert Lea asks if raccoons hibernate.

They do not. What they do has been called going into torpor, winter sleep, partial hibernation or becoming dormant. They do sleep for long periods. The raccoon is known for waking occasionally and leaving the den. I saw one in our yard when the January temperatures hit 40 degrees. He looked fat and tired. Mating occurs in February and March. They might hit the snooze alarms, but raccoons become active and although they are nocturnal, they can be seen during the day while trying to find a mate.

Most of the time, if the temperature goes below 27 degrees, which is likely fewer than the number of honorary degrees that Oprah has, raccoons retreat to their dens, usually located in hollow logs and trees. They can have more than one of these dens and sleep in the one they feel is the most secure. They can also burrow underground to make dens. It isn’t unusual for raccoons to hibernate together. A woman in Swift County found 23 raccoons sharing an abandoned house. Homeowners have discovered them in chimneys and under decks.

Debra Stolarcek of Albert Lea writes, "We saw a flock of robins in Eagan on January 12th. Any ideas?"

To many, robins are a harbinger of spring. My mother said a robin needed three snows on its tail before it was truly spring. Some robins get more snows than that, because I see them in Minnesota every winter. These might be robins that have migrated from farther north or they could be birds that don’t migrate. Some may stay here or they might continue to meander south.

Winter robins tend to travel in flocks and over-winter in ravines and other wooded areas where they have an open water source. Their primary foods are the leftover fruit on such trees as buckthorn, cherry, crabapple, hackberry, mountain ash, etc. A lack of food would cause the birds to move. Some robins will eat suet or fruit at feeders. The big movement of male robins north follows the 37-degree isotherm. Robins survive. Life outlasts winter.

I wander

I was speaking in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and did a good deal of birding there. I saw a lot of RGV roadkill while on the way to see some redheads (red-crowned parrots). RGV roadkill is fruit that had fallen from a truck.

Nature lessons

Because they locate food by sight, tying yellow ribbons onto feeders might help attract goldfinches.

Ravens begin nesting near Prudhoe Bay in late March when temperatures can be 30 below.

Thanks for stopping by

"Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude."--Denis Waitley

"You don't get harmony when everybody sings the same note."--Doug Floyd


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