A downy woodpecker, at left, and a hairy woodpecker enjoy food from a wire-mesh feeder. One can tell the difference by the length of a bill compared to the size of the head. If the bill is much shorter than the head, the bird is a downy woodpecker.  AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->
A downy woodpecker, at left, and a hairy woodpecker enjoy food from a wire-mesh feeder. One can tell the difference by the length of a bill compared to the size of the head. If the bill is much shorter than the head, the bird is a downy woodpecker. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER

Shel Silverstein wrote, "School. Rain and hail. Cold and snow. Are good excuses not to go."

It didn't seem like we missed many days of school for any of those reasons when I was an uninspired student, but I'm pleased that I went to such a fine school.

Watching the local girls win the state basketball tournament for the second consecutive year gave many a tear duct a hair trigger.

Birthday on a bun

How many of you have ever had a birthday? Most of you, I'll bet.

How many of you wanted to be president when you grew up? I suspect that few of you did and those who did have outgrown that desire.

I never wanted to be president. I just wanted to be older. My wish has come true.

My birthday is on St. Urho's Day. St. Urho was created in northern Minnesota and Urho was credited with chasing the grasshoppers out of Finland and saving the legendary vineyards there.

Some curmudgeons claim that St. Urho's Day was created the day before St. Patrick's Day to allow for two drinking holidays in a row. A statue in Menahga depicts the saint with a giant grasshopper speared on his pitchfork.

The good folks at the National Eagle Center made me a birthday hotdog. The candles were placed into the meat and "Happy Birthday, Al" was inscribed on a paper plate in mustard and catsup. It was a great idea and I was touched.

The only fly in the ointment was that the candles melted into the hotdog.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

I got a speeding ticket yesterday.

Didn't you ask the officer for a warning?

I did. He said warnings were all along the road. The speed limit signs.

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: it does no good to bury the hatchet if you remember where you buried it.

The news from Hartland

After making chairs for 25 years, Ken Tucky finally gets a desk job.

Chiropractor's office plays nothing but music by The Kinks.

Snip's Veterinary Clinic and Taxidermy Shop claims, "Either way you get your pet back."

Thrilling days of yesteryear

Some of the township elders wore long underwear all year. They claimed it kept them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Maybe so, but I noticed that they sometimes rolled up their sleeves in the summer.

It was in the days that if the phone rang after 9:30 p.m., it was never good news.

It was during a time when our house had a single fan for cooling and an AM radio for entertainment.

A time when my mother woke me by saying, "Get out of bed. It's Monday morning. Tomorrow is Tuesday. The next day is Wednesday. Half the week is gone already and you haven't done anything but sleep."

I wanted chickens. My grandmother gave me some. They came with chores - feeding, cleaning and picking eggs. I gathered eggs from broody banty hens. They didn't want to give up the hen fruit. They were the original angry birds.

Did you know?

Weatherwise magazine had an article titled, "The 10 Best Places in the World." It provided an evaluation of climates that are most suitable to human habitation. Number one on the list was Vina del Mar, Chile. Others on the list were Lisbon, Portugal; Casablanca, Morocco; San Diego, Calif., and, of course, Hartland, Minn.

Tom Donovan of Hartland says that city needs a historical museum. Small towns are rich in history and museums preserve memories. Museums are important because we forget what happened yesterday.

Nature notes

Tom Jessen of Madelia wrote, "I witnessed two cottontail rabbits doing their bunny hop. They seemed to like performing on the driveway as it afforded room for the leaping and bouncing. Are these males trying to prove who's the better guy or is it a male and female on the dance floor?"

The answer to your question would be yes and yes. During the mating season, males often fight with one another. The male and female also perform a kind of mating dance. The male chases the female. Eventually the female stops, faces the male, and boxes at him with her front paws. At some point, one of them leaps into the air and then the other does the same. Sometimes a number of males pursue a single female. As mad as a March hare is what they become.

Spring things

It was an odd scene. There were Canada geese walking on the ice, waiting for it to melt so that they could begin the nesting process. That wasn't an odd thing. What was odd was that near the big birds were some old Canada geese decoys, once used to lure geese into shooting range. The Canada geese were looking for love among the decoys.

I watched crows carry away bits of a squirrel that failed its crossing-the-road exam. Crows are good public servants in that they take away the things that we don't like or want.

The seasons change and our natural world changes with it. I revel in each new thing. Migrating birds fly overhead. I offered a silent prayer in gratitude for the kind birds.

Mary Oliver wrote, "I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time when something wonderful has touched us."

I breathe deeply in spring.

Nature lessons

For most of Minnesota, January is the snowiest month of the year on average. The greatest monthly snowfall was in March of 1965 when Collegeville reported 66.4 inches.

Brown-headed cowbirds are parasitic nesters. A female cowbird lays up to 40 eggs per season in a variety of other bird nests. Other species foster cowbird young.

The five waterfowl species eligible for depiction in the 2015-16 Duck Stamp that will be judged at the contest in September will be brant, northern shoveler, ruddy duck, Canada goose, and red-breasted merganser. The all-time highest number of stamps sold in one year was for the 1971-72 Duck Stamp. That year, 2,445,977 were sold.

Thank you

Thank you for buying my book, "A Life Gone to the Birds." It is available in the products section on albatt.net or at Book World and Prairie Wind Coffee Shop.

Thanks for stopping by

"We must strive to touch the land gently and care for it as true stewards, that those who follow us and assess our records may see that our mark on the land was one of respect and love, not cruelty and disdain." - Robert B. Oetting

"We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out." - Roger Ebert

Meeting adjourned

Tell people something nice for their own good.


© Al Batt 2014