These sandhill cranes strut their stuff on the lakeshore.  COURTESY OF DARCY SIME
These sandhill cranes strut their stuff on the lakeshore. COURTESY OF DARCY SIME
A friend was in his 80s. He was a rare bird, one that was always a delight to see. He maintained a number of wood duck boxes that required a long ladder to get to the boxes. One day, he was out checking the wood duck boxes. He lost his balance and fell from the ladder. Other than minor bruises and a dented ego, there were no injuries. His kids took his ladder away.

Nature by the yard

Oodles of orioles and a gross of grosbeaks flocked to my feeders. Greedy beaks consumed food. Migrating at night, they are cold, tired and hungry upon arrival. Baltimore orioles feed mostly on the nectar of tree flowers until the caterpillar and insect populations grow. They like fruit and nectar, so they can be attracted with orange halves, grape jelly and sugar water in oriole or hummingbird feeders. They also will eat mealworms, suet and nuts.

Towering pines make it difficult not to be humble.

I took my camera for a walk and photographed a migrating bufflehead swimming about. A knucklehead watching a bufflehead seemed appropriate.

Buffleheads breed near ponds and lakes in boreal forests and aspen parklands of Canada and Alaska, with isolated populations in the United States. The bufflehead's breeding range is limited by the distribution of northern flickers, which are their main provider of nesting cavities.

Buffleheads are North America's smallest diving duck and the old flicker nests are too small for goldeneyes, wood ducks and mergansers.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

I'm tired. It's hard getting up at five.

Big deal. I get up before five every day. It's easy.

I was talking about five in the morning.


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: everybody is just like you because they think you are just like them.

I've learned

Credit should go to those who are willing to take the blame.

We don't own smartphones. They own us.

If you can't stand the heat, turn down the thermostat.

Cafe chronicles

I make my wish every spring. I call it my "Goldilocks wish." Back when Goldilocks was going through her breaking-and-entering phase, she found that the Three Bear's porridge was either too cold, too hot or just right. The porridge is like our springs. I wish that the spring weather would be just right. It seldom is, but I keep hoping.

At the table of infinite knowledge, one of the seated men whined about his clinic visits. He said that he had asked the doctor if there was anything that might make him feel better. The doctor replied, "Maybe a telethon."

The friendly waitress highlighted the specials. One was the famed potato salad recipe that everybody had wanted, but the previous owner of the eatery refused to share. When asked, she would always reply, "You can have that recipe over my dead body." So when she died, she had the potato salad recipe engraved on her tombstone.

A school visit

I had just listened to a young man tell of getting in trouble in school for crowdsourcing a test. In my day, that was called copying from someone else's paper.

I felt his pain. My test papers were always tearable.

The student's confession reminded me of a poem by Shel Silverstein that goes like this, "Jim copied the answer from Nancy. Sue copied the answer from Jim. Tim copied the answer from Sue and then Anne copied the answer from him. And Fran copied Anne and Jan copied Fran. The answer kept passing along. And no one got caught, but the problem was Nancy had it wrong."

Old friends in new places

I spoke at some things in Luverne. In the audience was Kerry Boese. Kerry was an intern pastor at Cross of Glory Lutheran Church years ago and was my softball teammate. He now pastors at Hadley Lutheran, Kenneth Lutheran and Zion Lutheran (Adrian). It was great to see an old and cherished friend. Kerry sent me a note saying that seeing me again was a breath of old but fresh air.

You're not getting older, you're getting colder

He accompanied me on a trip I led to Alaska. He was proud of his ancestry, pleased to say, "If it ain't Dutch, it ain't much."

I teased him about his inability to remember Alaska's state flower. It's the forget-me-not.

He told me that he planned on doing all of his future traveling south of his home. He explained it by saying as he got older, he got colder.

Did you know?

One in three of the nation's counties have more deaths than births.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, based on physical and emotional health, lists the top 10 happiest states as 1. North Dakota, 2. South Dakota, 3. Nebraska, 4. Minnesota, 5. Montana, 6. Vermont, 7. Colorado, 8. Hawaii, 9. Washington and 10. Iowa.

Sternutation is a sneeze or the act of sneezing

Honors for Bill Bryson

A good friend, Bill Bryson of Alden, was inducted into the Minnesota Waterfowl Association Class of 2014 Hall of Fame at their February annual banquet. Tom Tubbs presented the award.

Nature notes

"Do hummingbirds migrate in flocks?" They do not. They migrate individually.

"Which field guide to the birds is the best?" They are all good. Browse the field guides available at a library or bookstore. This should help you get a sense of which one would work best for you. I prefer field guides with drawings rather than photographs. Artists use their expertise to help users key in on important field marks. Lighting conditions and differences in the positions of birds could mask important features or emphasize unimportant ones in photos, although the photos are getting better all the time.

Nature lessons

The bite of a tarantula is typically no worse than that of a wasp or a bee.

Centipedes are distinguished from millipedes in having one, not two, pair of legs attached to each segment.

A plague of locusts swept across the American West in the summer of 1875. The size of that swarm was estimated at 198,000 square miles - bigger than California.

Bergmann's Rule states that a species is larger in size in colder environments and smaller in size in warmer regions.

Dutch researchers have created a bladeless wind turbine with no moving parts that produces electricity using charged water droplets.

A group of waxwings is collectively known as an "earful" or a "museum."

In golf, a score of three under par on a hole, one less stroke than an eagle, is called an albatross.


"Will yellow-bellied sapsuckers kill trees?" Yellow-bellied sapsuckers drill in many species of trees, but have a strong preference for birches and maples. As their name indicates, sapsuckers rely on sap as a main food source. Just as people tap maple trees to make maple syrup, sapsuckers drill wells in spring.

The birds first drill narrow, circular wells into the tree's xylem, the inner part of the trunk, to feed on the sap moving up to the branches in early spring. Then, after the trees leaf out, the sapsucker drills shallower, rectangular holes in the phloem, the part of the trunk carrying sap down from the leaves. The phloem wells must be continually maintained with fresh drilling, so that the sap would continue to flow.

The sapwells attract hummingbirds, which also feed on the sap flowing from the tree. In addition to sap, yellow-bellied sapsuckers also eat insects, spiders and fruit. The shallow damage should not cause serious problems to a healthy tree. If you are concerned about a persistent sapsucker causing injury to a tree, wrap hardware cloth around the affected area.

"Why are robins' eggs blue?" Maybe blue is more difficult for predators to see than a white colored egg. Or a brood of blue eggs might make it easier for the mother to spot an egg that doesn't belong, like that of a parasitic-nesting cowbird. It's a mystery. A good number of other birds have blue eggs.

"Where do sandhill cranes nest?" The three subpopulations of sandhill cranes are migratory. The lesser, greater and Canadian sandhill cranes spend winters in the south and summers at their breeding grounds. The largest congregation of migrating sandhill cranes occurs from February to early April along the Platte River in Nebraska. Some breed in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Canada and Siberia.

Meeting adjourned

Author Jeffrey Marx in "Season of Life: A Football Star, a Boy, a Journey to Manhood," wrote about Gilman High School in Maryland and its highly successful football team. The coaches there have a few unusual rules. No Gilman football player should let another Gilman boy eat lunch by himself, whether he is a teammate or not. The players are required to base their thoughts and actions on one simple question, "What can I do for others?"

Thanks for stopping by

"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." - Aldo Leopold

"Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present." - Jim Rohn


© Al Batt 2014