This Brown thrasher easily stands out against a backdrop of green.  COURTESY OF AL BATT
This Brown thrasher easily stands out against a backdrop of green. COURTESY OF AL BATT
Georgia's state bird

Bill Seibert of Omaha told me that he and his wife, Sandy, have a saying that indicates good food. "It's a repeater" means that they will eat it again.

The brown thrasher in my yard is a repeater. Not just because it has returned to my yard, but because it repeats itself. Brown thrashers, like catbirds and mockingbirds, are mimics with varied repertoires. The male sings a series of doubled phrases without defined boundaries. Some people describe it as "plant a seed, plant a seed, bury it, bury it, cover it up, cover it up, let it grow, let it grow, pull it up, pull it up, eat it, eat it."

The thrasher gets its name from its habit of thrashing about in leaves while searching for food. Thoreau wrote, "Near at hand, upon the topmost spray of a birch, sings the brown thrasher - or red mavis, as some love to call him - all the morning, glad of your society, that would find out another farmer's field if yours were not here. While you are planting the seed, he cries - 'Drop it, drop it - cover it up, cover it up - pull it up, pull it up, pull it up.'"

A friend says that the thrasher is having a phone conversation. "Hello, hello. Who is this? Who is this? How's that? How's that? I don't know, I don't know. What did you say? What did you say? All right, all right. Goodbye, goodbye."

John Burroughs wrote about this cinnamon-colored bird, "There is no bird so afraid of being seen, or fonder of being heard."

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

I am in a great mood. Do you want to know why?

Who cares?

Now I am in a lousy mood. Do you want to know why?

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 it has not been done, someone should make Easter candy that consists solely of chocolate bunny ears.

Ask Al

"Do you ever procrastinate?" Let me get back to you on that.

"Should chicken be eaten with the fingers?" No, the fingers should be eaten separately.

"Are or is pants plural or singular?" It is singular at the top and they are plural at the bottom.

"My husband says he can determine the age of a horse by examining his teeth. Is that true?" No, he should examine the horse's teeth.

"My dream car was a Pontiac GTO. What does the GTO stand for?" Gas Tires Oil.

The cafe chronicles

I like tater tot hotdish with peas in it. That statement is akin to telling someone that I have diarrhea. It is important to me, but nobody else cares about it.

I ate my hotdish while he sounded as if he were on a speakerphone. Those seated at the table of infinite knowledge listened whether they wanted to or not. It was not a miracle like all the ladies on "The View" listening would be, but it was close.

He was espousing his views on cable TV. He said that he gets only one channel and it was named, "Why am I watching this channel?"

A day in the life

I was wearing Crocs.

That is my way of telling the world that I had given up.

I nibbled at the edges of the day, eating a bagel smeared with honey walnut cream cheese.

I was reading the sports section of a newspaper.

I have retired from all sports, but still enjoy reading a bit about them on occasion. I do not miss the sprained ankles and have learned that an athlete's joints age with a vengeance.

I was squinting like Dirty Harry. It was not for comedy effect. I was attempting to read the baseball box scores in the paper. The minuscule box scores were printed in faded ink.

Alongside the box scores, a columnist wrote about the New York Yankees star shortstop Derek Jeter getting old.

Big deal. He was Derek Jeter before he got old. He could eat lightning and pass thunder.

Jeter is retiring.

Many of us play sports too long. That's all right. It teaches us that it's OK to be bad at some things.

Shopping shenanigans

I was in an office supply store. I had purchased a printer for a few dollars less than nothing. It seemed like a good deal at the time. Now I am hooked. My printer is addicted to ink. I go to the store to interact with my printer's drug dealer when my printer needs a hit of ink.

While there, I looked at office chairs. One had memory foam. I asked if I would get my money back if the chair forgot me. That store had many items for sale, but I bought nothing but the required ink. William Blake said, "The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom."

Later, I stopped at a supermarket. I'm not a good shopper. I try to leave the shopping to grownups, but I wanted to see if I had the courage to flourish in a hostile world by visiting two stores in one day. I bought one item in the store. It did not have a "one item or fewer" lane and the "12 items or less" lane was not open.

The cashier rang up my lonely purchase. She asked, "Paper or plastic?"

I responded, "Nothing for me. Some of us know how to shop."


Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes. It's a common ailment. One that I am thankful I don't have. I don't know if Jackie Graveman of Albert Lea has this affliction, but when she lived in Hartland, she walked to her job at the bank. In warm weather, she took a shortcut through a grassy vacant lot until she saw the first snake. From then on, she walked on pavement.

Did you know?

Omphaloskepsis is the contemplation of one's navel as part of a mystical exercise.

It's our nature

On Earth Day, I wanted to go to an echo point that would echo my concerns. Where I could proclaim, "Happy Earth Day!" at the top of my lungs.

Work intervened. I took a break from my chores and gleaned trash from a small park. There was more trash than park.

A friend, Karen Wright of Mankato, found a robin that had been ensnared in discarded plastic netting. I have seen waterfowl and mammals with their heads stuck in the plastic yokes that corral six packs of beverages.

There is only one place that used plastic should be tossed and that is into a recycling bin.

Picking up bits of trash is a small thing, but it leads to big things. It may save lives.


"Do you think the harsh winter had much impact on insect populations?" Probably not. Winter does not have much affect on dormant insects. Insects generally awake when plants break buds. Then bad weather could have an impact.

T.J. Davis asked what bald eagles locking talons signifies. Courting pairs lock talons and whirl, but so do immature eagles and adult eagles that don't appear to be courting. Perhaps immature eagles lock talons as practice for adult courtship behaviors. Some locking and whirling seems to be antagonistic in nature, while some doesn't. Only the eagles know which is which.

"What does a robin use to build a nest?" Females press dead grass and twigs into a cup shape. Other materials include paper, feathers, rootlets or moss. She reinforces the nest with soft mud gathered from worm castings to make it sturdy. She lines the nest with fine dry grasses. You could provide short pieces of yarn and string for her.

"Is it possible that I have had a swarm of yellow jackets in my garage wall all winter?" No, not a swarm, but possibly a single yellow jacket. Fertilized queens hibernate in locations such as tree stumps, hollow logs, holes in ground, brush and compost piles, tree cavities, firewood piles, attics, crawl spaces and walls. The queen emerges in spring and builds a nest from chewed plant fibers.

She lays eggs that hatch and become sterile female workers that expand the nest, hunt for food and care for the queen who lays eggs all summer. A colony might have 5,000 workers. Adult males and fertile females leave the colony in the fall to mate. The males die after mating and the queens hibernate. The worker wasps perish. Nests may last through winter, but are not used again.

"I saw a brownish butterfly on a warm day with snow still on the ground. What was it?" A mourning cloak's dark maroon wings are trimmed in yellow and vivid blue spots. Most butterflies winter over in immature forms - eggs, caterpillars or chrysalises. Adult mourning cloaks hibernate in crevices in rocks or trees, under tree bark or in buildings. The mourning cloak produces glycerol that allows it to withstand winter temperatures. The adults feed on tree sap.

Nature notes

"How do birds find feeders?" They are drawn to feeders because they see the seed, see or hear birds feeding, have learned to search for bird feeders or are inquisitive and investigate new things.

Thanks for stopping by

"The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around." - Gaylord Nelson, Governor and Senator from Wisconsin, leader in launching Earth Day

"The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing." - Marcus Aurelius

Meeting adjourned

Kindness is the noblest weapon to conquer with.


© Al Batt 2014