The greater scaup duck, with its familiar black-white-black pattern, catches my eye as I walk the bank of the Red River today and prepare to settle in. He swims upstream along the far bank.

A red-winged blackbird sings merrily to me off to the right along my side of the river. He sings among some small prairie willow saplings and brush along the river bank.

It is great fun to have red wing, for he is a hearty singer, and I haven’t had him here before in the seven years I have been here. It rather speaks to the idea of the evolution of an area that eventually brings in new animal life. And it could well be that this change has revolved and the area has seen these same flora and fauna patterns before my time.

And now the smaller birds are serenading me to my right and to my left. At first I thought they were the song sparrows coming back to entertain me. But now I discover they are the goldfinches, perching among the low hanging branches of the old elm tree above me and singing their hearts out. I have to admit that all birds seem to be in a mate-seeking mode now and are not here merely to entertain me. Well, I can handle that. I commend the serenade to the world of propagation.

Now white-crowned sparrow fusses his way back and forth along the old dead green ash log that lies behind me. Whites crowned can’t seem to move along the log without chirping as he goes.

He ambles along the huge 20-foot tree trunk that lies on the ground, pecking at the bark remnants, and chirping as if he’s scolding it as he pecks away at it. Suddenly he darts down into the brush debris pile under the log, and actually disappears for a little while, out of sight after possible food items.

The pile is absolutely filthy with dust and dirt left from the river flood that deposited it there. And white-crowned has take the grime onto his feathers. But he is too busy to mind. He could use a good dousing in my bird bath. We could use a good rain to wash away all of their grime, but we haven’t had one. Now he re-appears and hops up the log away from me.

Now chipping sparrow joins him briefly and checks out the log. But he is too busy even to do any chipping, and soon his is on his way.

This pile of flood debris, as ugly as it might appear to us humans, is obviously a bonanza for the wild creatures. And when the rains wash the flood dirt down onto the surface of the ground, it will provide rich nutrients for plant life in the seasons to come. We humans would be inclined to clean away the pile. Nature would fall in love with it, as the Egyptians loved the nutrients of the Nile; and nature would take Egypt to her bosom.

Yellow hornet lands on my writing board. He smells my open can of soda. He walks around a bit, then flies off for greener pastures. And there is greater scaup swimming by again, to bookend my warm spring day.  

James Alger, who lives in Fargo, N.D., has been a summer resident of the Leech Lake area with his family for over 45 years. Over that time he has grown to love and appreciate the people and the woodlands of this area.


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