This photo of the great gray owl was taken by Peter Trueblood of Oakland, Calif.  SUBMITTED PHOTO
This photo of the great gray owl was taken by Peter Trueblood of Oakland, Calif. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Winter marches on

March did not come in like a lion or a lamb. Nor did it come in like a robin. Migrating robins experienced weather delays.

March is the month of peak robin migration. Some robins are around all winter, but usually in wooded areas. Singing robins are signs that winter might not be endless.

Birding the Bog

Minnesota is a blue state.

A visitor from Florida said that he was so cold, he was turning blue. That was OK. It was a good color for him.

"What's the temperature?" he asked.

"It's up to nearly 11 below," I said cheerfully.

There was a sigh before the visitor said, "I'm going to need a bigger cup of coffee."

It was so cold some Minnesotans wore thermal flip-flops. I needed an ice scraper app for my cellphone. PowerPoint programs suffered real freezes.

I bird at the Sax-Zim Bog near Meadowlands in the Arctic Rivera every year. It is where birders get balmed. Lip balmed.

I am attracted to shiny objects such as a snowy owl perched at the top of an evergreen.

A deer ran down the middle of the road ahead of our vehicle. We slowed our speed, but the deer seemed to enjoy the competition. I thought it would run until it found a snowmobile trail to jump off onto. It must have grown weary, as it jumped into the road ditch. It was as if the deer was a capable assistant of a magician like David Copperfield. There was a deer and then there was no deer. It had disappeared completely into the deep snow. The deer shot up and out of the snow before disappearing again. It repeated this process until it found a trail in the woods.

A northern hawk owl, about the size and shape of a football, perched at the top of a tree. Snow buntings fed on spilled grain along railroad tracks. Spruce and ruffed grouse fed on spruce buds in trees before and after goshawks were active. Ruffed grouse dig into snow for the night.

Great gray owls like the old growth forest and tamarack trees. A great gray owl can hear a vole under two feet of snow from 100 yards away. They prey upon meadow voles in the meadows and red-backed voles in the woods.

Many birders travel to the Bog to see great gray owls.

Each year, there are birds that do not want to be seen. I respect their wishes.

Not everyone gets to see a great gray owl.

One day, science will have the capability of freezing people until it would be possible for them to see a great gray owl.

The news from Hartland

A veterinarian was barred from performing future surgeries after police busted him for operating on our national bird and confiscated his patient. The case was thrown out of court on a technicality. It was an ill eagle surgeon seizure.

Nature lessons

According to Cal State University in Long Beach, the part of a chickadee's brain responsible for remembering the location of cached food expands in volume by approximately 30 percent in the fall and remains enlarged over the winter before shrinking in the spring. It grows more brain when it needs the memory.

Snakes are venomous, not poisonous. You could eat a rattlesnake and suffer no ill effects.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

"It took me two hours to gather one egg in the henhouse."

"Why so long?"

"The hen fruit kept moving. It was suffering from restless egg syndrome."

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 when you put things back where they belong, you can never find them.

The news from Hartland

Local man, age 86, finishes marathon. He began the marathon when he was 55.

Fifty Shades of Gary treated at emergency room after he turned down the thermostat in front of his wife.

The Taxidermy Cafe promises to stuff its customers.

The "check your will" light came on

The check engine light came on in the car. It does so frequently. When it happens, I take it into the shop and they perform some sort of magic and the light goes off. I considered putting duct tape over the light, but have resisted doing that so far. Each time it comes on I have an interrobang about it. An interrobang, a punctuation mark that combines a question mark and an exclamation point, is used at the end of a simultaneous question and exclamation.

The car has been a loyal and faithful servant, unlike some of my past vehicles, such as the rattletrap that I knew was out of oil when it stopped leaking oil.

The check engine light reminded me that my wife and I should update our wills. We need to make sure that our debt goes to the right place when we are no longer around to shepherd it.

When we arrived at the attorney's office and we had covered the prerequisite small talk, the lawyer said, "Now, which one of you wants to go first?"

My neighbor

The east-west roads are the worst winter roads. Those who live on north-south roads might not agree. They are wrong.

She lives on an east-west road. This winter has been the longest she could remember. She hunkered down and amused herself by scraping the window on her microwave and by watching her cat chase mice. It is an event in the cat Olympics.

Unfortunately, her feline is of the catch-and-release set. My neighbor does not spend much time outdoors. She is not a smoker. She participates in some outdoor activities. Particularly the one in which she needs to climb over snowbanks in order to cross the street. She has turned up the thermostat in the hopes it would make spring feel welcome. Her brother and his family decided to take an extended vacation in Arizona. She stayed home. Her brother's family returned home and paid her a visit. One of them gave her a cold brought back from Arizona. With both family and winter, it helps to have a forgiving spirit.

Cafe chronicles

It was a great conversation at the We're Still Here Cafe. Everyone had his or her own topic.

A woman, mother of many children, told everyone who she thought should know that she had spent about half her life in labor. She runs a cat rescue. She is so dedicated to helping cats, that when she dies, she wants to be cremated and her remains put into the cat litter.

Customer comments

Sheryl Young of Sandusky, Ohio wrote, "I am sure you have experienced snow atop your car thawing and refreezing until it is rock hard, then when you suddenly slow to stop or turn, it breaks loose and comes crashing down across your windshield scaring the whatever out of you. I call that an autolanche."

Did you know?

According to a study from "Apartment Guide," an entry-level one-bedroom apartment in Williston, N.D., has, on average, the highest rent in the nation. A 700 square-foot, one bedroom apartment in Williston costs an average of $2,394 a month. Dickinson ranks fourth at an average of $1,733 a month. Boston is sixth, New York is seventh, Los Angeles is eighth and Chicago did not crack the top ten.

Nature notes

Wayne and Shirley Gunderson of Albert Lea asked where great horned owls nest and how many young they have. The great horned owl uses a variety of nest sites, including trees, cliffs, buildings and occasionally the ground. It does not make its own nest, typically taking over nests in trees made by other species such as hawk, crow, heron or squirrel. It will nest in tree hollows or broken snags. It typically lays one to four eggs.

Meeting adjourned

If you must choose between being right or being kind. Choose being kind and you will always be right.

Thanks for stopping by

"I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven." - Emily Dickinson

"We lift ourselves by our thought. If you want to enlarge your life, you must first enlarge your thought of it and of yourself. Hold the ideal of yourself as you long to be, always everywhere." -- Orison Swett Marden


© Al Batt 2014