Darryl Schultz of Mankato shares this photo of a varied thrush.
Darryl Schultz of Mankato shares this photo of a varied thrush.
We think of a lame duck as an elected officeholder continuing in office during the period between a failure to win an election and the inauguration of the successor. It could also be a mallard with a broken foot.

At the time in which I was doing Christmas bird counts, I tried catching a lame Canada goose (bad leg) and a lame American white pelican (wing). I had hopes of nabbing them and taking them to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville.

Securing the big birds would have allowed me to say, "Yippee!" I don't use that word near enough.

I had no luck. My attempts at capture were lame.

A varied thrush

This from Tom Jessen of Madelia, "Our varied thrush is still here in Madelia and getting famous! (Deb said she first saw it around Dec. 15 and it was positively identified on Dec. 21). Birdwatchers from all over have either driven by and seen it from the street or have sat right here by the kitchen window for a front row view."

TJ added that birdwatchers are wonderful people. I agree and I was pleased to have passed the word on the bird.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

"I'm worried."

"What are you worried about?"

"My wife left a message telling me not to get the items she told me to pick up and I can't remember what items I shouldn't get."

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: the best parts of storms are the stories.

I've learned

1. Calendars are half-off now. Mayan calendars are way off.

2. When you make a mental note, make two copies.

3. Help wanted signs in fast food restaurants indicate a strong economy.

The news from Hartland

Mallard "induckted" into Waterfowl Hall of Fame.

Photos of the winners of past cat and dog shows line the walls of city hall. It's reigning cats and dogs there.

Local business changes name to "Building for rent."

Mr. Fix-It

A friend made 32 wallets out of duct tape. I think he plans to win the lottery. I've never been good at making anything other than a mess.

I thought about that as I put on work gloves. Doing maintenance or repairs outside in January makes things interesting. The cold slows a job so much that it makes me rush.

I paused to think about the glove compartment of my car. I keep many things in there, but it never holds gloves.

My father and my brother, Donald, excelled in fixing things. I know they'd learned those skills, but their abilities seemed inborn. My job, when helping them, was to hold the light.

I put on the gloves and boldly went where I had gone before.

Those thrilling days of yesteryear

It was a time of the year when we prepared for the future. Produce was stored for winter. I heard, "One potater, two for later." I had a difficult time gathering eggs. The hen fruit kept moving out of my reach. It was a case of restless egg syndrome.

During the time when I hung out with Wally, Eddie and Lumpy, the hottest spice found in our home was catsup. A minister I met when I spoke in Texas was fond of his homemade hot sauce. He loved the stuff so much that he carried a bottle with him. He offered me a spoonful. I took it. When I was once again able to form words, I managed to gasp, "I've heard ministers preach hellfire, but you're the first one I've met who passed out samples!"

Did you know?

"Chugwagon" was once a popular U.S. slang for an automobile.

According to a survey by Georgia-Pacific, 31 percent of people make their toilet paper into a "snowball" and 28 percent fold it into squares.

Customer comments

Kathy Paulson of Geneva sent this, "Life is short. Smile while you still have teeth."

Nature notes

Paul Schwab of Owatonna writes about a hawk looking for a meal and becoming a meal, "A hawk flew by our feeders, scattering birds. Unfortunately, one hit the window. I thought I'd go out and put it in the recovery bag. The hawk came back, picked it up and flew away. I think it was a goldfinch and a sharp-shinned hawk.

"The next morning, I looked out and a Cooper's hawk (juvenile, the eyes were yellow) had captured a sizable victim. Got the binoculars and it had taken a sharp-shinned hawk. It could not fly away with it. It plucked away feathers and began feeding on it. In three more attempts to fly, it only covered 30 feet. Finally, the Cooper's hawk did get the sharp-shinned hawk airborne.

"Do they come back and eat more of a large prey or not? Or do they just leave when full and kill again when hungry?"

The answer is "yes" to both questions. It depends upon the hawk, its needs and whether it feels secure in that location. These two hawks are difficult to tell apart. A sharp-shinned hawk has sharp corners on the tip of its tail.

The tip of the Cooper's hawk's tail is more rounded like the letters in Cooper's. The Cooper's is built like a football player, with a thick, tubular body with a low center of gravity.

The sharpie has a broad chest and narrow hips like a cross-country runner. The sharpie's eyes appear about halfway between the front and back of head. A Coop's eyes appear to be closer to the front of the head. To me this makes the sharp-shinned look cute, the Coop fierce.

I wander

I was speaking in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and did a good deal of birding there. I saw a lot of RGV roadkill while on the way to see some redheads (red-crowned parrots). RGV roadkill is fruit that had fallen from a truck.

Albert Lea CBC

This Christmas Bird Count was held on Dec. 29. There were 45 species counted. The 10 species with the highest numbers, in descending order, were Canada goose, American tree sparrow, house sparrow, rock pigeon, snow bunting, American crow, house finch, pine siskin, dark-eyed junco, and Lapland longspurs.

Among the birds seen were red-headed woodpecker, northern shrike, red-breasted nuthatch, bald eagle, American robin, fox sparrow, common grackle, American white pelican, and trumpeter swan. There were more wild turkeys seen than ring-necked pheasants, more pine siskins than American goldfinches, and more Eurasian collared-doves were spotted than mourning doves. There were good numbers of common redpolls and a Carolina wren was coming to a feeder in the yard of Jim and JoAnn Malepsy in Albert Lea.

My thanks to everyone who helped count the birds.

Nature lessons

Because they locate food by sight, tying yellow ribbons onto feeders might help attract goldfinches.

Ravens begin nesting near Prudhoe Bay in late March when temperatures can be 30 below.

Thanks for stopping by

"Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude." - Denis Waitley

"You don't get harmony when everybody sings the same note." - Doug Floyd

Meeting adjourned

W. Jaynee Carolus of Lewiston, Penn., sent this, "Kindness is just the tip of the niceberg."


©Al Batt 2013