In Our Own Backyard..New life, new hopeBefore the flood hit, I had spent much of last Tuesday working on a story about a family of peregrine falcons that were making their nest in the river wall across from the Sappi paper mill.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
One of my favorite bits of poetry goes:
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me well that I have a terrifically soft heart for animals. Though I like to think of myself as a “people person” as well, there’s something about the vulnerability, trust and innate spirit of animals that triggers a yearning deep inside me to make sure they come to no harm if there’s any way of preventing it.
It was hard enough to see our friends and neighbors displaced or otherwise suffering from last week’s tremendous flooding, but a small part of me also mourned for the animals who fell victim to the suddenness and ferocity of the storm.
I was saddened when I heard of the bodies of numerous deer that were washed up on shore at the mouth of the St. Louis River where it empties into Lake Superior, along with the refuse from the awful aftermath of the storm.
A woman I interviewed this week talked of how she and her daughters went to town last Wednesday to go shopping, and while they were away a huge chunk of the road to their house caved in and flooding of other area roads prevented them from getting back home again. Their family dog and two cats were back at their house and had to wait out the two long days until they were able to return.
A coworker of ours at the Pine Journal was evacuated from his house in Carlton on Wednesday and had to leave behind his cats. It wasn’t until later in the week that he was able to get back to check on them.
A reader sent in a photo taken near Moose Lake last week of a loon vigilantly perched on the tiny knoll of earth that supported its nest amidst the flood waters swirling around it. I know full well how easily the large, oval loon’s eggs can wash out of the shallow nests, and I was certain it was just a matter of time before the loon would lose its battle against the forces of nature. Amazingly, when Pine Journal Editor Jana Peterson traveled to Moose Lake for a community meeting on Tuesday night, she spotted that very same loon still diligently sitting her nest!
Before the flood hit, I had spent much of last Tuesday working on a story about a family of peregrine falcons that were making their nest in the river wall across from the Sappi paper mill. I spoke at length with Mary Krohn from Sappi and Jackie Fallon of the Peregrine Falcon Foundation, who helped band the five chicks, who said the adult birds had hatched out earlier this summer. It was a wonderful, heart-warming tale of how mill workers volunteered their time and efforts to build a nesting box, and how employees from the mill held a contest to name the five babies after they hatched.
The first phone call I received on Wednesday morning, however, after working my way to the office through the encroaching flood waters was from Fallon, who asked me not to run the story because the raging waters of the St. Louis River were likely to sweep the chicks away. Researchers figured the chicks were only about three days away from being able to fly, but even if they attempted it early, the winds and fierce temperament of the river would make their chances of survival unlikely. In light of all of the human drama that was going on in our community, I realized that it was best to put things into perspective and agreed not to run the story.
I couldn’t help but wonder off and on over the next several days about the fate of those chicks, and when I checked with Krohn first thing on Monday morning, the news was encouraging. She said a special camera inserted into the falcons’ nesting hole revealed one small, rather bedraggled chick – a fitting symbol of hope for all the brave and hearty people of the area who made it through the floods and persevered.
(Note: See the July 5 issue of the Pine Journal for the full story of the falcon family and the latest update on how many survived.)