This European bee-eater seen in Hungary sports a bright color scheme on its throat and breast.  AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWS GROUP
This European bee-eater seen in Hungary sports a bright color scheme on its throat and breast. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWS GROUP
I was walking behind three friends from England as we strolled around Vienna. They exemplified the famed English politeness, apologizing quickly for any possible infraction of manners.

I blurted out, "I'm sorry."

They asked a collective, "Why are you sorry?"

I replied, "Because I'm behind you."

"Why should that make you sorry?" they asked as a group.

I explained that I was sorry because I'd have liked to have been in front of them.

They were sorry they had asked.

A week later, I was headed home from Carrington, N.D. Traffic was moving along at a brisk pace when suddenly it came to a complete halt about 30 miles north of Minneapolis. We creeped and beeped for many miles. I wished I could have walked on ahead. Childish doofuses changed lanes with every three cars they managed to squeeze by, zigzagging their way to their destinations. I tried not to judge them. I imagined them apologizing each time they made a move. I wished good things for them and their blessed offspring. I try not to growl about traffic. There might be an accident ahead of me. If I complained, I'd feel like a complete jerk when I saw an ambulance.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

You are long on appetite and short on manners. Pass the mashed potatoes.


Please pass the mashed potatoes.

Eat something closer to you.

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: we should never mistake vanity for culture.

The cafe chronicles

I was in a small-town cafe in North Dakota. I wrote down my order and bused my own table. I hoped to make employee of the month and get the coveted parking place.

The server growled that bacon, eggs and hash browns would go to the highest bidder.

The ruminants were seated at their favorite table.

"If I say it, you can believe it," was said in all capital letters by the one most likely prone to telling falsehoods. He had one of those beards that grew so wild that I couldn't help but do a visual search to see if something was peering out of it.

A couple of experienced women sat down at the next table.

One said, "This is my favorite restaurant. I almost always sit at this table. I come here all the time. I'd come here even more often if the food wasn't so terrible."

In the neighborhood

The neighbor didn't have a telephone. He didn't believe in having a lot of things that cost money. If someone needed to call him, he'd share my phone number. It worked. Any time someone called me and left a message for my neighbor, I'd send my neighbor a letter.

Car talk

A friend, Bruce Aird of Lake Forest, Calif., and I were talking about a certain kind of car. It's a popular car that you'd recognize if I said the name, but I'm going to spare the car the embarrassment. It probably has a family who doesn't need to read such things. Bruce described it as a car that should be sold only in pairs and each should come with a hitch so that it could tow the other when it stopped running.


I stopped at the eyeglasses place to have my cheaters adjusted. They were irritating my nose, chewing into the flesh on both sides.

I explained my problem to the nice person working there.

She thought she would be able to solve my predicament posthaste.

She fussed with them some before asking, "Is this the same head you had when you purchased the glasses?"

Lemon bar

I devoured a lemon bar at a feed near Melville, N.D. Lemon bars are good and this one was particularly so. It had a plethora of powdered sugar. So much, that with each bite, powdered sugar filled the air. It looked like snow flurries in June. That's why I was on The Weather Channel.

Nature by the yard

I looked at the tree and tried to eliminate everything that wasn't a bird.

The sight of birds was the harvest I wanted to gather, but I was presented with a fine crop of mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes put many people closer to nature than they wanted to be. I accept them as a part of my life. They bite me, but it's nothing personal.

Walker Evans wrote, "Stare. It is the way to educate your eye and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long."

I stare. I want to know things.

I watch birds involved in nesting. These could be the same birds that nested here last year. Many bird species demonstrate a nest-site fidelity. That is the tendency to return to a previously occupied location. I understand that. I live a mile from my boyhood home. I went away, but I came back.

When penguins fly

I enjoyed listening to the talented band Sorghum Hill from Memphis, Tenn., as they played in Carrington, N.D. One of the singers saw a flock of American white pelicans fly over.

"Look at the penguins," she exclaimed.

I waited for something amazing to happen as it would when pigs or penguins fly.

Customer comments

Jack Brush of New Ulm said that when he gets out his worm bucket and walks outside to dig worms for fishing, robins follow him around.

Julie Zickefoose of Whipple, Ohio, thinks that the best tool a naturalist can have is an iPhone or another cellphone with a good camera.

Nature lessons

Mackerel sky, no more than 24 hours dry.

Cats aren't native to the United States. Traders, explorers, and colonists brought domestic cats with them to this continent during the 1600s and 1700s.

If you want to find caterpillars, look for caterpillar poop.

The more colorful a male house finch is, the more likely he is to get a date for prom.

Did you know?

Canada's population is about 11 percent of that of the United States.

Nature notes

"Do any birds hibernate?" Not really, but the common poorwill slows its metabolic rate and drops its body temperature, going into a hibernation-like state known as torpor.

In periods of cold weather, a poorwill may stay in torpor for several weeks, which allows the bird to go without food when insect prey is unavailable.


"I just bought some new binoculars. Are there any adjustments I should make to them before I use them?" Even the best of binoculars will give you a poor view of the world if you fail to set the diopter ring correctly. This adjustment, typically found on the right eyepiece or the center-focus knob, fine-tunes the binocular settings to match your vision. Set the diopter ring to the center of its adjustment scale. It's marked with a zero, a hash mark, or another symbol.

Cover the right objective (the large one closest to the object) lens. Pick an object about 50 yards away. Keeping both eyes open, move the focus wheel until the image is at its sharpest. Focus only with the left eye, keeping both eyes open and relaxed. Do not squint. Move your cover to the left objective lens. Look at the same object and turn the diopter ring to bring the object into sharp focus. Make sure the focus knob doesn't change.

Keep both eyes open without squinting. Then look through both lenses uncovered. The image should remain sharp. Make a note of the diopter-ring setting or place a small dot of fingernail polish or other marking at the correct adjustment. If your visual acuity changes, you may need to reset the diopter. Eyecups should also be set properly. For non-eyeglass wearers, eyecups should be set to the fully extended position. For eyeglass wearers, eyecups should be moved to the fully retracted position. This makes it possible to obtain the entire field of view without vignetting.

"Do great horned owls mate for life?" Great horned owls do take life-long mates. They don't build a nest together, depending upon the nests of other birds such as hawks, herons, eagles and crows for places to raise owlets. The young owls scream for attention both in and out of the nests. The junior owls apparently have never heard the old ditty that goes like this, "A wise old owl lived in an oak.

The more he saw, the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the more he heard. Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?"

"How did the ferruginous hawk get its name?" The name refers to the rusty color of the wings and leg feathers. Their nests often contained bison bones.

Thanks for stopping by

"To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee. One clover and a bee. And revery. The revery alone will do, if bees are few." ― Emily Dickinson

"Just to live in the country is a full-time job. You don't have to do anything. The idle pursuit of making a living is pushed to one side, where it belongs, in favor of living itself, a task of such immediacy, variety, beauty and excitement that one is powerless to resist its wild embrace." ― E.B. White

Meeting adjourned

"Forgiveness is the economy of the heart. Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits." - Hannah More.


© Al Batt 2014