It happens every year around this time almost like clockwork. The phone rings, an email arrives, or the subject simply arises during the course of casual conversation. Some person tells me how he or she saw this beautiful striped hummingbird feeding on nectar in their flower garden. It’s certainly not the only case of mistaken identity I hear of but it is perhaps the surest bet.
Over the years, The Discovery Channel has gotten a lot of miles – and, one would presume, ad revenue – out of an annual event shown on the station. Shark Week, running every summer since 1988, is the longest-running cable television programming event in history. It’s now aired in 72 countries. Why such popularity, one might ask? Like a lot of news and other programming, I would simply argue that fear sells. Quite obviously, the odds of a shark encounter here in the Fargo-Moorhead area is, well, zero. That doesn’t mean we don’t have local sources of fear stemming from nature.
Among the many benefits that came with being the victor in conflicts throughout the ages was the ability to dictate the narrative from that point on. “History is written by the winners” is a quote attributed to many past figures, including George Orwell. This truism is accurate for the most part but with one glaring gap. What if the victors didn’t write? A similar circumstance occurs with natural science, particularly in regard to “discoveries.” In our textbooks, we often read of a creature that was discovered by so-and-so, be it a bird, mammal, sea creature or whatever.
In the background of our busy scurrying lives there exist many elements that largely go unnoticed. It could be as simple as the rumble of trains passing near our downtown...
A couple of weekends ago, I returned home sleepy-eyed from what has become a mid-June pilgrimage for me: the annual Potholes and Prairie Birding Festival in Carrington. Some years ago, the organizers of this wonderful event—Birding Drives Dakota—tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could assist them by helping guide some of the field trips.
Last weekend the North Dakota Birding Society held its spring meeting in Fargo. The NDBS is a group of bird enthusiasts that convenes twice a year to conduct some business. But the truth is it's mostly to get out and sample the local avifauna at preselected locations throughout the state. The reason Fargo was chosen is easily explained in one phrase: Red River Valley. In terms of biomes, this wooded riparian corridor could be considered an outlier of the Eastern deciduous forest.
Just last Sunday while walking through a park in north Fargo, I noticed the resident pair of American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) flying overhead. Of course I have no way to prove this is the cozy couple I see regularly—maybe I sensed it more than anything. It just felt right. They were flying in the right direction at least. A couple of weeks ago, I had witnessed one of the pair carrying small sticks to a spruce tree. A nest was obviously under construction. I watched from a distance for a time.
That the Missouri River in North Dakota was once a major travel route for early explorers is well known. Among the many legendary figures to ascend the “Big Muddy” during...
Unlike last winter, which stuck around with dogged persistence for what seemed like an eternity, this year’s version seems to be exiting quietly. You’ll get no complaints from me. And apart from snowmobile manufacturers, I doubt many of us are having a hard time accepting these mild temperatures. It was during a walk into this warming spring last week that I was greeted by a familiar sound: the resonant drumming of woodpeckers. Among the many signs indicating a changing season, these persistent rat-a-tat-tats serve a great purpose.
An audio recording of this column appears above. It’s midsummer, the time for picnics, vacations, Redhawks baseball, gardening, lake cabins and yes, family reunions. Cousins, nieces, aunts, grandparents, nephews, siblings – everyone gathers to catch up on the latest family news, to eat too much barbeque, and to watch the young ones in the family play tirelessly in the grass. Somewhere between swallowing a bite of a hot dog and picking up a potato chip, you hear a familiar sound. Nearly unmistakable, it’s your Uncle Fred’s laugh.