A starling's bill has turned yellow for spring.  AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
A starling's bill has turned yellow for spring. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
I flew to Chicago for work without once flapping my arms.

I used my see-through suitcase. If I can't see it, I know I've forgotten it.

I folded into a small seat. I became a human origami. I wondered if those in first class were headed to the same place. The plane was packed.

I can go anywhere as long as I remember where I'm from.

The yellow rows of taxis outside the airport have become rainbow-colored.

Parking in Chicago was terrible. It was like finding a noodle in a haystack. It took me forever to locate a parking place. I was happy I didn't have a car. Car owners shoveled their parked cars free of snow. When they moved the cars, it's a tradition to place lawn furniture, tables, chairs, or laundry baskets in the parking space to hold the spot. This practice of marking a claimed spot is called "dibs."

Chicago reminded me what horns are for. There was incessant honking and beeping at drivers who were either too cautious or too daring.

I dined with friends at the original Lou Malnati's pizzeria in Lincolnwood. The iconic restaurant served me Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. I felt at home. On the wall next to my table was a framed Minnesota Twins uniform signed by Harmon Killebrew.

Monk parakeets in Chicago

The first monk parakeets were discovered in Hyde Park in Chicago in 1973. The trees and green spaces maintained by the University of Chicago provided them with their preferred diet and structure for their large nests (up to six feet long) where as many as 10 pairs of raucous birds live.

The late Mayor Harold Washington considered the monk parakeets to be good luck; the USDA attempted to eradicate them because the birds were regarded as agricultural pests in their native South America.

The colorful parakeets survive brutal, monochromatic winters. They present a welcome bright, green color. Monk parakeets don't nest in cavities, eat pretty most any vegetative material and do visit backyard bird feeders.

While they have not become an agricultural pest in Illinois, monk parakeets build their giant nests on manmade structures like light poles and transformers. ComEd says that the nests can cause a fire on utility equipment or outages. ComEd does proactively remove nests on its structures.

How did the parakeets end up in Chicago? In the pet trade, they are called Quaker parrots. It's certain that they arrived through the pet trade.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

You are always in a bad mood.

I tried being in a good mood once.

What happened?

It put me in a bad mood.

The news from Hartland

Technicolored Sardines, a tropical fish store, opens.

Judge sentences chronic jaywalker to serve jail time online.

Square dancing club presents the war of the whirls.

When shaving cream attacks

The rooster had not yet crowed. It was well before 5 a.m. I was trying to shave in front of a hotel mirror that was far too short for me to see my face if I stood upright. I had to stoop over.

I pushed the top of a pressurized can of shaving cream. Half the lather shot out.

I know what you're thinking. How old was that shaving cream? I don't know for sure, but the '80s made some great shaving cream.

Its age wasn't the problem. The problem was trying to get the unused lather back into the can.

Pushing the pumpkin down the court

The girls basketball game between the Waterville Buccaneers and the New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva Panthers was at Minnesota State University in Mankato. The public address announcer tried to turn the local team into the New Hartland-Richland-Ellendale-Geneva Buccaneers, an idea that would find no support.

The Waterville fans presented a gigantic head of their head coach. It wasn't his real head. It was a cardboard replica much larger than his real noggin.

I liked basketball better when a player called for a foul, raised his or her hand. I don't know when that stopped.

The Panthers emerged victorious and when I walked outside after the game, something odd happened. No, I wasn't abducted by space aliens and subjected to painful probes. What happened was that as I walked to the car, I noticed that I couldn't see my breath. It was too warm. It was a nice night.

Another night

The defending state champion NRHEG girls won their next game. That meant they were returning to the state tournament. The game was never seriously in doubt. The highlight for me was that two of my granddaughters were able to have their photos taken with the Panther hoopsters. That was better than weather so warm that I couldn't see my breath.

The Hartland Herald

If I had a good neighbor award to give, I'd give it to my neighbors. They epitomize the term "good neighbors" in many ways and they keep my drive cleared of snow. There are few more beautiful winter sights in Minnesota than a plowed road. I'm never sure which neighbor is doing the task as they wear winter disguises.

Did you know?

The U.S. urban population surpassed the rural in the 1920 Census.

Only 17 percent of Americans currently contribute to an IRA.


Winter's wardrobe is discarded for one of green things and colorful birds. Even the gulls offer much more than the color of snow.

Thanks to "Finding Nemo," I know what the gulls were saying. The eating machines shouted one word repeatedly, "Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!"

Spring is when many birds are singing this, "Shut up and listen!"

Nature lessons

A Stanford University research team revealed that the extinction of the passenger pigeon is believed to have been a major factor in the proliferation of Lyme disease. When the birds existed in large numbers, the acorns on which they subsisted would have been too scarce to support the large populations of deer mice that flourish today. These mice are the main reservoir of Lyme disease and the acorns make up a significant part of their diet.

Henry Ford was convinced that the passenger pigeons had all drowned in the Pacific Ocean en route to Asia.

Starling bills turn yellow in spring and stay yellow during the breeding season. By fall, the beak becomes black and it remains so through the winter.


The 33rd annual Bluebird Recovery Program Expo will be held on Saturday, April 12, at Red Wing High School. Registration will begin at 8 a.m., with programs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Speakers for the 2014 Expo are Mike Jeresek with "Setting up and Maintaining a Bluebird Trail," Loren Murphy with "Environmental Changes on Trails," Donald Mitchell with "Attracting Hummingbirds," Madeleine Linck with "Highlighting Birds of Three Rivers Park District" (Including Trumpeter Swans and Ospreys), Tim Schlagenaft with "Restoring Bird Habitat on the Upper Mississippi River" and Al Batt who hopes to be able to think of something to talk about by then. For more information, please contact JENean Mortenson at (507) 332-7003 or at jeanieandcarl@hotmail.com.

Meeting adjourned

Running down others brings no praise to you. Be kind.

Thanks for stopping by

"We must look for a long time before we can see." - Henry David Thoreau

"Find what makes your heart sing and create your own music." - Mac Anderson


© Al Batt's 2014