Chickadee sightings create quite the viewing streak. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
Chickadee sightings create quite the viewing streak. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
"Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree" is a song by Tony Orlando and Dawn that was a worldwide hit in 1973. The song was about a prisoner who had completed his sentence, but was uncertain if he'd be welcomed home.

He wrote his love, asking her to tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree in front of the house if she wanted him back. He asked the bus driver to look, as he feared there would be no ribbon. Bus passengers cheered after seeing 100 yellow ribbons tied around the tree.

A woman told me that she'd tied a yellow ribbon around an old oak tree in her yard in the 1970s. A squirrel swiped the ribbon and tied it around an old squirrel nest.

Chickadee chat

Research showed that a chickadee's brain grows up to 30 percent larger during times when they need to find food for caching. The brain expands, adding new nerve cells to help it remember where it had stored food. In the spring, when memory is less important, the brain shrinks to normal size.

Another study showed that birds living in harsher conditions find more food than those in milder climates. They are better at finding their caches, have better spatial memories and have larger brains than the same species farther south.

Bob Holtz of Roseville wrote, "Watching streaks in sports come to an end is a fairly common experience. I suspect a lot of streaks come to an end in the birding world also. I had one of those days today (Nov. 28). I knew it would happen someday, but one still hopes it will go on just a little longer. In 2010 I decided to see how many days I could observe chickadees during that year. I missed on five days. Trying again in 2011, that streak ended today. It was a day on which I spent a lot of time indoors for a large family gathering. My streak ended at 675 consecutive days. That doesn't include days when I was not in Minnesota, like 12 days this July while in Ecuador checking on their birds. When one does this type of thing, one sets his own rules. Those were mine. I loved it. It was surprising how many times I would look out at my bird feeders, see a chickadee come flying in and feel a big smile spread across my face. Glad I did it, but sorry to see it end. Of course, there's always tomorrow!"

Echoes From Loafers' Club

"I have a toothache."

"Why tell me? I'm an eye doctor."

"Oh, then I guess there's something wrong with my eyes, too."

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: I do first things first, but not necessarily in that order.

I've learned

To chop wood the first thing in the morning because the early bird gets the "warm."

Cellphone calls are irritating unless they are mine.

If I learn something new each day, I'll have more to forget.

Everything depends on everything

Scott Seiberlich of Burnsville was born at midnight on Dec. 31 or on Jan. 1, depending on your outlook. The doctor asked Scott's father if he wanted his son to be born in the year ending or the year beginning. Scott's father considered the tax deduction a child provided and Scott's birthdate became Dec. 31.

You wouldn't think that such a simple decision would make much difference in a life, but it did.

The Selective Service System of the United States conducted a lottery to determine the order of call to military service during the Vietnam War. The lottery consisted of 366 (including Feb. 29) slips of paper placed into plastic capsules, which were put into a large fish bowl. The capsules were extracted one at a time and determined the order in which young men would be drafted. Sept. 14 was the first date picked, followed by April 25. Scott's birthday of Dec. 31 was the 100th capsule drawn. Jan. 1 was the 305th picked. Men born on one of the first 195 dates drawn were called to serve.

Talking traffic

Iris Tarvestad of Albert Lea and I were talking about the ever-increasing traffic. Iris said that her husband, Terry, explained the growing number of wheels on roads this way, "Nobody wants to be where they are."

Iris added that while visiting Germany, she and Terry were on one side of the street attempting to get to the other side. The traffic was so heavy and there was no relief in sight. Iris asked and a fellow pedestrian, "How do you get to the other side of the street?"

The man replied, "You have to be born there."

Customer comments

C.E. Vollum of Albert Lea told me that he was as sharp as a tack - the pointed end. I was glad he was recovering from a health issue. C.E. said that he was like morning breath. He never goes away completely.

Bruce Langlie of Hartland was at a funeral when he ran into a woman he hadn't seen for years. The lady asked Bruce who he was. He identified himself. She said, "No, I knew Bruce Langlie. He was good-looking and had curly hair."

Larry Nelson of Waldorf said that his grandfather, Logan Huxford, once operated a Standard gas station in that city. When customers stopped during the noon hour, Logan greeted them this way, "Come on in and watch me eat."

Doug Bushlack of New Richland saw his young granddaughter, Isabel, with a cookie in each hand. Doug told her, "No more cookies." Isabel agreed readily. There weren't any cookies left.

Nature notes

If one is trying to tell the difference between a fox and a coyote, a fox has a tail nearly as long as its body. The body color of a red fox may vary, but it always has a white tail tip. It has black behind its ear tips. The gray fox, seen less often than the red, has a black tip on its tail and orange behind the ears. A coyote's tail is much shorter than its body.

Thankful for this

At a family gathering after Thanksgiving, my wife's cousin, Kay Hickler of Litchfield, presented my bride with an old baseball glove. It may have seemed an odd gift as my wife's baseball career had stalled before it began, but she was thrilled to get the battered glove. Why? The glove had less form than an oven mitt and was flat as a pancake. It was a Young Leaguer Model K302. It was a genuine cowhide job with a thin strap of leather tethering the forefinger to the thumb. The other three were free-range fingers. What made the glove special were the initials written on it. GLN. The initials of her late father, Gene Nelson. The glove had been a dream come true for a young boy. Years later, it has become a precious memory for his daughter.


John and Penee McGaughey of Albert Lea asked how squirrels find buried acorns in deep snow. Memory may play a minor role, but the squirrel's ability to locate stored food is mostly due to its keen sense of smell. They fail to recover most of the nuts they bury, unintentionally planting oak trees. A gray squirrel is far more likely to bury a red oak acorn, which is rich in fat and sprouts in the spring, than a white oak acorn, which has less fat and tends to germinate in the fall. The white oak acorns are eaten rather than stored.

Suzy Routh and Cindy Baier of New Richland wondered what kind of swans were on St. Olaf Lake. The trumpeter swan is larger than the tundra. The difference is obvious if the two species are together, but is difficult to judge in isolation. Bill color is black in both species, but most tundra swans have a yellow spot in front of the eye. Immature birds of both species are gray-brown. Trumpeter swan voices are a gentle honk, deep and resonant, like a toot on a trumpet or French horn. Tundra swan calls are a varied bugling, higher pitched than trumpeter calls. They can sound similar to dogs barking.

Karen Wright of Mankato wrote, "My son, Grant, was observing a bird outside our window and noted how fluffy it was. He said it looked like a cartoon character. How do they fluff their feathers? Do they grow more feathers for winter?" Birds fluff their feathers to keep warm. Feathers are good insulation. When fluffed, they create air pockets, which trap heat close to the body and provide wind protection. Birds are able to fluff feathers thanks to tiny muscles that move feathers much the way the hairs on our arms stand up when we get goose bumps. Many birds do grow more feathers just as mammals grow winter coats and humans don winter clothing.

Nature lessons

During winter, squirrels are most active about two hours before dawn and two hours before dusk.

Thanks for stopping by

"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing." - Florence Foster Jenkins

"We need the tonic of wildness." - Henry David Thoreau


© Al Batt 2013