Two dark-eyed juncos enjoy lunch at a nearby feeder.  AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
Two dark-eyed juncos enjoy lunch at a nearby feeder. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, birdwatchers from over 100 countries will participate in the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), Feb. 14 to 17.

Anyone, anywhere in the world, can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more of those days and enter their sightings at

The information gathered by volunteers helps track the health of bird populations at a scale that would not otherwise be possible. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada.

"People who care about birds can change the world," said Audubon chief scientist Gary Langham. "Technology has made it possible for people everywhere to unite around a shared love of birds and a commitment to protecting them."

In North America, GBBC participants will add their data to help define the magnitude of a dramatic irruption of magnificent snowy owls. Bird watchers will be looking for the invasive Eurasian collared-dove to see if it has expanded its range. GBBC observations may help show whether insect-eating species are showing up in new areas, possibly because of changing climate.

Last year's GBBC shattered records after going global for the first time. More than 34.5 million birds and 3,610 species were recorded, about a third of the world's total bird species.

The GBBC is a great way for people to connect with nature and make a difference for birds. It's free and easy.

To learn more about how to join the count visit


It was cold enough to foster all kinds of second thoughts.

Sooner or later, it will defrost.

Still, the day seemed enchanted. They all are.

A sundog shone down, appearing to rest upon a wind turbine.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

"What did you do yesterday?"

"Not a thing."

"How come?"

"I quit while I was ahead."

I've learned

That if I'm certain, I should take a second look.

Things are more like they are right now than they have ever been.

John Donne wrote, "No man is an island" because he'd never seen an NFL game.

An ice walk

It was a long walk on a slippery slope on a gelid evening of strong winds. Such walks always seem uphill, but this one really was. It felt good to get inside the school and walk to the gym to watch a basketball game.

I sat near O'Dean Miller of New Richland who said that his wife, Regina, had complained he'd not dropped her off at the door before parking the car. Being a good husband, O'Dean had an excuse ready. He explained that he couldn't have done that because she'd been driving.

Cafe chronicles

"Dirty Life and Times."

That's the song by Warren Zevon that should have been on the radio.

"Sometimes I feel like my shadow is casting me."

It was confession day at the cafe. The crackerjack waitress had brought mashed potatoes with lakes of gravy to the table.

"How are you doing?" we asked of only those who wouldn't tell us.

He was one of those fellows whose truck doubles as a storage shed. He admitted to releasing boxelder bugs into the school library. But like any bad criminal, he'd returned to the scene of the crime. He was caught. His punishment? It went on his permanent record.

He worked at a carnival one summer, operating one of those free throw shooting games where you could win swell prizes like a miniature teddy bear. He said the rim was oblong. A basketball would have had to wear a girdle to pass through the hoop easily.

It was the verdict of The Table of Infinite Knowledge that he confess his sins to his aunt. He forgets he's Lutheran until someone says something bad about Lutherans. His aunt is Lutheran, but she isn't just Lutheran. She's really Lutheran.

My neighbor

Old Man McGinty is the youngest Old Man McGinty ever.

The walls of his house hold ancient knickknack shelves bearing items with only one purpose, to collect dust.

"Gunsmoke or Bonanza?"

That was his question. A verbal password.

"Gunsmoke," I replied.

"That's the right answer. If I had a kewpie doll, you'd win it."

Old Man McGinty told me that on Super Bowl Sunday in his church, when it came time to take the offering, the minister flipped a quarter into the air, glanced at it after it landed, and announced in the fashion of a referee, "The ushers have elected to receive."

Customer comments

Tom Goetz of Minneapolis has officiated baseball and basketball games for years. He still does baseball, but gave up basketball. Tom said the problem was that he got a year older every year while the basketball players stayed the same age.

Vi Kycek of Albert Lea wrote, "May all days be sunny, no matter the temperature."

Bob Hargis of Riverton, Wyo., sent this alternative to shoveling snow, "Let 'er melt."

Did you know?

The Healthy Hand Washing Survey conducted by Bradley Corporation, a hand-washing products manufacturer, found that 74 percent of women always wash their hands after using a public restroom compared to 60 percent of men.

The biggest complaint of restaurant patrons is about the noise.

The Top 5 Most Overpaid Actors according to Forbes are 1. Adam Sandler; 2. Katherine Heigl; 3. Reese Witherspoon; 4. Nicolas Cage; and 5. Kevin James.

Robin sightings

Debra Stolarcek of Albert Lea wondered why she saw robins in January. They weren't harbingers of spring. My mother said a robin needs three snows on its tail before it was truly spring.

Some robins get more than that, because I see them every winter. They might have migrated from the north or are birds that don't migrate.

Winter robins tend to travel in flocks and over-winter in ravines and wooded areas with open water sources. Their primary foods are the leftover fruit of buckthorn, cherry, crabapple, hackberry, mountain ash or other fruit-bearing trees.

A lack of food causes birds to move. Some robins might eat suet or chopped fruit at feeders. The migration of male robins north follows the 37-degree isotherm.


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, "Setting up and Maintaining Bluebird Trails;" Loren Murphy, "Environmental Changes on Trails;" Donald Mitchell, "Attracting Hummingbirds;" Madeleine Linck, "Highlighting Birds of Three Rivers Park District;" Tim Schlagenaft, "Restoring Bird Habitat on 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

Thanks for stopping by

"Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party and beyond factions. It has become a common cause of all of the people of this country. - President Richard Nixon

"Hearts understanding ways minds cannot." - Louis Wilson

Meeting adjourned

One kind word can warm three winter months.


© Al Batt 2014