Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Southern Minnesota bird stories, past & present July 27, 2022

A tiny bird perches in a fountain at the Rice County Master Gardeners Garden, Faribault, Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2022)

I HAVE A MIXED OPINION of birds. I appreciate them at a distance, but not necessarily up close, although I’ve grown more comfortable with their nearness as I’ve aged. Just don’t plunk me in an enclosed garage or other space with a trapped bird. Outdoors is mostly fine.

Unfolding of wings to splash in the fountain. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Recently I observed a cute little yellow bird, a finch, I think, dip into a tree stump water feature at the Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Gardens at the county fairgrounds in Faribault. With a zoom lens on my 35 mm camera, I photographed the finch briefly splash in the water before flitting away. There was something joyful in that sole moment of focusing on a tiny winged creature.

Water droplets fly as this bird bathes in the fountain. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

We need such moments of simplicity. Of peace. Of birdsong, even if this bird isn’t singing. Moments to quiet our souls in the midst of too much busyness and too many distractions. And too much technology.

I remember how my mom loved the Baltimore orioles that one year, quite unexpectedly, showed up on my childhood farm in southwestern Minnesota flashing orange into the trees. She thrilled in their presence among all the blackbirds, sparrows and barn swallows. In her delight, Mom taught me that not all birds were like the swooping swallows I despised.

In my years of doing farm chores, I grew to dislike the swallows that dived as I pushed a wheelbarrow of ground feed down the barn aisle or shoved cow manure into gutters. That the barn ceiling was low only magnified their, to me, menacing presence. The swallows, I now acknowledge, were only protecting their territory, their young, in the mud nests they built inside the barn. And they ate mosquitoes, which I should have appreciated.

Yet I don’t miss the swallows or the rooster that terrorized my siblings and me, until the day Dad grabbed the axe and ended that.

More than 40 years removed from the farm, I seldom see barn swallows. Rather, in my Faribault backyard, I spot cardinals, wrens, robins and occasionally a blue jay. The front and side yards, however, bring massive crows lunching on remnants of fast food tossed by inconsiderate motorists who find my property a convenient place to toss their trash. I’ll never understand that disrespectful mindset of throwing greasy wrappers and bags, food bits, empty bottles and cans, cigarette butts, and more out a vehicle window.

And so these are my evolving bird stories—of shifting from a long ago annoyance of swallows to understanding their behavior, of delighting in the definitive whistle of a cardinal flashing red into the wooded hillside behind my Faribault home, of observing the feeding habits of crows in my front and side yards drawn to garbage tossed by negligent humans.

TELL ME: I’d like to hear your bird stories, positive or negative.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


17 Responses to “Southern Minnesota bird stories, past & present”

  1. I’d say it’s a Goldfinch. Delightful little birds – among our favorites because they are easy to spot and identify. They move in small flocks, like nijer seeds, and will cover a nijer-filled feeder with little gold bodies if given the chance. 😊

  2. Larry Gavin Says:

    In Belview, Mn there was a guy we called Father Nature. He was a teacher. He had a crow that would come to his window in the morning, take a small bag with fifty cents in it and fly to the grocery store. It came back with a donut in the bag and they shared it.

    We have three generations of cooper hawks that live in our woods. Mom is teaching the young ones to soar , vocalize, and hunt. Yesterday mom smacked a cardinal at our feeder mantled it and ate it cautiously.

    • That’s quite a story from Belview. I’ve heard/read that crows are smart.

      Reading your story about the hawk and cardinal while enjoying my morning coffee was a bit disturbing. But I realize this is “nature.”

  3. beth Says:

    this is an incredibly beautiful capture. yes, I have a mixed relationship with birds as well, I love their beauty and song and seemingly carefree approach to life, but some still scare me a bit, like the crows I fear planning my demise when coming upon a group of them in a park. ) just yesterday, a bird hit my window and died and it was really sad to find it later, lying still.

  4. One of my favorite, yet simple joys, is to watch the local birds visit my birdbath. They make me smike as they bathe, or drink or socialize (looks like it to me) with each other. A lovely post and sentinment, Audrey. ❤

  5. I am a lover of birds and love watching them in action 🙂 Crows are intelligent but have a little creep factor at times for me. I have issues and run ins with squirrels aka rodents with the decency to wear fur – hehe. Beautiful Captures! Happy Day – Enjoy

  6. Valerie Says:

    I enjoy birds and like to watch them at our feeders and in the bird bath. I can identify several, but I wish I knew more, and I wish I could identify them by their bird songs…I know only the cardinal. 😉

  7. Funny, but since the lockdown because of COVID, I know many people who have become avid birders. I myself have taken an interest as well. We have some drainage holes in the facade of our building where small sparrows have come to nest. I love watching them from where I sit on my computer. Also a pair of pigeons come by our kitchen window everyday for a snack. All very friendly!

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