Sandhill cranes take flight over the Platte River near Kearny, Neb., in March.  AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
Sandhill cranes take flight over the Platte River near Kearny, Neb., in March. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
It's an ancient exercise. Sandhill cranes can be found along the Platte River near Kearny, Neb., in March.

The Platte River is an inch deep and a mile wide. The braided river, interspersed with sandbars, is too thin to plow and too thick to drink.

The sandhill cranes weigh five to 12 pounds. They remind some people of great blue herons, but unlike herons, they don't roost in trees.

After spring training, they use their six-foot wingspan to fly to nesting territories as far north as Alaska and Siberia. They live up to 25 years, with one banded bird living to be 35.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

Did you go to that meeting yesterday?

I did.

I thought you weren't going?

I wasn't, but then I decided that going was the next best thing to not being there.

Ask Al

"What is forensics?" Ten.

"What are Hartland residents called?" People.

"How could I attract butterflies to my yard?" Sound like a flower.

"How can I get more cardinals in my yard?" Move to St. Louis or Rome.

Cafe chronicles

At the table of infinite knowledge, retired guys looked back into the past and became tired. The cafe gives them a place to sit and hate other people's jobs. They were fellows who didn't believe everything they thought. One, with optional hearing, said he never wore his hearing aids. He's afraid if he did, people would think he was listening. Another guy kept bringing up the subject of TV so he could tell everyone that he never watched TV.

I said that I'd been to a wild game feed where I'd eaten raccoon. No hush fell over the crowd. They began talking about lutefisk.

A boy at a nearby table bit off the end of a drinking straw cover, dipped the other end in ketchup, and with a puff of breath, blew it toward the ceiling in the hopes that it would find a suitable home and stick there.

That's what the retired men had done.

Hartland news

An Englishman, an Irishman, a Dane, an Aussie, a German, an American, a Mexican, a Spaniard, a Russian, a Pole, a Lithuanian, a Swede, a Finn, an Israeli, a Romanian, a Turk, a Greek, an Italian, a Norwegian, a Czech, and a Canadian went to the Snobbish Trapshooting Club, where the elite meet to skeet.

The bouncer said, "Sorry, I can't let you in without a Thai."

Homeward bound

I was trapped in an airport. I spent a night on the floor near my gate. I slept in three-minute intervals between announcements. My delayed flight had been delayed.

I longed to be home. Home is where the heart is and sometimes the luggage. My luggage and I have lived in both Freeborn and Waseca counties. I remember learning in grade school about the great County War way back when. Some Waseca County residents had thrown dynamite across the county line into Freeborn County. The inhabitants of Freeborn County lit the dynamite and threw it back. That's how wars start.

Scene from a marriage

My wife thought the horoscope had said that she'd meet a tall, dark man. Actually it had said that she would meet a tall dork. Me.

"What are you thinking about?" she asked.

I was sitting in my favorite chair. That meant I wasn't thinking about anything. I told her that I'd been thinking about the theme song to "Green Acres."

I had been.

With a featherbed

I was hunkered down in a hotel in Ankeny. The weather had been that of winter even though it was spring. At the front door of the hotel, there was a mallard drake quacking furiously. I'll bet he wanted a room.

Did you know?

The average person blinks 15 to 20 times per minute. That's up to 1,200 times per hour and 28,800 times in a day. We spend about 10 percent of our waking hours with our eyes closed.

Parts of Chicago are food deserts. A food desert is an entire city neighborhood or cluster of neighborhoods without a mainstream grocery store.

In 1890, the U.S. had 800 German newspapers and at the start of WWI, Baltimore had four elementary schools teaching in German only.

Nature notes

Roger Batt of Algona asked, "Can birds smell?"

The apparatus for detecting odors is present in all birds. Shearwaters and fulmars are attracted to the smell of fish oil. Turkey vultures are believed to use their sense of smell to locate carrion. Kiwis, flightless birds from New Zealand, appear to sniff out earthworms.

I hope that the great horned owl that eats skunks has a poor sense of smell.

Robins are believed to be able to smell worms, goslings use their olfactory sense to find food and starlings employ a sense of smell to find aromatic green nesting material.

Even with the ability to detect odors, a mother bird will accept her baby back after it's been touched by a human. She's a mother.


"What kind of bird was Woodstock of Peanuts comic strip fame?"

He was a little, yellow bird. He hated being mistaken for the wrong species. Snoopy wondered what type of bird Woodstock was and attempted to identify Woodstock with the aid of a field guide, asking Woodstock to attempt to imitate various birds such as the crow, American bittern, Carolina wren, eastern towhee, yellow-billed cuckoo, Canada goose and mourning warbler. Snoopy gave up by saying, "For all I know, you're a duck." Charles Schulz never indicated what kind of bird Woodstock was supposed to be.

Woodstock's song in a Peanuts special went like this, "Little birdie, why do you fly upside-down? It's amazing at the way you get around. Little birdie, why you worry like you do? Don't you worry, you just do what you can do."

Big Bird, of Sesame Street fame, has been called a canary. That's a big canary. When Big Bird was asked if he was related to the cassowary, he replied, "I'm more of a condor." On an episode of "Hollywood Squares," Big Bird was asked what kind of bird he was and he answered that he was a lark. Big Bird appeared on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, in which he declared himself to be a golden condor.

"I'd like to do some nature journaling. Any advice on getting started?"

A simple way to journal is to begin each entry with three things. The date, the place and the weather. Concentrate on the mundane, the unfamiliar or the unexpected for initial entries. Patterns will become apparent. Report things as you see them without a bias of preconceptions. The recording of observations of things seen not only helps a memory, but improves recognition as well. Each journal entry will prove to be like a deposit into a bank account.

Nature lessons

Legend has it that St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, chased all the snakes into the sea after they attacked him during his 40-day fast. In fact, there were no snakes in Ireland since the last glacier. The legend may refer to the rise of Christianity and the end of Druid snake symbols.

Nature by the yard

The front yard sounded like red-winged blackbirds.

I watched a song sparrow scratch among the leaves. Its presence hinted as to the nearness of spring weather after a prolonged winter.

Emily Dickinson wrote that hope is the thing with feathers.

A bird brings hope of spring.

Meeting adjourned

There is always room for a kind word.

Thanks for stopping by

"A man who never sees a bluebird only half lives." - Edwin Way Teale

"Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending." - Carl Bard


© Al Batt 2014