Now there’s a treat! The tiny ruby-crowned kinglet visits me here on the banks of the Red River. Perhaps he is on his migration south.

He is a small fellow. I had estimated him at three and a half inches, and I see he is listed at three and three quarter inches. He has his signature broken white eye-ring. He remained feeding among the elm branches long enough for me to get a good look at him in the glasses.

A yellow warbler in fall plumage lights on an ash sapling nearby. He preens himself a bit in the autumn sun, and moves on.

The canopy of the big old American elm above and around me has become fairly  alive with bird life.

They move in and out too quickly for me to identify them. But they are great fun to watch. I continue to be intrigued with this old elm, my woodland canopy. It offers one an amazing feeling of sheltering arms as one sits under it.

This elm stands 60 feet tall. Of course that is not terribly tall as trees go, and I expect that’s as tall as it has ever been. It is not out to set high perch records.

Its canopy of lower branches describe a circle with a radius of 42 feet. The arborists tell us that a tree root system commands a space with a radius equal to the radius to its branches. What awesome royalty great trees like this are within a woodland.  

The trunk of this elm at its base is 12 feet in circumference. In this year of elections I am left to wonder who was the President the year this elm began as a tiny sapling.

A band of crows is creating a ruckus to my left. They have no doubt discovered a lurking bird predator nearby, and have nominated themselves as the guardians and gatekeepers of the woodland, with the mission to drive away the culprit.

This kind of theatrics is repeated from time to time, and I sometimes try to take some time to scan the trees and locate the villain. But I can almost never find him, unless he finally tires of the squawking and takes off. I doubt that it is fear that drives him away, although I have seen the crows dive-bomb the villain until he takes flight, but rather the sheer indignity of being so boorishly misused.

Two yellow-shafted flickers have just landed in a big old prairie willow tree on the river bank and begun worrying the carcass of a dead limb for some tasty morsels. Now I see two more in another part of the tree.

In late season I sometimes wonder why birds that are customarily single-operating, are seen together. Are they perhaps an adult and a child, but the child has now grown to adult proportions?

I scanned the Minnesota side of the river bank, as I always do, to see if I can discover any animal life, where the bright western sun illuminates the bank. Mostly the bank on the water’s edge was all quiet. Only at one point three robins on a flat space were cavorting about at each other like mad hatters. These autumn days must bring out the clown in all of us.

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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