By Brent Frazier, mayor City of Pelican Rapids
Although there are many days until the end of 2020, we can almost say without hesitation that it looks and feels as the beautiful warm days of autumn have come to a screeching halt.
The Octobers of 2019 and 2020 have produced slight snow accumulation around the middle of each month which probably was unexpected at the time. This all said because we have experienced many warm Octobers of previous years. Last year’s October never rebounded after the first snowfall, but let’s hope that we will still see some 50 and 60 degree days before “Old Man Winter” comes to stay for the winter of 2020-21.
Many of us are now busy in the outdoors completing many small (and not so small) tasks before the paint freezes to the paint brush, the ground becomes too hard to dig a trench and it becomes just too miserable, impractical and illogical to be working outdoors in the cold, the sleet, and the snow. Yup, should have finished that project months ago when the weather was nice!
On the other hand, the birds and small animals in the world seem to have a sense of nature not to procrastinate and to get the job done on schedule.
We gaze through the living room window and watch with interest as the gray squirrels gather the many acorns that have previously fallen to the ground from the hearty oak trees. The squirrels scurry ‘to and fro’ and then bury the acorns beneath the soil in the yard, which to our minds would seem be then an enormous scavenger hunt, to later burrow through the winter’s snow to consume the acorns for their daily supply of nourishment when most other food is very scarce for wildlife. You then look upward to the ascending tree branches and spot their nest and wonder how they can ever survive the winter temperatures and wind, but then remember that many squirrels have winter quarters in dens, hollowed logs on the ground and also in nooks and crannies of buildings. Yes, all a part of nature’s “Survival of the Fittest.”
The song birds of summer are slowly disappearing before our eyes as they have congregated to make their long flight to warmer winter weather. It seems that many of the robins do stay for our winter months as which are different from other birds. Robins do not follow the typical north-to-south and back again migration pattern as do other birds, thus they can winter in the cold climate as long as there is adequate food supply from autumn to spring. We also are aware that the swans can survive our winter weather as they can be seen from time to time huddled on the ice edge next to the open river channel on Prairie Lake outlet. So are some birds becoming more winter hardy?
We now gaze towards the heavens and notice a continual increase of ducks and geese that have started their migratory flights from Canada and northern Minnesota to pass over our area on their way to the Gulf of Mexica for the winter months. It is estimated that 13 million ducks spend the winter on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Many flocks may stop in our area if the weather is pleasant, only to then again take flight when they sense the inclement weather on the way, before they get impaired or delayed by a snow storm. The migration map or flyway has changed dramatically over the past 40-50 years. As our area was once plentiful with many varieties of waterfowl, the flyway has shifted to the western plains of North Dakota which is rich in reservoirs and vast acreage of small grain crop land.
And last, but not least, many of our acquaintances, friends and relatives have already begun or are in the process of planning their migration to the warmer climates of the United States for the winter of 2020-21. Some of us may plan to make those same trips in the future and some of us have just decided to put on a couple more layers of clothing, hunker down and endure our friendship with ‘Old Man Winter.’
We don’t say ‘goodbye’ to those that are heading out for the winter, but instead we say ‘see you later.’
When you all return in the spring, we will have many stories and much laughter to share around the coffee tables that will continue to enrich our friendship. Thank you all for your friendship, thank you for your words of encouragement and thank you for supporting the community of Pelican Rapids. As we will miss your conversations and smiles in the next few months, our hearts will grow fonder for one another. We thus say, “We all truly hope that you have a wonderful winter, and we will see you later.”