A snowy owl was recently spotted near the Batt Cave and was an unexpected delight. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
A snowy owl was recently spotted near the Batt Cave and was an unexpected delight. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
Sailors say that the weather is a great bluffer.

The weather surprised me by being quite different from what was predicted. It's been doing that all my life.

I spotted a couple of lovely scarlet tanagers. A friend, Rod Meyer of Mankato, saw a scarlet tanager this spring. It was the first scarlet tanager he has ever seen. Rod asked me how many I see in a year. My answer was, "Not enough."

No snow, but a snowy owl

My wife and I looked for a snowy owl still hanging around not far from our home on May 14. I spotted it, as it stood on the rural road, likely hunting for voles. I pulled over, stopped the car and asked my wife to grab the camera for me. She handed me a shoe. At least, even in her excitement of seeing the owl so close, it wasn't a shoe she was still wearing.

Crows hectored the handsome owl and a hawk harassed it. I'm sure the voles were not happy with its presence either. The snowy owl was an unwelcome guest to all but my wife and me. We were delighted to see the beauty of the visitor from the tundra.

Spring sprang sprung

I love this time of year when I need to remind myself not to say, "It's just a yellow-rumped warbler."

Nothing so beautiful as the numerous "butterbutts" could ever be a "just a."

Barred owls serenaded me outside my open bedroom window. I spotted a pair of yellow-bellied sapsuckers in an intimate embrace.

I saw a summer tanager at Myre-Big Island State Park.

A yellow-throated vireo flew in and gleaned insects at eye level - my eye level. Red-headed woodpeckers, Baltimore orioles, orchard orioles, indigo buntings, rose-breasted grosbeaks, magnolia warblers, Cape May warblers, chestnut-sided warblers, yellow warblers (my father called them summer warblers) and scarlet tanagers brought captivating colors to my yard. A scarlet tanager male battled his reflection in my office window.

I love this time of year. It is a spring tonic.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club

My sister just got married for the third time. All three of her husbands have been named Charles.

Don't say it.

Yup, she's a regular Chuck magnet.

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: we don't mind change as long as it doesn't involve changing.

The news from Hartland

Cat obedience school closes.

Bible study group walks on their hands in order to save soles.

Martial arts center offers a senior division called the high belt class.

The shot clinic

I went to a shot clinic. It is a clinic where they give shots that is within a clinic. I went there to get a herd of inoculations. I sat in the waiting area. Some people were there for their children. Some people were there because they had children.

Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees supposedly called a shot, a home run he hit in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Ruth pointed his bat toward the stands, but the exact nature of his gesture remains undetermined. When I met with the doctor, she put things in terms she thought I'd understand. The shot clinic doctor was better than Babe Ruth, she called every shot.

I didn't miss the point.

Stand Still Parade

Every May, Whalan has its Annual Stand Still Parade.

The parade doesn't move, the spectators do.

Whalan, population 62, wanted a parade. The problem was that the city was only a couple of blocks long, which would mean the parade would be over quickly unless it immediately formed into a traffic jam. Having no parade route can put a crimp in a parade.

The spectators stand still or sit in lawn chairs before strolling around the stationary parade units. A friend told me that you know the parade is over when the color guard carries their folding chairs to their cars.

Signing autographs

I had just finished teaching a writing class when a group of students asked if I would be willing to sign autographs for them. I responded that it would give my life purpose. I signed their autograph books, book bags and a Kindle cover in my characteristic childish scrawl. My comment about the act giving my life purpose was not meant to be snarky. I was sincere. It made me feel as if I had served a purpose and I was delighted to spend time with such fine young writers.

At a highfalutin hotel

I worked in Scottsdale, Ariz. My employer put me up in the ritziest of places, The Phoenician, situated near the Camelback Mountain. It was a luxury resort of the kind so nifty that I didn't even dare ask the room rate, for fear there would be a charge for asking questions. There was a loan officer on the premises.

Charles H. Keating Jr. built the Phoenician. His name brought back memories. Keating went to prison and symbolized the $150 billion savings-and-loan crisis that came to a head in the 1980s. He was imprisoned after fleecing thousands of depositors with the regulatory help from a group of United States senators known as the Keating Five.

Keating hired Alan Greenspan, who later became the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Greenspan compiled a report saying that Lincoln's depositors faced no foreseeable risk and praised its seasoned and expert management. He was wrong. Way wrong. Keating called on five senators who had been recipients of his campaign largess, the aforementioned Keating Five-Alan Cranston of Calif., Donald W. Riegle Jr. of Mich., John Glenn of Ohio and Dennis DeConcini and John McCain of Ariz.-and they pressured the bank board to relax the rules and kill its investigation. That was naughty. Keating may have been crooked, but The Phoenician appeared both plumb and senatorial.

Customer comments

Ric McArthur of Morpeth, Ontario, wrote, "Four out of five people suffer from diarrhea. Does that mean the fifth person enjoys it?"


"What do red-tailed hawks eat?" Red-tailed hawks have a varied diet. Generally, they eat small to medium-sized mammals, meaning lots of mice and voles, but will also eat birds, reptiles, insects and carrion.

They can carry prey up to about half their body weight.

Seymour Berdz asks, "I put up a birdfeeder, but get no birds. What can I do?" Put some seed in the feeder.

"Would a red fox eat peanuts?" The red fox eats a wide variety of foods. It is an omnivore and its diet includes fruits, berries and grasses. It also eats birds and small mammals like squirrels, rabbits and mice.

A large part of the red fox's diet is made up invertebrates like beetles, crayfish, crickets, caterpillars and grasshoppers. It stores extra food. I have no doubt that a fox would eat peanuts.

"Where is the most painful place to be stung?" Michael Smith studies the evolution and behavior of honeybees. Each day for 38 days, Smith used forceps to hold a honeybee on the spot he was testing for pain, keeping the stinger in place for a full minute. Smith did this 190 times and rated the pain on a scale of 1 to 10. Smith stung himself in 25 different body parts. The entire body from the toes to the top of the skull and everything in between was included. Everything. The results revealed that the most painful place for a bee to sting was the nose. Smith ranked it a 9 out of 10 on the pain level. Lips followed close behind with a rating of 8.7.

"What kind of bird is a mope?" It is a nickname for the pine grosbeak.

"Why don't all birds fly?" About 40 species, including penguins, ostriches, emus and kiwis are flightless. It is thought that these birds lost their ability to fly due to the lack of predators. There are no flightless species in North America.

Nature lessons

A golden eagle can exert 440 pounds per square inch of pressure with their talons, 15 times more pressure than a human hand.

A study from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute indicated that cats kill more birds than cars, pesticides, poisons, colliding with windows and towers or any other human cause.

Honeybees make good use of dandelions. Dandelions are often the first major nectar source in spring. The honey produced is a deep yellow, has a strong, often bitter taste and smells like the flowers. Dandelion honey is usually used in early brood rearing and is considered one of the most important spring stimulants for this purpose. Dandelions are also good pollen sources.

Meeting adjourned

"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life, you will have been all of these." - George Washington

Thanks for stopping by

"A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou


© Al Batt 2014