A Carolina wren visits a bird feeder in the backyard of Jim and JoAnn Malepsy of Albert Lea.
A Carolina wren visits a bird feeder in the backyard of Jim and JoAnn Malepsy of Albert Lea.
Dr. Pat Redig of The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota spoke at the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union's Paper Session. His talk was on bald eagles and lead poisoning.

Redig recommended a ban on lead shot because, among other reasons, of its impact on bald eagles. Eagles are fond of feeding on deer carcasses. Lead the size of an aspirin in such a deer is all that it takes to poison an eagle.

Lead in any form is toxic. Ben Franklin wrote of the "mischievous effects" of lead back in 1786.

Redig believes that nontoxic shot has better ballistics and knockdown power than lead shot. Redig emphasized that this is not a gun rights issue.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

"I can't wait until the weekend gets here."

"Do you have big plans?"

"Yeah, to make it to Monday."

Driving by the Bruces

I have two wonderful neighbors - both named Bruce - who live across the road from each other. Whenever I pass their driveways, thoughts occur to me, such as: if you like where you're at, you ought to appreciate the road that brought you there.

I've learned

1. You're getting older if it feels good to stop, no matter what you're doing.

2. Whenever my wife asks, "What do you think?" I think I should have been listening.

3. To brag about those you love and make sure they overhear you.

The news from Hartland

Hartland Air & Space Museum found to be completely empty.

Truck carrying boxes of contact lenses overturns on highway. The search for lost contacts continues into its third week.

Duct tapeworms concern St. Menard's Hardware.

The secret to a long marriage

The woman smiled at me and said, "I'm doing great, just in case you ask."

Then with a nod toward her husband, she added, "We've been married 60 years."

"Nice going," I responded. "What's your secret?"

"I never throw anything away."

Cafe chronicles

I saw gravy spots before my eyes as I headed for the table of infinite knowledge where geezers were gabbing. The guys had young ideas, but their hearts belonged to dodder. They were still playing with a full deck, just shuffling slower while trying to be nostalgic, but not always remembering. The men wouldn't recognize a single photo in People magazine and they gained weight just looking at pie. I felt at home.

Customer comments

Jessica Hollerich of Amboy told me that she'd scolded her 3-year-old daughter, Isabel, for repeatedly jumping off a chair and told her not to do it again. Isabel replied, "I'm going to jump off the chair one more time. Pretend you don't see me."

Rodney Hatle of Owatonna sent this quote from Sam Levenson, "Lead us not into temptation. Just tell us where it is; we'll find it."

Al Weisert walked by as I manned the Salvation Army kettle at the Albert Lea Hy-Vee store. He was carrying a mop. I asked, "Spill?" He replied, "I like to get it before it spills." That's being proactive.

I asked Bryan Willmert of Albert Lea how the van he was driving got a broken back window. He told me that a coworker believed in the old saying, "Keep backing up until you hit something solid."

Ric McArthur of Morpeth, Ontario, said that the chances of hitting a deer while driving are much higher than while walking.

Did you know?

According to The Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey 71 percent have a strong belief in God, 17 percent are fairly certain there is a God, and 4 percent believe there is a possibility God exists. About 58 percent pray daily.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control, 51.7 percent of American households don't regularly use a landline phone. The majority of those (35.8 percent) don't have a landline and another 15.9 percent don't often use one.

A group of baboons is called a congress.

An American Kennel Club survey showed that over 70 percent of American dog owners gave their pets Christmas gifts.

The Wall Street Journal reported that 40 percent of a basic cable bill goes towards sports programming.

About 6 percent of people keep their Christmas lights up more than six months.

The Smithsonian Institution houses the puffy shirt worn by Jerry Seinfeld in his TV series. It's enshrined next to Mr. Rogers' sweater.

The average Iowa farmland value is estimated to be $8,296 per acre according to the Iowa Land Value Survey.

Nature notes

"Am I seeing a golden eagle or young bald eagle on the lake?" Golden eagles are not great fish eaters, so you're not likely to see one swooping low over a lake, resting on the ice or standing on a sand bar in a river. Golden eagles have feathered legs. Young goldens often have white patches under the wings and at the base of the tail, but lack the white mottling of a young bald eagle's body.

Nature by the yard

I peered out my window to the world. A flock of house sparrows blew into a cedar, like winter hitting Minnesota. They turned the tree into a house of sparrows. The sparrows had been absent from the yard, but like deer, had herded up. As they took flight from the ground, there were so many tiny wings that they produced a whooshing sound.

The house sparrow was introduced into Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1851. By 1900, the birds had spread to the Rocky Mountains. Two more introductions were made in the early 1870s, in San Francisco and Salt Lake City. The reasons given for the introductions were to establish wildlife familiar to European immigrants and/or to control insect infestations.

House sparrows are common across North America except in Alaska and northernmost Canada. House sparrows hop instead of walking and have a pecking order much as chickens do. The males with larger patches of black on throats and breasts tend to be older and dominant over males with less black.

Even though house sparrows are cherished in the UK, they win few popularity contests in this country. I find comfort in their irrepressible chirping during the winter. Their sounds bring to mind the time when we kept chickens. They were free-range chickens, but we locked them in the henhouse for safekeeping over the winter. When the henhouse door was opened for the first time in the spring, there was a joy evident to all who saw the fowl. Sparrows exhibit that joy all year long. Like it or not, when a house sparrow sings a tune, every day is in the month of June.

Nature lessons

The World Meteorological Organization declares that the highest recorded surface temperature was 134 degrees Fahrenheit measured on July 10, 1913, at Death Valley.

Birds living in urban environments often use cigarette butts to line their nests. Unlike in humans, the cigarettes have a beneficial effect -- they reduce the number of parasites in the nests. Scientists believe that it's possible the nest protection was a happy coincidence. Birds might line their nests with discarded butts because they provide good insulation.

Apparently, the New Orleans Hornets basketball team plans to change its name to the Pelicans next season. Louisiana is the Pelican State and the brown pelican is the state bird.

The main difference between vertebrates and invertebrates is that invertebrates do not have a backbone or a spinal column.

A bit Daffy

Daffy Duck is the kind of waterfowl who says things like, "I'm not afraid of ghosts. In fact, I'm not afraid of anything. Except perhaps low quarterly profit projections and personal intimacy."

Daffy Duck is a Looney Tunes cartoon character created by Tex Avery for Warner Brothers. An argument could be made that Daffy was modeled after the black scoter, a ring-necked duck, a mallard or an American black duck. Daffy doesn't match any of them well. Daffy appears to be a hybrid hunted by the likes of Elmer Fudd.

I don't know what kind of duck Donald Duck is either, even though Asteroid 12410 was named after him. I always wanted to try to borrow money from Donald's uncle, Scrooge McDuck, who I suspect would have told me in a yell that would have made Al Pacino proud, "No!"

The Festival of Owls

Will be held in Houston, Minn., on March 1 to 3. For more information on this remarkable celebration, call (507) 896-HOOT (4668) email nature@acegroup.cc or visit the website www.festivalofowls.com.

Meeting adjourned

Roger Batt of Algona sent me this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, "You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."

Thanks for stopping by

"The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives." -Native American proverb

"How can any child who is unfamiliar with the animals, birds, plants, insects, rocks, soils and water-powers of its own home neighborhood, develop into a progressive citizen with respect to the proper use of these resources?" - Alice Hall Walter


©Al Batt 2013