Sue Olson of Albert Lea shared this photo of a Cooper's hawk.
Sue Olson of Albert Lea shared this photo of a Cooper's hawk.
Yellow-rumped warblers moved through the trees and shrubs, gleaning any food available, including poison ivy berries.

"Butterbutts," I whispered with a smile as I heard their sluggish chirps.

I stood at the end of my drive watching birds in passage. Broad-winged hawks flew high, nearly unavailable to the naked eye. At the Veracruz (Mexico) Hawkwatch more than 100,000 hawks per day may pass through between Sept. 20 and Oct. 25. During the first two weeks, almost all of the birds in the "river of raptors" are broad-winged hawks.

Starlings and blackbirds glided smoothly over the cornfields. A Cooper's hawk flew not far over my head. It moved quickly as if it had an appointment to keep. Perhaps it did.

I've been reading

This from "Wicked Bugs" by Amy Stewart, "When driver ants are hungry, they hit the road. In leaderless swarms, they stream through villages in central and east Africa, decimating everything in their path. As many as twenty million ants join the swarm, enough to build tunnels as they go and overpower grasshoppers, worms, beetles, and even larger creatures like snakes and rats. Because these inch-long ants barrel right through villages and homes, people may be forced to move out during the onslaught. This is not always such a bad thing; the ants wipe out cockroaches, scorpions, and other household pests during their march."

Echoes From Loafers' Club

"How is retirement going for you?"

"Well, I don't really have any retirement skills."

"So what do you do?"

"I think about what I did."

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: "shortcut" is another term for "wrong turn."

I've learned

The only reality to Reality TV shows is that they are faked.

Many an ailing goldfish has had its entire life flush before its eyes.

I'm part of the people who can be fooled some of the time.

Headlines from Hartland

Defendant found guilty and sentenced to jury duty.

Mort Postem says that all caskets he offers come with a lifetime guarantee.

Gladys Overwith said that she couldn't believe that her husband was stealing from his job as a road worker, but all the signs were there.


I've been working on my costume. Last year, I threw a sheet over my head and went as an unmade bed. Good luck, trick-or-treater. I hope you don't get a rock.


I was near Great Falls, Mont., on my way to a speaking engagement. What was going through my mind was a Frank Zappa song, "I might be movin' to Montana soon, just to raise me up a crop of dental floss." The cartoon bubble over my head pictured fields of dental floss blowing in the breeze under an endless big sky. I didn't see any.

Cafe chronicles

I stopped at a small-town cafe where I was to meet a man I didn't know. I needed help identifying him.

I asked the waitress if she was acquainted with the folks patronizing the eatery.

"I know more than half," she grunted.

"Then you're the one I need to talk to," I said.

"Now that I think about it," she added, "I'm willing to bet that I know more than all of them put together."

Those thrilling days of yesteryear

"That's a fine looking boy you have there. He'd make a good trade-in on that backhoe we just got in."

I knew the implement salesman was kidding, but I could tell my father was considering the deal.

My father wanted a backhoe. What man or boy didn't?

I've dashed to where a crowd had gathered because someone was digging a hole. Where a backhoe was gouging a cavity into the earth.

That's entertainment.

School daze

I was in the second grade at what is now New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva-Bath-Otisco-Matawan-Summit-Cooleyville-Berlin-Hope-Trenton-Lemond-Hollandale-Clarks Grove-Freeborn-Vista-Waldorf-Manchester-Beaver Lake-St. Olaf Lake-Mule Lake Grade School, more commonly referred to as NRHEGBOMSCBHTLHCGFVWMBLSOLML.

"Now children," said Mrs. Demmer, "here is a wonderful lesson from the life of the ant. It's an example on how we should live our lives. Every day, the ant works all day. Every day, the ant is busy. And in the end, what happens?"

I answered, "Someone steps on it."

It was one of those right answers that was wrong.

Bumper sticker snickers

Mark Christenson of Columbia Heights saw this, "Get in, sit down, hold on and shut up."

On a battered Buick in Iowa, "Don't worry what people think, they don't do it often."

On Jared Knutson's car in Hartland, "Crops are green. Tractors are red."

Did you know?

Pew Research found that 15 percent of Americans don't use the Internet.

According to eMarketer, adults in the United States spend 4 hours, 31 minutes watching TV each day and another 5 hours, 16 minutes looking at other screens.

If you have cable, you pay at least $5.54 per month for ESPN.

The first official intercollegiate football game was in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton.

Nature notes

A Carolina wren has an amazingly loud voice for its size. In summer, it sings "teakettle, teakettle." It has a rich cinnamon plumage, a white eyebrow, and an upward-cocked tail. This wren has been wintering farther north recently, which allows us to see them in Minnesota. It thrives in tangled, shrubby habitat and visits suet feeders.

Brian Plath hosted a Carolina wren in his Austin yard. The bird found a large nest box to call home - the Plath's garage. The wren came into the garage each night and Brian or his wife shut the door behind it. When the garage door was opened in the morning, the wren flew out.

Brian hung a discarded Baltimore oriole nest in the garage. The wren found it a good place to snooze. A hot pocket for wrens. The wren slept well. Why not? It had the best wren house in town.

Nature lessons

Watch for deer especially at dawn and after sunset. About 20 percent of crashes occur in early morning, with more than half occurring between 5 p.m. and midnight.

Craig Rayman of Glenville told me that his grandfather said, "Rain before seven, clear by 11."

Monarch butterflies use a "clock" in their antennae to help travel to Mexico. The insects navigate according to the position of the sun. You can tell the male monarchs from the females. Look for a dark spot on each of the male's hind wings. A monarch butterfly weighs about half a gram or 0.017637 ounces on average. In comparison, a new penny weighs 2.5 grams or 0.0881849 ounces.

Meeting adjourned

"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." - Harper Lee

"We are supposed to forgive everyone; everyone includes ourselves." - Denis Waitley

Meeting adjourned

Say kind things behind the backs of others.


© Al Batt 2013