Poor Doug Burgum! So many ideas and so little power. So many votes, but none where it counts. As governor, Burgum has a nice title and a bully pulpit, but not much clout. That's the reality in North Dakota government. Legislative leaders delivered a reality check last week, when they changed the rules about how budget bills will be handled. The change is a minor one, but it delivered a firm message: The governor is not in charge here.
Here is a description of the blue jay: "Although it is beautiful and resourceful, the blue jay can at times prove to one of the most annoying birds around."
As North Dakota's 66th Legislature gets organized this week, Democrats occupy only 15 of the 94 seats in the House and 10 of the 47 seats in the Senate. Not a single Democrat holds a statewide elective office. No similar situation in North Dakota comes to mind.
A lot of good things can be said about the rough-legged hawk, and it's not hard to get started. The rough-legged hawk is conspicuous and easily identified, yet it is enigmatic and even exotic. It is a large bird, so it can be conspicuous. Its flight is unlike any other large hawk species. It perches in the open, often in an isolated tree or on a utility pole or a rock pile. It is relatively slow to take flight, which observers can exploit for close looks at the bird. That's the conspicuous part.
The midterm election was three weeks ago, and North Dakotans may be as tired of election analysis as we were of political advertising on TV. So this column is not about Election Day results, but rather about subsequent developments. On the third Tuesday of the month — one week ago and two weeks after the election — UND students voted to tax themselves and their successors to build a new Student Union. Turnout was low and the vote was close, but the result could help shape the future of higher education in the state and perhaps the state's politics as well.
The downy woodpecker is not the most conspicuous member of its family, but it is the commonest woodpecker in our area. That doesn't mean it is the most often encountered. The downy woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker occurring in North America, and it is not as noisy as some other woodpecker species. Also in contrast to some other woodpeckers, the downy woodpecker is not boldly colored.
Legislators of both parties face some heavy lifting in the upcoming session, Democrats because they are so few and Republicans because they are so many and all of them because the issues are so weighty, ranging from governing higher education to taxing energy and delivering human services. Democrats made small gains and will hold 15 of 94 seats in the House and 10 of 47 in the Senate. Republicans lost three seats in House and one in Senate. The biggest loss was their leader, Al Carlson, who ran fourth of four candidates in his south Fargo district.
The list of birds associated with November runs to a dozen or more species, including eagles, swans, woodpeckers, northern owls and northern hawks, snow buntings, redpolls, siskins, juncos and so on. But to me, the nuthatches best match the mood of the month. Two species occur here. The white-breasted nuthatch is a year-round resident. The red-breasted nuthatch is mostly a winter visitor, and it often appears in early November. The nuthatches are very similar in appearance and habit, but with notable differences.
It is tempting to look back on elections through rose-colored glasses. Elections, after all, are meant to resolve issues, thus creating a sense of certainty and some confidence that politics will proceed as they have unfolded up to now. A kaleidoscope may be a more appropriate eyepiece, however, because at a turn it presents a different picture; the orderly arrangement and its predicted outcomes falls away, and different consequences present themselves.
Canada geese are common and conspicuous and not at all shy. A large flock spent much of October loafing along North Columbia Road. Of course, it wasn't the street that attracted the geese. It happens that Columbia Road runs parallel to the English Coulee for a quarter of a mile or so, so the loafers were easily observable. Geese are waterfowl, but it probably wasn't the presence of water alone that attracted so many geese. Many of them spent their leisure time on the coulee banks, which are closely cropped by cattle.