A Pileated woodpecker.
A Pileated woodpecker.
My nephew, Neal Batt, got a Magic 8-Ball for Christmas. He'll never need to make another decision. He'll rely on the Magic 8-Ball's advice that says one of the following: As I see it, yes. It is certain. It is decidedly so. Most likely. Outlook good. Signs point to yes. Without a doubt. Yes. Yes-definitely. You may rely on it. Reply hazy, try again. Ask again later. Better not tell you now. Cannot predict now. Concentrate and ask again. Don't count on it. My reply is no. My sources say no. Outlook not so good. Very doubtful.

Contrary to my popular belief, there is no, "What are you looking at?"

Ten of the answers are affirmative, five are negative, and five are unrevealing. Who knows, maybe the device is the secret to Warren Buffet's success.

My 3-year-old grandson, Crosby, was acting his age when it came time to open Christmas presents. Some suggested he was being a pain in the posterior. His grandmother, The Queen B, warned him that if he didn't shape up, he'd be the last one to open presents.

Crosby replied instantly, "I like being last."

Squirrel tail tale

Jim Johnson of Hartland lives near Spicer Lake. Squirrels are fond of raiding Jim's bird feeders. Jim got so close to a squirrel on one feeder that he was able to give the squirrel's tail a tug. It gave the squirrel quite a fright and Jim thought he might have solved his squirrel problem. He had not. The next day, the squirrel reappeared at the feeder in the company of another squirrel - likely a sentry or a bodyguard.

Research reports

Research has shown that while chickadees are regular visitors to feeders, 75 to 80 percent of their winter food supply comes from natural sources. When the temperature falls below 10 degrees, the survival rate of chickadees nearly doubles when they have access to feeders.

Research from the Georgia Institute of Technology showed that mosquitoes have the remarkable ability to shrug off impacts from raindrops more than 50 times their body mass, but are grounded in a thick fog.

The baby and the golden eagle

Millions of viewers watched a video on TV or on YouTube of a golden eagle stealing a baby. It was a hoax. Most of the accounts of such occurrences are from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and should be taken with a grain of salt. It's unusual for eagles and owls to attack small dogs and cats.

This coffee tastes like...

In Thailand, elephants are helping to produce some of the world's most expensive coffee. The exotic new brew, claimed to be earthy in flavor and smooth on the palate, is made from beans eaten by elephants and plucked from their dung. The coffee runs $500 per pound and a few luxury hotels charge $50 a serving. When an elephant eats the beans, its stomach acid breaks down the protein found in coffee, which is a key factor in its flavor.


Philip Jenni, executive director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville, said they had a record year of more than 8,900 animals admitted in 2012. The staff and volunteers at the WRC do wonderful work. If you encounter an injured wild animal, call the WRC at 651-486-9453.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

"Knock, knock."

"Who's there?"

"The doorbell repairman."

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: Chewbacca made a lot of Wookiee mistakes.

The news from Hartland

The Eat Around It Cafe offers a Too Much Information booth where people can talk about their most recent medical procedures.

The Lucky Charms leprechaun tells police that everyone is after his Social Security check.

CSI Hartland discovers that the mime really was trapped in an invisible box.

Hartland's walk/don't walk lights become coin-operated.

Basketball diaries

I watched my granddaughter, Joey, play ball. Her team was shutting out its opponent. I've seen many fastpitch softball games and a shutout isn't that unusual. What made it odd was that it was a basketball game. The score was New Ulm a lot, the Sleepy Eye contingent nothing. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, a player from Sleepy Eye heaved the ball from well past mid-court. It swished as the final buzzer sounded. A three-pointer. Everyone cheered.

Deb Kenison of Ellendale told me that when her father played high school basketball for Emmons, he and a friend were caught smoking cigarettes. Both boys were booted from the team. A problem soon arose. Being a small school, Emmons didn't have enough players to field a team without the smokers. The coach went to Deb's father to ask him to rejoin the varsity. He was hesitant, but agreed to return if the coach bought him a pair of basketball shoes. Deb's father became a rare individual - a high school basketball player with a shoe contract.

Talking Texas

I spoke in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) and visited Mission, Texas.

My mother, who knew nothing about football, liked the Dallas Cowboys because of their coach, Tom Landry. She liked his hat. A mural on a building located, oddly enough, on Tom Landry Drive, is a tribute to Landry. It portrays Landry's years as a player with the New York Giants and as a coach of the Cowboys. Don Perkins, Don Meredith, Danny White, Ed LeBaron, Craig Morton and Too Tall Jones are players depicted in the mural. It illustrates Landry on the shoulders of Rayfield Wright after a Super Bowl victory. It shows his involvement with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and ends with his induction into the Football Hall of Fame. Mom would have smiled at the images of that fedora.

A winter day in the RGV offered an outside temperature warmer than that in my bedroom at home. Sandra Skrei of Cedar Creek moved to Texas from the Midwest to teach. She told one of the students in her first class that he was on thin ice. The boy, who had lived his entire life in the RGV, had no idea what his teacher was talking about.

Nature notes

"What are the chances of hitting a deer while driving?" Much better than winning the lottery. According to State Farm Insurance, your greatest chance of bumping into Bambi with a Buick is in West Virginia: one in 40. South Dakota drivers are second at one in 68, Iowa third with one in 71.9, Michigan is one in 72.4 and Pennsylvania fifth at one in 76. Wisconsin ranked seventh with one in 79 and Minnesota with a one in 80 chance of hitting a deer with a vehicle was eighth.

Q and A

Wally O'Neill of Eau Claire writes, "I have seven feeders in the yard, all close together. Sometimes there will be anywhere from 30 to 50 birds feeding, then suddenly as one they fly off. Ten seconds later they start returning. Is this a survival mechanism, one flies all fly?"

Birds gather for many reasons, one of which is for finding food and another is that it serves as a defense against predators. Having many eyes increases the chances of spotting a predator. Once the entire group takes flight, the predator may become confused and have trouble focusing on a single target. Any individual can initiate the movement of the other birds. When a Cooper's hawk or sharp-shinned hawk flies through, birds take to the air. As might be expected, this makes birds nervous. If they think a predator is about, they'll take flight at the proverbial drop of a hat. If another bird looks like it has seen something and flies, the others will, too. If a bird calls a warning (even a blue jay crying wolf), they will fly. Being part of a group is a means of self-preservation.

Meeting adjourned

Wherever there's another living thing, there's an opportunity for kindness.

Thanks for stopping by

"I thought of my friends who never take walks in Oklahoma 'for there was nothing to see.' I was amazed and grieved at their blindness. I longed to open their eyes to the wonders around them, to persuade people to love and cherish nature." - Margaret Morse Nice

"The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy." - Kalu Kalu


©Al Batt 2012