1940 - Birds imprisoned by a snowstorm.

The first president of the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union died. I never met him or even knew him but some birders are sharing stories and memories of George Rysgaard. Tony Hertzel posted this article by Mr. Rysgaard and boy is this an interesting account:

An unusually severe and unseasonal snowstorm swept across the north-central States on November 11, 1940, to terminate a mild fall season. The storm commenced with a drizzling rain which changed in turn to sleet and snow with the falling temperature which reached a minimum of 10 degrees F. during the night. The 42-mile wind accompanying the snow produced a blinding blizzard. Wildlife in general suffered a heavy mortality in many sections of the State.

Near the town of St. Peter, Nicollet County, Minnesota, there are seven caves excavated in the sandstone bluffs along the Minnesota River. To escape the storm, many birds of different species resorted to one of these caves for shelter. During the course of the storm, the cave entrance was blocked by drifting snow, imprisoning the birds. Immediately following the storm, Mr. Charles Meyer, who operates the caves as a tourist attraction, removed the snow barrier; and, upon entering the cave was confronted by these many birds flying about excitedly in their confine. He stepped out and to one side of the cave and allowed the birds to escape, attempting to identify and count them as they left. He noted thirteen Ring-necked Pheasants, nearly two dozen Bob-white, three Cardinals, two Robins, a number of Chickadees, several Downy Woodpeckers, and what he called "small woodpeckers" which may well have been White-breasted Nuthatches which were common in the vicinity.

The aggregate of different species in one cave would lead one to believe that the birds were thoroughly familiar with the cave and its protective potentialities.

-- GEORGE N. RYSGAARD, Minnesota Museum of Natural History, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

From The Auk, October-December, 1941, Vol. 58, No. 4, pp 588.