Red fox kits sit nicely for a photo. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
Red fox kits sit nicely for a photo. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
Charlotte Anderson of New Ulm told me she didn't like school when she was a girl. Then her fourth grade teacher started a bird program for her students. Charlotte loved it.

That caused her to love school.

She loved school so much Charlotte became a teacher and taught for over 35 years.

Birding in North Dakota

I was with a group of birders in North Dakota, gathered at the Potholes & Prairie Birding Festival in Carrington. They had arrived from 20 states and the United Kingdom.

It was a birdy place.

"If you saw a duck fly by, it was a wood duck," a trip leader advised.

Bill Langford of Camarillo, Calif., thought that over and said, "What was it if you didn't see it?"

Nature lessons

Most waterfowl species can fly at speeds from 40 to 55 miles per hour.

Eurasian collared-doves spread across North America faster than any bird species on record. Released from captivity in the Bahamas in 1974, confirmed in Florida in 1982, seen in Montana in 1997, spotted in California in 2001, and nesting in Alaska in 2009. They have traversed the continent in half the time it took starlings and house sparrows.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

I argued with my father all night about getting a nose ring. He's too old to understand.

What happened?

I finally gave in and let him get one.

In the neighborhood

His name was Prndl. He was named after an automatic transmission.

Prndl talked loud so he could hear what he had to say.

Prndl had a bit of a heart problem. He asked his doctor if it would be OK if he drank a little brandy.

The doctor allowed that a couple of fingers wouldn't hurt Prndl any.

Prndl told me that he had polished off three bottles of brandy and none of it had yet gone to his fingers.

Small-town life

I was in Pemberton one morning when I encountered a man walking along, carrying a toilet seat. Anything out of the ordinary is a cause for excitement in a small town. Carrying a toilet seat is a good way to start the day. It's all easy from there.

A peregrination

A man was wearing a T-shirt. It wasn't a plain T-shirt. Few are today. It carried lettering that read, "This is my going-out T-shirt."

I should have a T-shirt like that because I went out to work in Germany, Austria and Hungary.

I tell travelers of I-35 that I live just beyond Hope, a small town in Minnesota. I had hoped to see a bird called a hoopoe while working in Europe. I was able to get good looks at the hoopoe (the bird's scientific name is Upupa epops), an amazing avian creature.

I still live just beyond Hope, but I'm not hoopoeless.

The dime store

When my family visited the dime store, I made tracks to the pet department. I looked at the birds, fish and hamsters.

My father said it was a zoo. I'd never been to a zoo, so it was a zoo to me.

When I venture into similar stores today, I still make a beeline to the pet department.

Staring at tiny fish like neon tetras, mollies and guppies helps get the taste of grownup out of my mouth.

Cars I have known

I was driving the crease of the map.

I am very fond of my car. It's the cat's meow and the dog's bowwow.

I thought about the cars I've known. My life is littered with discarded auto bodies.

I had many cars that stayed out of fix too often.

I once owned a Rolls Canhardly. Rolls down one hill and can hardly get up the next.

There were days when I had to go somewhere because I had a new tire. I didn't want the tire to go to waste. The tires on my old jalopies were never a matched set, but they were a sympathetic lot. If one tire went flat, the others did too.

One old junker gave me plenty of exercise from pushing it. Rain caused me some problems even though I had good windshield wipers. The car didn't have a windshield.

Customer comments

Stan Fitz of Rockford, Iowa, offered this as a table grace, "I'm just as thankful as I am hungry. Amen."

Annie Glasgow of St. Paul wrote, "Good sound reasons and reasons that sound good are not always the same thing."

Did you know?

According to a study by Facility Cleaning Decisions, people prefer paper towels four-to-one to hand dryers.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the average price of a new car or truck sold in the U.S. in 2013 was $32,086.

Singing cicadas

The dog-day cicada typically calls from early July into September, the hottest part of summer, known as the dog days. This cicada has a high-pitched, whining song that can last a minute and resembles the sound of a distant saw. The male usually sings around midday and again in late afternoon.

There are several other species of cicadas found in lesser numbers in the state, but we don't have periodic cicadas in Minnesota. They are found in parts of Iowa.

These are the cicadas that are famous (or infamous) for emerging in huge swarms. Periodic cicadas live 13 or 17 years (depending on the species) underground.

Some people call the cicadas "locusts," but they aren't. Locusts are a kind of grasshopper.


Kelly Preheim of Armour, S.D., asked if cedar waxwings eat blossoms. Cedar waxwings eat buds, flowers and young leaves. Cedar waxwings eat blossoms most often during their spring migration back to their breeding grounds.

"You wrote about a bird called a godwit. What does 'godwit' mean?" The name godwit apparently originated from the Old English with "god" meaning good and "wit" coming from wihte, meaning creature.

John and Betty Nevins of Albert Lea wrote, "We have baby wrens in a house outside of the front door. How long might we expect them to stay in the house?" It is typically 15 to 17 days.

"Do purple martins eat great numbers of mosquitoes?" Purple martins consume large numbers of flying insects. An amateur ornithologist reasoned that a four-ounce purple martin, due to its high metabolism rate, would have to consume its body weight (14,000 mosquitoes) per day in order to survive. In fact, purple martins feed voraciously upon dragonflies, known predators of mosquitoes. The number of mosquitoes eaten by martins is insignificant, no more than 3 percent of their diets. Martins are daytime feeders and feed high in the sky. Mosquitoes stay low and are most active at night.

Tom Belshan of Glenville asked why mosquito populations vary so from year to year of similar weather. The mosquitoes that really go after us lay their eggs in low, damp places. Rainfall fills those places and the water remains long enough for those mosquitoes to go through their life cycle in the water. They emerge as adults and start looking for a blood meal. If we don't get much rainfall, the eggs can stay viable for several years without hatching. If we have dry years, there is an excess of mosquito eggs that have accumulated. Precipitation can cause hatching from eggs that have been dormant for two or three years.

"Do ticks drop from trees?" Depending upon the species, ticks may be found in grass, brush or shrubs, particularly along animal trails and footpaths. They search for hosts by climbing up plants and using their legs to detect a potential host. If you have a tick on your head, it crawled there.

Thanks for stopping by

"Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it." ― Wilferd Peterson.

"Bird watching is a bloodless expression of man's primitive hunting instincts. We have substituted binoculars and cameras for the gun, but we still seek a trophy. A new species on a life list or photographs of one of earth's rarest and most exquisite creatures. Our search may take us no farther than a nearby meadow or it can lead to the cloud forests of tropical mountains." - James A. Kern.

Meeting adjourned

"Make kindness your modus operandi and change your world." - Annie Lennox


© Al Batt 2014