Darcy Sime of Alden shares this photo of a snowy owl.  SUBMITTED PHOTO
Darcy Sime of Alden shares this photo of a snowy owl. SUBMITTED PHOTO

I have seen snowy owls here and there this winter. A simple delight, a great gift to my eyes. Snowy owls are mostly white with narrow, sparse brown bars and spots. They have golden eyes and thick feathers covering their toes and claws.

Snowy owls do a lot of sitting. They will sit still in the same spot for hours, occasionally swiveling their heads. When hunting, they use their exceptional vision and hearing to find prey. They capture prey by flying or even running in pursuit. Unlike most owls, snowy owls are diurnal. They hunt at all hours during the endless daylight of an Arctic summer.

The heavy feathers that create extraordinary insulation from the Arctic cold make the snowy owl North America's heaviest owl. A snowy owl typically weighs about four pounds, which is one pound heavier than a great horned owl and about twice the weight of a great gray owl, North America's tallest owl.

Snowy owls primarily eat small mammals, particularly lemmings, which at times on the tundra may be the only item on the owls' menu. An adult owl may eat three to five lemmings each day amounting to 1,600 per year. On both breeding and wintering grounds, their diet can vary widely and include rodents, rabbits, hares, squirrels, weasels, wading birds, seabirds, ducks, grebes, ptarmigans and geese. I suspect they feed heavily on voles while wintering with us.

Birding by the numbers

A report by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service titled, "Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis" is based on the "2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-associated Recreation." The report showed about 20 percent of the United States population participates in bird watching. That is about 47 million people. The highest birding rate in the nation among citizens over 16 years of age was recorded in Vermont at 39 percent. Minnesota ranked 11th nationally with a participation rate of 25 percent. In Minnesota, the average number of days spent by an individual in observing birds each year was 87, including both in the backyard and while on trips.

Don't mess with Minnesota

I was visiting a lovely, small city in northern Minnesota. I parked and stepped out of my car in the downtown, on what I thought of as Main Street, whether that was its name or not.

I was headed to the post office to send some mail on its journey. There was a pile of cigarette butts of epic proportions along the curb. I wondered how such a gigantic assembly of used cigarettes was possible. There are not that many ashtrays in a car. Someone must have been using coffee cans as receptacles of spent cigarettes. The rubbish was a sad sight.

If someone wants to smoke, that is fine with me. It is their choice and I appreciate the taxes they pay. But we have the responsibility of being good ancestors. It takes forever for those cigarette filters to degrade, up to 10 years. The refuse presented a poor model.

Children may not listen to their parents, but they seldom fail to imitate them. We need to set a good example and stop littering, cigarette butts and everything else. It is a simple way to better oneself. I see bumper stickers in the Lone Star State reading, "Don't mess with Texas." We should not mess with Minnesota either. The actor Matthew McConaughey, a native Texan, said, "There aren't many things that are universally cool, and it's cool not to litter. I'd never do it." W.H. Auden wrote, "We must love one another or die." Littering is not a demonstration of love for self or others.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

My brother thinks he is a snowblower.

Did you take him to a doctor?

No, I have to wait until the neighbor returns him.

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, if I am in a hurry, I should not be driving.

I've learned

Astrology was invented to make economics seem like an exact science.

When a spouse says "we," he or she means "you."

A head is not a good place to store numbers.

The news from Hartland

Bob and Betty Bigger proudly announce the birth of a son. The littlest Bigger's name was not available at press time.

Vegetable farm begins near the dip in the road.

Zoo receives bad gnus.

Cafe chronicles

"The food here is great," he said. "But this place is filled with geniuses, everyone of whom thinks he could farm better than I can."

"I need coffee and a line of credit."

There were no holes in the conversation.

"Most people my age are dead. Either Casey Stengel or my uncle Earl said that."

"Today's special is buy two dinners and pay for them both," the waitress interrupted.

The sign read, "No senior discounts. You've had long enough to raise the money."

Still, a discount was offered.

"Is the senior discount at 55, 60, or 65?" asked a customer, a woman wearing a sweatshirt reading, "Sweat dries. Blood clots. Bones heal. Cowgirl up."

The waitress replied, "If you feel like a senior, you get the discount."

Two men ordered the exact same breakfast. The friendly waitress hoped aloud that she would not confuse the two.

A young person entered. He was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, obviously dressed for the weather he wished we were having.

The company of a car

When you buy a car, you hope for the best. The first dent is the loudest sound in the world. One of the things you notice when you purchase a different vehicle, is that there are many cars just like yours.

I just put 200,000 miles on my car, which has been a wonderful traveling companion. I wanted to stop and celebrate the mileage achievement, but I was driving down an interstate highway and it did not seem the place for jollification. I did bark out "Who let the miles out" and gave the car a kiss on her steering wheel. I appreciate her good company.

If I do not see you in the future, I will see you in the pasture

I love the funny pages in newspapers. I enjoyed Rick O'Shay, a sometimes light-hearted, sometimes serious western set in the town of Conniption. The creator, Stan Lynde, introduced a number of colorfully-named supporting characters for the hopeful protagonist, Rick O'Shay. There was Mort Gage, the banker and Hipshot Percussion, a gunslinger. Lynde passed away not long ago in Montana. I never got around to thanking him for his strip.

Customer comments

Sue Levy of Webster, Tex., wrote, "My husband favored the biblical method of snow removal. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Eventually."

Leon Schoenrock of New Richland wrote, "In regards to your statistic on hand washing, my friend Dave 'Sharkey' Dunnette says you can tell what kind of job you have by your hand-washing habits. If you have a white-collar job, you wash your hands after you go to the bathroom. If you have a blue-collar job, you wash your hands before you go to the bathroom."

Did you know?

Sigmund Freud had a chow, which sat beside him as Freud conducted therapy sessions. Freud felt that dogs could judge character.

A CNN investigation found that between seven and 18 percent of football and basketball players at big-time athletics universities read at an elementary school level.

One out of eight Americans eats pizza each day.

Thanks for stopping by

Marcel Proust wrote, "Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." Be kind.

Thanks for stopping by

"Colors are the smiles of nature." - Leigh Hunt

Ben Franklin wrote in his autobiography about his morning question and evening question. Upon waking he would ask, "What good shall I do this day?" At day's end, he reflected upon his day by asking himself, "What good have I done today?"


© Al Batt 2014