Nature Notes: Caching Chickadees

As winter approaches, we are seeing many changes in our bird populations. Some birds, like robins, have formed large flocks and are slowly moving south. Others, like our juncos, have just recently arrived but are only passing through on their journey from northern Canada to southern Minnesota and beyond. Others who will remain here all winter are busily visiting our feeders.

Birds essentially have two options when it comes to winter: they can migrate or they can stay. If they stay, they need a way to stay warm and a way to gSparkyStensaasSnowyOwl.jpget enough food to make it through the harsh winter. Again, they essentially have two options: they can wander widely to find food or they can cache food during times of high food abundance. Owls are a good example of a bird species that stay but wander widely to find food. They have large territories they move around in to search for food. Sometimes, when no food is available, owls will leave their territories and widen their search area. In the last two years, we have witnessed an irruption (a sudden increase) of snowy owls in northern Minnesota as a result of food scarcity in their more northern habitat. Continue reading

On Tuesday, November 15, HDT drove the three miles south on HWY 371 to Bites Grill & Bar to show their thanks. With hors d’oeuvre consisting of a delicious shrimp cocktail and a table-long bruschetta bar, employees had plenty of opportunities to gab, chat, and mingle. Afterwards, they say down to meals consisting of lobster stuffed chicken, prime rib (bigger than your hands, truthfully), juicy walleye, or a wonderfully mixed veggie stir-fry.

Games and merriment followed and many people walked away with door prizes made from ingredients sourced right from our gardens. How cool!

How are you celebrating Thanksgiving? How are you showing your gratitude?

 

HDT Thankfulness Party

Topic of the Month – Food Drives

Many families in Minnesota rely on food from food shelves to feed their households. For some, the food shelf is temporarily their only resource for fresh produce. Eating healthy food like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is important. Access to fresh, healthy food allows families and individuals to get by with less worry, so they can focus on getting back on their feet.

If you are moved to donate, be sure to check with your local food shelf before purchasing any food. They will have the best idea of what is most needed and what is in low supply.

To find out where your local food shelf is, you can just go to Feeding America and search by your location.

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While food canned from home may be well-intentioned, food pantries are prohibited from taking it due to a lack of an expiration date.

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Too Many Sweets on Halloween?

I did a little research for this month’s topic of making a sustainable Halloween and I was absolutely shocked at how much candy each kid eats on that day. According to the National Retail Federation, kids will eat around 7,000 calories worth of candy on Halloween! That’s 3.4 pounds per kid of sugary, fatty, chocolatey, delicious candy.

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Delicious, delicious candy corn will not make ANY healthy Halloween treats list. – Photo Credit Atlanta Daily Herald

Is this a problem? Well, the National Health and Nutrition Examination say that kids up to the age of 10 ingest on average 2,000 calories per day. That’s a factor of almost 4 that Halloween cranks up the kids.

So, how do we change this? Is it worth changing? Many say that Halloween is only one day and letting your children enjoy their sugary haul is a time-honored tradition and I will be the first to say that Halloween candy tastes better than any other candy on any other day, but is it worth it?

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Nature Notes: Busy Beavers

Last week, we took a look at how squirrels are tirelessly preparing for winter by collecting and stashing food away for the harsh season. This week, we’re focusing on another MN native that caches food for winter – the beavers! They are the largest rodent in North America. While most adults weigh-in at about 45 pounds, beavers can weigh over 70 pounds! Historically, beaver fur has been important economically (trading), which led to beavers being introduced in other regions of the world.  A few years back I traveled to Teirra del Fuego, Chile at the southern tip of the Americas. Beavers were introduced to this region of Patagonia in the mid-20th century in hopes of increasing economic prosperity. However, beavers have no natural predators in Tierra del Fuego and have run rampant ever since, causing millions of dollars in damage to the ecosystem. There is now a widespread campaign to eradicate this nonnative species in this region of Chile. In Minnesota, beavers are not only a native species, but also a keystone species, meaning they play a very important role in their ecosystem as timber harvester, architect, and engineer! Here habitat modification by beavers creates aquatic habitats for many other animals, helps prevent flooding and erosion, and aids in filtering and cleaning water. (Note: Click on a photo to enlarge.)

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Top 7 Environmental Horror Movies

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The film “The Host” by Bong Joon-ho is a fantastic take on the monster movie. Photo Credit AV Club

My wife has a cousin that really gets into the Halloween spirit. Every October, she and her husband will watch a scary movie every day up until the spooky day. Apparently, it’s been a tradition for years, a tradition that I would very much enjoy getting in on, to be honest. So, I thought I’d help out by putting together a list of horror movies that show how much I know about the genre. I’m so into horror films, that I can put together a list that focuses on the monster/enemy/scary thing is not a slasher or ghost, but instead is the environment or nature. So, without further ado, here’s the list:

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Nature Notes: Fall Feeding Frenzy

This month is known as Binaakwii-giizis, or “Leaves Changing Color Moon”, to the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe. The beautiful weather over the first couple days of October made for some breath-taking scenery of brilliant yellows against a bright blue sky and dark blue waters.  Soon the yellow of our aspens will be replaced by the golden shimmer of our tamaracks. Enjoy the view now, for by the end of the month, we’ll be greeting the barren landscape of winter.

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The animals that remain in our cold environment for winter are busy preparing for the season. Throughout the next month, we’ll focus on three animals that uniquely prepare for winter: squirrels, beavers, and winter birds.  We’ll kick off our fall feeding frenzy by taking a look at how squirrels are preparing for the season ahead. Continue reading

Halloween Done Sustainably

Halloween is a blast. It’s one of my favorite holidays. It’s full of traditions and symbols that are a deep part of American culture. If you were born after 1950, you know what the Great Pumpkin is. If you were born after 1960, you know who Mike Myers is. If you were born after 1980, you probably remember the Great Halloween Blizzard. But, most recently, we have been blessed to find our latest Halloween symbol: Macklemore.

That’s right. The funky rapper/artist/fashion trendsetter/deal hunter from Washington has set millions of people across the world on the new traditions for Halloween.

Actually, that’s wrong, but I’ll be using Macklemore as a mascot anyway. So come with me as we can find new ways to make Halloween more sustainable than ever.

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Nature Notes: Fall Foliage

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Fall has unofficially arrived and with it has come cool evenings, dewy mornings, jeans and sweatshirts, fall harvests, pumpkin spice everything, and yes, the first leaves to change color! This month is known as Waatebagaa-giizis to the Fond du Lac Ojibwe, a name that literally means “Leaves Changing Color Moon”. The brilliant colors of autumn are one of the most beloved phenomena of the season, but do you know why the trees change colors?

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