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HEADLINES FOR AUGUST 3, 2018

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Copyright 2018. All rights reserved. Wright County Journal-Press & The Drummer

 

Minnesota primary elections are August 14

By Miriam Orr

The primary election to nominate Republican and Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) candidates, as well as several first-round judicial and local elections will be held on Tuesday, August 14.

Federal offices for U.S. Senator with a term expiring on Jan. 3, 2025 include Republican candidates Merrill Anderson, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, Rae Hart Anderson, and Jim Newberger. For the DFL, candidates are Stephen A. Emery, Amy Klobuchar, David Robert Groves, Leonard J. Richards, and Steve Carlson.

For a U.S. Senator with a term expiring on January 3, 2021, Republican candidates are Nikolay Nikolayevich Bey, Bob Anderson, and Karin Housley. DLF candidates are Nick Leonard, Richard W. Painter, Ali Chehem Ali, Christopher Lovell Seymore Sr., Gregg A. Iverson, and Tina Smith.

U.S. Republican Representatives for District Six candidates include Tom Emmer, A.J. Kern, and Patrick Munro. The DFL candidate is Ian Todd.

For State Offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor for the Republican Party include Mathew (Matt) Kruse (Theresa Loeffler), Jeff Johnson (Donna Bergstrom), and Tim Pawlenty (Michelle Fischbach) as candidates. DFL candidates are Lori Swanson (Rick Nolan), Tim Walz (Peggy Flanagan), Tim Holden (James P. Mellin II), Olé Savior (Chris Edman), and Erin Murphy (Erin Maye-Quade).

For the Attorney General, Republican candidates are Doug Wardlow, Robert Lessard, and Sharon Anderson. DFL candidates include Debra Hilstrom, Matt Pelikan, Tom Foley, Keith Ellison, and Mike Rothman.

State and County primary non-partisan positions for Wright County include the position of the County Sheriff, where five candidates are cast for the position: Chad Torkelson, Drew Scherber, Sean A. Deringer, Mike Kaczmarek, and Stacy Braun.

The primary election, according to Wright County Auditor/Treasurer Bob Hiivala, will narrow coming general election ballot to two candidates.

This year for the primary elections, Wright County is hosting absentee ballots, which are currently ongoing. Advanced in-person voting opened on July 29 and in-person voting hours will go until August 13, at 5 p.m. Absentee voting is also open the Saturday before the election, and locations open on August 11, beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m.

Voting hours for the state primary election open at 7 a.m. and go until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, August 14.

Election day is August 14. Buffalo’s precincts are as follows: Precinct 1 voters will vote at Buffalo High School, in the activity center. Precinct 2 voters will vote at Northwinds Elementary, and Precinct 3 voters will make their votes at Zion Lutheran Church, in Trinity Hall.

For more information on absentee voting, please visit www.co.wright.mn.us/181/Absentee-Voting-Voter-Information.

To find where you vote by address, please visit: https://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us/.

 


Referendum for more operating funds on Nov.  ballot for District 877

By Doug Voerding

The District 877 School Board on July 23 decided to ask voters to approve a levy to increase revenue in the operating fund. The question will be on the November 6 general election ballot.

The levy will increase district funding by $950 per pupil for ten years.

Currently, the district is receiving $119.87 per pupil from property taxes in two separate approved levies. Those levies, which expire in two years, will be revoked and added to the $950. Consequently, voters will be asked to approve $1,069.87, although the actual property tax increase will be from the $950.

The additional funds are needed to fund the district’s goals of reducing class sizes, addressing school safety and security personnel and infrastructure, creating more opportunities for students at the middle school by reorganizing the class schedule, and addressing the state’s underfunding of special education.

The school board and administration has been discussing the need for more operating funds and the possibility of asking the Buffalo, Hanover, and Montrose communities to support an operating levy. There has not been an increase in voter-approved operating levy since 2002.

Superintendent Scott Thielman said that the district has always been cautious when budgeting due to the lack of funding from the state and the underfunding of special education mandates.

According to Thielman, more can be done to address the goals of class sizes, school safety and middle school opportunities, but not without support from the residents.

Even if taxpayers approve the levy this November, the district will still be below the state average in per pupil revenue, said Thielman.

Gary Kawlewski, Director of Finance and Operations, said that the district has been spending down the fund balance to try to address the district’s goals. The district’s policy is to keep an 8-12 percent fund balance.

The fund balance, said Kawlewski, will drop below the 8 percent minimum by fiscal year 2020 if other revenue sources or budget reductions are not found.

On a chart shared at the meeting, the net change for 2019 property taxes for residential homesteads, apartments, and commercial and industrial properties are estimated at $262 for property valued at $150,000; $349 for $200,000; $436 for $250,000; $523 for $300,000; $610 for $350,000; and $698 for $400,000. Many owners of homestead property will qualify for a refund, under the Minnesota Homestead Credit Refund program, based on their income and total property taxes. This will decrease the net effect of the referendum levy for many property owners.

 

Donations

The school board accepted $14,923.34 in donations.

United Way donated $10,000 for BHS wRight Choice, Backpack Buddies and student programs, and CoBank gave $500to Tatanka Elementary STEM School.

Coborn’s School Rewards donated $56 to Hanover Elementary School (HES) and $23 to Northwinds Elementary School.

The Hanover PTO made several donations including $3,525 for HES field trip buses, $582 for the HES picnic, $138 for HES Grandparents Day, and $100 to the HES Hardship Fund.

 

Proud Of

The school board recognized the Buffalo High School Tatanka Yearbook staff who won first place at Balfour Publishing’s Summer Yearbook Camp. Individual awards included Laila Ragab and Eloise Hanson, first place for design; Grace Moran, first place for writing; Carly Strom, first place for student life photography; Chloe Paul, first place for portrait photography; Carter Barton, runner-up in writing and third place for student life photography; and Jayden Perry, second place for design.

 

Out-of-State Trips

The school board approved three out-state-trips.

About 20 AVID junior and senior students will attend a college tour of the Concordia College, Moorhead State University, and North Dakota State University campuses on September 17-18. AVID funds will be used for travel and Concordia College will provide a meal and lodging for the one night.

The Buffalo High School FFA’s Agriculture Marketing Team qualified for the national FFA competition. Six students will attend the convention in Indianapolis on October 23-27.

The Buffalo High School yearbook staff has been invited to attend the Balfour Publishing Workshop. All costs including airfare, hotel, and food will be provided by Balfour. Four students and chaperones will attend on August 14-17.

 

Other Action

In other action, the school board

- awarded the low bid of $368,870 from Wenger Corporation/JR Clancy to replace the rigging in the Buffalo High School Performing Arts Center. The project will extend over three years.

- reviewed and approved the 2018-19 elementary handbooks. Changes were made to dates, meal account management procedures, student surveys, and the breakfast and hot lunch programs.- approved memberships in Minnesota School Boards Association, Minnesota State High School League, and Schools for Equity in Education.

- approved a resolution for the reorganization of the district’s TIES membership and governance with Sourcewell. This change will result in a savings to the district.

- will next meet in a workshop meeting on August 13 at 4:30 p.m. in the Board Room and in a regular meeting on August 27 at 7:00 p.m. in the Board Room.

(Information for this report was provided by Laura Barta Lindquist, District 877 Communications Coordinator.)

 


Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Military Appreciation Picnic, August 9

Enjoy a cookout and a concert for this year’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Military Appreciation Picnic, on Thursday, August 9, at Sturges Park.

The picnic begins at 5 p.m. and goes until 7 p.m., with the concert beginning at 7 p.m. Music will be provided by “White Sidewalls,” and is sponsored by the Buffalo American Legion Post #270. A presentation of flags and colors will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Also present will be Minnesota State Representative Marion O’Neill, as well as State Senator Bruce Anderson for a meet and greet.

Veterans, servicemembers and their families eat free at this event, and all free-will offering proceeds go towards Beyond the Yellow Ribbon. 

For more information, please visit www. https://business.buffalochamber.org/events/details/concert-in-the-park-military-appreciation-picnic-6445.

 


County Commissioners discuss shooting range and environmental concerns

By Miriam Orr

On Tuesday, July 31, Planning and Zoning Commissioner Sean Riley met with Commissioners to review and discuss a petition regarding the environment analysis surrounding a mining request in Franklin Township.

The project itself is a phased mining operation of around 17 acres and includes crushing, washing, and screening of gravel, all to take place in a flood plain. RAM Building will be overseeing the project and taking approximately 200,000 yards of clean fill, around 700,000 yards of gravel/sand, and replacing 200,000 yards of clean fill over the course of 7-10 years. There has been mention of a shooting range at the property, and concerns of lead shot contaminating the water prompted the petition for an environmental analysis worksheet (EAW).

The property is located at 5836 65th Street SE, and it is owned by Delano Sportmen’s Club.

County Attorney Greg Kryzer presented the petition, which held approximately 100 signatures that prompted Commissioners to order a resolution calling for an EAW. Law does not require the worksheet in this instance, according to the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, but “Wright County is the appropriate governmental unit to decide the need for an EAW.”

“The decision regarding this worksheet is due by August 31,” Kryzer commented to the Board, “I’m presenting this petition before you, and requesting that you provide guidance to staff on how to draft a resolution, either in favor of the study, or against.”

The mining project itself provides no environmental concerns itself, though coupled with a firing range construction, there are, as Commissioner Darek Vetsch commented, “more concerns, knowing that they go hand in hand.” With the shuffling of gravel, construction, and operation of a firing range, lead contamination remains a big concern.

With lead being present as a concern, Attorney Greg Krzyer advised that the Board consider an EAW, simply because there could potentially be issues in line as the project continued. Commissioner Mike Potter expanded on the thought, “The idea of a potential presence of lead precludes action on our part – we don’t want to deal with the legalities after the fact and try to prove that we were aware of this issue; we want to have the documentation done.”

Commissioner Charlie Borrell countered the argument, stating that he did not want to have the County start the practice of adding addition paperwork to every project that came along, as it is a setback to business. He urged the Board to consider the sportmen’s club who is requesting the project, and reminded them that the club has been careful and responsible in handling of their projects, and that they were taking as many precursor precautions as necessary – even going above and beyond to research how this would affect the environment on their own.

Potter further commented that his concern was with the petition and local signatures, as many were either out of residence in the county, or in Minneapolis. “I want these changes to come about because our citizens are calling for them,” he said. On the petition, 43 out of 100 signatures, were from residents outside the county, and that concerned him.

Commissioner Potter also explained that the process of an EAW is very different from an Environment Impact Study (EIS), which demands more time and a far more delicate process. He urged Borrell to consider the request of the public, and explained that by acting now, the County is taking precautions safeguard the future.

Commissioner Christine Husom commented on the discussion, “I think an EAW will really help us find out if the process in this entire project, and those like it of the future, need to change.” She made the motion to draft a resolution urging for an EAW. Potter seconded her motion, and the resolution passed 3:1, with Borrell voting against.

 

Other items:

Facilities: Director Alan Wilczek requested the authorization for out-of-state training of a staff member regarding the jail, which will educate staff on the controls, micro-switches, and intricacies of the locking mechanisms currently in place at Wright County’s jail. He recommended that staff allow authorization, as there is currently no company in-state that can service the County’s system – repairs, should they be needed, would be contracted from Iowa. Potter commented that this training should have been on the radar before, and he thanked Wilczek for presenting the request. The County approved the request.

Auditor/Treasurer’s Office: Bob Hiivala requested the approval of a resolution calling for a forfeit of land to the City of St. Michael. The city would like to take on two public walking trails from the County. Potter commented that the walking trails seemed to be in line with St. Michael’s city demographics, and the request was approved unanimously.

 


CSAH 34 and CR 134 roundabout construction project underway

The Wright County Highway Department would like to inform the public of a highway construction project that will begin in early August, 2018.  The project location is the intersection of County State Aid Highway 34 & County Road 134 in the city of Buffalo.

The construction improvements will consist of the construction of a modern roundabout to improve safety and traffic flow through the intersection.  It is anticipated that the construction work will last until late September or early October, weather permitting.  You may have noticed some private utili-ty relocation work taking place already around the perimeter of the intersection (gas company, ca-ble, electric, etc.).

Fehn Excavating, Inc. of Albertville is the prime contractor that will be doing the work, along with some sub-contractors they have hired for some of the work.  A posted detour route will be in place to direct traffic around the work zone (see attached detour route map).

Please follow the posted detour signing to navigate around the work zone, and we appreciate you adjusting your driving schedule accordingly.

The Wright County Highway Department asks your cooperation in this matter to ensure the safety of both the traveling public and construction workers.  If you have any questions, please call 763-682-7383 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday. 

 


Kleinbank to merge with Old National

KleinBank, pictured above, announced its merger with Old National Bancorp, the holding company for Old National Bank. (Photo by Doug Voerding)

By Doug Voerding

In a recent letter to its customers, Klein Financial, Inc., the holding company for KleinBank, announced its merger with Old National Bancorp, the holding company for Old National Bank.

Old National, based in Evansville, Indiana, will acquire Klein Financial through a 100 percent stock merger. The merger is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Randy Haskins, president of the Buffalo KleinBank branch, said, “This is a great opportunity becoming a larger organization. We will be adding products and services and have more support for helping the community develop even more.”

KleinBank CEO Doug Hile said, “There are no plans for changes in Buffalo, one of our larger branches. The Buffalo community will have access to a much larger capital base, more resources, and more investments in the community. Our participation in the community will continue. Old National has a history of local involvement.”

If approved by federal regulators, locations bearing the name KleinBank will be changed to Old National Bank.

Randy Haskins

Haskins, who recently celebrated his 40th year in banking in Buffalo, came to Buffalo in 1978 with the original Oakley National Bank.

“It has been a great experience getting to know the community and the customers,” said Haskins. “I am looking forward to many more years.”

Klein Financial, founded in 1907 and still headquartered in Chaska, is one of Minnesota’s largest community banks serving the Twin Cities, primarily in the western part of the metro area. Klein Financial is in its fourth generation of family ownership.

National Bank opened in Buffalo in 1886, and was later renamed Oakley National Bank in 1980. In 1982, the building on Commercial Drive opened, with the downtown location becoming a branch bank.

KleinBank purchased Oakley National Bank in 1987, but kept the Oakley name until 2005 when KleinBank merged all of its individual branches under the KleinBank name. The downtown branch closed in 2012.

KleinBank, now located at 910 Commercial Drive in Buffalo, is one of its 18 full-service bank locations. Some of its other locations include Plymouth, Maple Grove, Big Lake, Prior Lake, Coon Rapids, and Chaska, as well as Madison and Montevideo in outstate Minnesota.

A press release on June 21 stated that, as of March 31, KleinBank had $2.0 billion in total assets, $1.1 billion in loans, $1.7 billion in deposits, $184 million in common shareholders’ equity, 400 employees, and 18 full-service banking locations.

When the merger agreement is approved, Klein shareholders will receive 7.92 shares of Old National common stock for each share of Klein common stock. The final value of the deal, estimated at $434 million, could change based on Old National’s share price on the date of the merger.

Old National Bancorp bought St. Paul-based Anchor Bank with its 17 locations in the Twin Cities last year for $303 million. After the Klein deal closes, Old National said it will rank fifth in market share for the Twin Cities and the Minnesota market behind U.S. Bancorp, Wells Fargo, TCF Financial, and Bremer Financial Corp.

In the press release, Hile said, “We believe that partnering with Old National will provide tremendous benefits to our customers, our communities, and our KleinBank team members. We share a special commitment to exceptional service, local responsiveness and community leadership, and we are excited to take this commitment to the next level to the benefit of all.”

 


Wright County Fair reports good turnout, despite weather

By Miriam Orr

In a time and age when the world consistently is battling to “stay up with the times,” it is no surprise that change has made its way into almost every industry and organization across the world. Whether it be a complete automated system to the updating emojis on our cell phones, it is guaranteed that the world of industry has seen change in some capacity.

The Wright County Fair is no exception, either. Earlier in 2018, the Fair Board announced that an online ticket point-of-sale (POS) system would be available for fairgoers, and would allow for the online purchase of grandstand tickets. Buyers would go online and buy their tickets, while simultaneously allowing for the selection of their own seats.

Troy Beise, who is active in managing the fair’s media presence, stated that online seating selection has long been one of the public’s  request in the area of ticket sales. “This was something we’ve talked about for a while,” Beise stated earlier in the year, “We felt like it would be a good step in the right direction, in a world that is so technologically based.”

Overall, the online addition to ticket sales was an “overall success,” as Beise commented. Not only were guests satisfied with the ability to buy and choose their own seats for grandstand events online, but the Board itself was impressed with the program’s record-keeping abilities.

“Now, we’re able to see how many tickets are purchased and redeemed, and how many people buy online,” Beise shared, “This system will help us keep better records, and it has already started helping with staff accuracy. With so many people coming and going, and allowing for human error, there was always the caveat that there were approximated numbers. While that still exists, it is far more minor than in past years with the automation of ticket sales.”

Beise hinted that ticket masters and fair staff were able to assist a wider array of people this year, since a lot of ticket sales were garnered online. The system isn’t perfect, however, and will require streamlining to improve not only how things flow, but also how well fair staff adjusts and allocates duties. Overall, however, the automated system “greatly exceeded expectations.”

“There’s always a learning curve,” Beise said.

Beise stated that this year’s attendance at the fair was slightly down, mostly because of weather conditions on Thursday and throughout the week, though the Board reports attendance was an overall “good turnout.” In total, around 55,000 people attended the fair throughout the week – the Grandstand was entirely sold out on Friday, with around 1,300 people in attendance.

Despite the rain on Thursday, no Grandstand events were cancelled. However, Beise shared that on Friday, after the weather had passed, they did bring in bulldozers to help clear away the excess muck the rain had caused. It was a success, and allowed for a somewhat dry demolition derby that night, which was a sellout event.

Also new this year was Merriam’s Midway Show, which provided the carnival and games for the Wright County Fair this year. Overall, Beise reported that the show was accepted well and performed within expectations, but that for the first year, it is always difficult introducing a new show.

“It boils down to layout and how they decide to go about setting up.” Beise continued, “it took a while for them to get the layout and right, but when they did, they came out on top. They were fair and flexible, which is always appreciated.”

With the contracting of Merriam’s came the fair’s schedule change, which was pushed up a week as compared to its scheduled time. Beise said that due to the scheduling change, the fair shuffled around a lot more acts to accommodate other fairs in the area.

“We were the ones who changed the schedule, so we didn’t want that to affect other fairs around the area,” he stated. The changed schedule may have accounted for the decrease in attendance this year, but Beise said that remains under speculation. On Thursday, considering the rain, attendance was down around 6,000 from past years, with Friday and Saturday “not down much at all,” in the low hundred mark.

This year also marked the close of the “Fairest of the Fair” program, which Beise didn’t speak much to. “There were growing concerns around the Board about the safety of candidates, and how with the times changing, we didn’t feel like the fair could offer the kind of safety measures these candidates deserved.”

The subject was discussed extensively, Beise assured. Also taken into consideration was the fact that only three other county fairs in the entire state currently promote these kinds of programs, which further raised the question of the impact, or necessity, of the program. To this, Beise had no further public comment.

The fair is considering options in the future around an ambassador program that would stretch back to the beginning days of Wright County’s fair ambassadors, which focused an emphasis on agriculture, presence within 4-H, and an understanding of fair culture and the history of the county celebration. No discussion has been confirmed as of yet, but the Board is considering discussing the topic further.

As for next year, the Board will continue to streamline data collected from this year’s fair time, and use it to better prepare for 2019 celebrations, especially in the area of online ticket sales. The coming year will also mark the return of the traditional fair schedule, which will return around the week of July 26th, like in previous years.

For more information on the Wright County Fair, visit www.wrightcountyfair.org.

 


Upcoming 14th Annual Hanover Harvest Festival is slated for Saturday, August 4

Current Royalty, from left to right is: Princess Meghan Cahill and Miss Hanover Hannah Hochstedler. (Submitted photo)

Kalli Van Tassell

Kaitlin Galdonik

Taylor Thompson

The 14th annual Hanover Harvest Festival is Saturday, August 4, and will feature many activities for all ages at Settlers Park, Hanover City Hall, the Fire Station area, and the Hanover Elementary School parking lot.

Highlights of the day include a 5K race at 8:00 a.m. beginning at the fire station on LaBeaux Avenue. There will be a market place with food available from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in and near city hall.

The parade will begin at 11:00 a.m. on 8th Street NE and end at BankWest on River Road NE and LaBeaux Avenue.

The Miss Hanover coronation will be at 3:00 p.m. in Settlers Park. The current royalty Miss Hanover Hannah Hochstedler and Princess Meghan Cahill will be crowning their successors. The candidates this year are Kalli Van Tassell, sponsored by Roy C. Inc. and DiOrio Connections; Kaitlin Galdonik, sponsored by Comfort Matters and M. Miller Truck and Trailer; and Taylor Thompson, sponsored by Andy’s Hometown Pizza and Superset Tile and Stone. A lawn mower pull is at 4:30 p.m. in the area behind the main stage.

Diamondback will play at 7:00 p.m. Raffle drawings will be at 9:45 p.m. followed by fireworks at 10:00. Diamondback will return to the stage after the fireworks at 10:20 p.m.

Other events during the day include softball tournament, bingo, bean bag toss tournament, kids fun run, classic car show, kids activity park, bungee power jump, North Air helicopter landing, K-9 demonstration, and video game truck.

Started 14 years ago, the Hanover Harvest Festival has a mission to promote a sense of community by bridging the best of the past with a vision for the future.

For more information, visit the website, hanoverharvestfestival.com.

 


STMA Daze and Knights

Come one, come all, as St. Michael’s Daze and Knights Festival is almost upon us! Join the community for festivities, beginning Friday August 10, and ending on Saturday, August 11.

The event will host a series of bands, with a lineup including “Outside Recess,” who will perform on Friday, from 8 p.m. to midnight, in the Beer Garden. There is a $5 cover charge for the age 21+ show.

On Saturday, “Flashmob” will perform at 8 p.m. to midnight at the Beer Garden, with the same cover charge and age limit. For all ages, “The Roadkill Band” will play at 4 p.m.

Make sure you don’t miss the Ninjas United Obstacle Course, which will run both Friday and Saturday. Friday, the course is open from 7:30 to 9 a.m., and is open all day long on Saturday. The event is $10.00 per run and has both adult and kid courses available.

Festival events also include a Saturday 5k Color Daze Run. This is the fourth annual run, which begins at 8:30 a.m., at City hall. Ages six years and up are welcome to participate! And, starting at noon on Saturday are the endless beer mugs, with a German dinner following at 4 p.m.

The city’s parade begins at noon on Saturday, so don’t miss it! Really, there’s something for everyone at the Daze and Knights Festival in St. Michael –anywhere from inflatables, garage sales, a classic car show, bingo, are everywhere, all waiting for you to explore.

For more information, visit www.stmdazeandknightsfestival.com.

 


Concerts in the Park, August 2

August is here, and Concerts in the Park is still going strong, continuing on every Thursday until August 30!

This event features a number of musical concerts and bands, sponsored by local businesses in their performances for the community. It promises to be a good time, with family-friendly music, and all the concerts are free of charge for anyone who wants to join in on the fun.

On August 2, “The Everett Smithson Band” will be in town to take you away with music of the Mississippi! Then, keep an eye out on August 9, for the “White Sidewalls,” who take you back to the 50’s and the 60’s with swingin’ tunes of the past.   

Anyone wanting to donate to the event, and others like it in the community, please contacts the Buffalo Parks Department at 763-682-4132.

 


BPD’s Nite to Unite is August 7

Come join the City of Buffalo’s 10th Annual Night to Unite event, slated for Tuesday, August 7, beginning at 6 p.m.

Night to Unite features neighborhood block parties that promotes neighbors joining together to celebrate community. A community event with the BPD will be taking place at Dairy Queen. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., free dilly bars, popcorn, and a display of emergency vehicles will be on site for you and your neighborhood to enjoy.

To register your block party, please go online and visit www.ci.buffalo.mn.us/programs-services/ by July 31. For questions, please contact BPD at 763-682-5976.

 


The incredible hummingbird

I’m often asked what is my favorite bird. This is much like asking a parent to choose which is their favorite child. I often answer this question by stating that whatever bird or animal I am studying or photographing at the time is my favorite. The truth is, they are all my favorite. I’ve yet to meet a bird or animal that I didn’t find fascinating and super cool. 

However, if push comes to shove, and I had to choose a favorite bird, I would single out a group of birds, not a single bird, the hummingbirds. They are an amazing group of birds that are unlike all other birds. There are more than 320 species of hummingbirds. This is the second largest family of birds in the world. It is huge. What is even more interesting, is hummingbirds are only found in the New World (the Americas). They don’t have hummingbirds in Europe, Africa, Asia or any other place in the world, except for the Americas.

Hummingbirds are one of the most easily recognized birds. They have sparkly feathers that refract sunlight like a prism. They feed upon nectar from flowers. They are fast and agile fliers. They are the only bird that can truly hover. They can fly backwards, straight up and down, and if that is not enough, they do aerial somersaults.

There are 15 species of hummingbirds that occur in the western half of the U.S. and Canada. Here, in the eastern half of the country, we only get one species, the ruby-throated hummingbird. Its name comes from a ruby-red throat patch on the male.

So I was thrilled beyond belief when recently I was contacted about a ruby-throated hummingbird nesting. I immediately dropped everything and went to check it out. Sure enough, right next to a home owned by the most wonderful couple who enjoy birds and nature, was a tiny hummingbird female tending her two tiny pea-sized eggs.

With all hummingbird species, the female sets up her own territory separate from the male. She builds her own nest and incubates the eggs all by herself. The male takes no part in caring or raising the young hummers.

The female builds a nest, constructed mostly of soft plant material, such as cottonwood seed puffs, and glues it all together with spider silk. She forms the cup shape with her own body. So in the end, the nest is form-fit to accommodate just one bird. The problem is, the female always lays two eggs. Which means by the time the babies hatch and grow up, the nest will need to accommodate two adult-sized birds. This is accomplished by the fact that the nest is constructed with spider silk, which allows the nest to expand as the chicks grow.

Over a month’s period of time, I visited this hummingbird nest, careful to not disturb the female in any way. Using a long lens, I could sit at a respectful distance, which allowed me to capture the natural behaviors of the day-to-day life of the hummingbird family.

At first, she spent all her time incubating. Periods of incubation lasted only 20 minutes or so before the female would zoom off to feed herself. She would be gone five or ten minutes before returning to the nest to settle down to incubate again.

When the babies hatched, the impossibly tiny chicks could barely lift their heads. Their eyes are not open yet, and they don’t have any feathers. Yet, the mother feeds them with her long bill. This is what I call the sword swallowing act.

As the babies grew, the mother stopped sitting (brooding) on the babies, and it wasn’t long before the young were so large they could barely fit in the nest. The mother would come to visit the nest about once or twice per hour. Each time she returned, the chicks would open their beaks and wait for the sword swallowing act to begin. The mother would slide her long beak down the babies’ throat and regurgitate a mixture of nectar and partially digested insects. Right on schedule, the babies grew up and practiced flapping their wings at the edge of the nest, and the next day they were gone.

What an amazing experience and learning opportunity. Until next time...

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Stan Tekiela is an author / naturalist and wildlife photographer who travels the world to study and photograph wildlife. He can be followed on www.facebook.com and twitter.com. He can be contacted via his web page at www.naturesmart.com.

 


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