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Open Houses at the Almonte Lagoon in Strange Times

In September of 2020, during a year of pandemic, tropical storms, forest fires, rising sea levels, a general unease about where our global economic system is taking us, about how the genetically engineered food system requires the use of herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, and energy-based fertilizers to remain viable, about how the world is slowly going squirrelly because of unstable, self-centered quasi-dictators, we at the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist went … birding at the Almonte Lagoon.

Let’s face it, somewhere deep in our psyche, we all have a tiny streak of self-centeredness, and if birds are congregating at the local water treatment ponds, well, we’re gonna go, no matter what.

So once again, we held the traditional Fall Open House. Of course, we observed strict social distancing measures: masks, two-meters separation, a maximum number of 4 people in the shelter at any given time, disinfected window sills, hand sanitizer for anyone who wished it, and a strict compliance with the maximum of number of people allowed for an outdoor event.

Did the birds cooperate? Well, yes and no. It was a strange year. The total number of birds was down, way down, yet the number of species was at record level. Even though we held five Open Houses during the month (one more than usual) the charts and table you see below are based only on the first four weeks in order to keep data continuity with the previous years.

Despite the less-than-thrilling number of birds, we enjoyed the exercise. Of note, was a Merlin treating us with amazing flight acrobatics. When it finally swooped down over the pond, a couple dozen swallows skedaddled out of sight in a hurry. It took half an hour before they slowly emerged from their hiding places. There is always something interesting to see in nature.

After the last Open House, we packed our spotting scopes, said goodbye to each other, and strolled back to our car. The world, after all, was not always as bad as it seemed on the news … if you’re not a swallow, that is.

SEE FULL REPORT: Open Houses at the Almonte Lagoon in Strange Times

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