Cliff swallow nests.
Cliff swallow nests.
The man told me that the squirrels had taken over his bird feeder. Squirrels won't work for just peanuts. He looked for a simple solution as we all do. A stranger told him to put an onion on the feeder because squirrels don't like onions because they make squirrels cry. We tend to take the advice of strangers too readily.

The man placed a slice of onion on the feeder. Inside his home, he took up sentry by the window. The first squirrel to visit the feeder sniffed the onion.

The man cackled fiendishly.

Then the squirrel carried the slice away.

Tick, tick, tick

Deer are the most important reproductive hosts for blacklegged (deer) ticks. A study in Rhode Island found that each deer could produce about 450,000 larval deer ticks a year. That number seems incredible, but if valid, it's no wonder tick populations thrive.

Bridge swallows

Dad called them "bridge swallows" because the birds often nest under bridges. The master masons construct nests that are gourd-like structures built of mud with a tubular entrance hole. Cliff swallows are colonial nesters.

In medieval times, swallows were believed to hibernate in mud. The legend is that the cliff swallows return to the Mission San Juan de Capistrano in California on March 19 (St. Joseph's Day) each year. They return before that date, but the residents consider them sparrows until March 19. The swallows haven't been seen much at the mission for years.

Cliff swallows don't always migrate to the same exact location. The birds' nests were removed during preservation work at the mission and the swallows may have taken that as a sign that they weren't wanted.

People blame the lack of swallows on urban sprawl or changing weather patterns. Another legend says that swallows, in preparation to migrate from Jerusalem, take along small twigs. When they tire over the ocean, they drop the twigs on the waves and sleep on top of them. In reality, the swallows migrate from Argentina.

Nature lessons

Firefly larvae live on the ground, under bark, and in moist places. They eat earthworms, snails and slugs.

Wimbledon utilizes a falconer to keep pigeons away from the tennis court during matches. It's a Harris's hawk named Rufus.

In Through the Looking Glass, Alice speaks to a number of flowers in Wonderland - tiger lily, rose, daisies, violet and larkspur.

A mountain lion killed on a Connecticut highway had apparently walked halfway across the country - a 1,500-mile journey from South Dakota.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climatic Data Center, Phoenix has 107 days a year where the temperature reaches 100 degrees and has an average temperature of 75 degrees. Miami averages 77 degrees.


I do a Breeding Bird Survey covering parts of Mower, Freeborn and Steele counties. I've been doing the survey for many years. It involves 50 three-minute stops at the same locations each June. I count the birds I see or hear during each stop. I counted 51 species this year, down from 53 last year. I counted more red-winged blackbirds than any other species followed by the common grackle and European starling. The American robin was present at more stops than any other species. I heard pheasants crowing at 14 stops compared to 12 stops last year.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

"My nephlittle Neal is visiting."

"Don't you mean 'nephew'?"

"A little is a few."

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: some people tell me that this country is headed in the wrong direction, but the sun still sets in the west.

I've learned

1. The five days following the weekend are the hardest.

2. Cats keep us around just for our thumbs.

3. You can slap anyone as long as you say, "Mosquito."

How dry is it?

Stan Fitz of Rockford, Iowa, said that the Shell Rock River is lower than it was a few years ago when the fish could only swim every other day. I know that Stan is not one to exaggerate or he would have added that it was so dry the bullheads had wood ticks.

Class reunion

The actor Monty Woolley was at a dinner party when he belched loudly. A woman sitting nearby gasped indignantly and glared at him. Woolley returned the look and said, "And what did you expect, my good woman? Chimes?"

I attended a class reunion recently. I love reunions. They are reminders that some things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember, but I never know what to expect at such gatherings.

No one looked as if he or she had just pecked his or her way out of an eggshell, but everyone looked good. No one asked, "Who invited all these old people?" The reunion was a bit of show-and-tell. If someone showed up, he or she was expected to tell a bit about his or her life. No one went on for an uncomfortable time. There were no disappointments in either the showing or the telling.

"You know, you haven't changed a bit since high school," said one classmate to another.

"That's nice of you to say."

"It's no wonder you had trouble getting dates."

Each class member had done well for someone who chewed gum with an open mouth in class. We were those of whom Carl Sandburg could have written, "Why did the children put beans in their ears when the one thing we told the children they must not do was put beans in their ears? Why did the children pour molasses on the cat when the one thing we told the children they must not do was pour molasses on the cat?"

It's true we lacked beans, molasses, and cats at the reunion, but everyone acted like a grown-up.

I know what our parents would say about that.

"It's about time."

Is that spider going to be in the bathroom all day?

We hadn't been married long. We didn't have much money or much of anything else. When I came home from work one day, my new bride told me that she had discovered a spider in the bathroom of our old house. She hadn't yet learned to enjoy the occasional spider in the biffy. We didn't have any insect sprays, so she sprayed it with what she could find - hairspray.

It didn't hurt the spider, but it was ready for prom.

Nature notes

Willow trees have salicin in their bark. It's similar to aspirin - acetylsalicylic acid. Those who went before us chewed willow bark to combat toothaches and headaches. How did they know to do that? They might have learned from the Native Americans who got onto it because beavers never suffered from headaches or toothaches. In honor of the beaver and its sharing of a headache remedy, I would like to share this bit of poetry, "I had a little beaver that I tied up with a cord. But I had to let him go. I hated to see a beaver bored."

Heat is the most common weather-related cause of death. Some research indicates that an ocean of corn causes a spike in the dew point. I believe the excessive hot weather is due to all the folks who, every winter, wish for warmer weather. What we call an extended heat wave is a normal summer in parts of this country. We have no dearth of weather. We can't put up a barbed wire fence in order to keep weather out. It will change. Weather is fickle, but wind seems to be a constant. That's a good thing. If the wind quits blowing, the gigantic wind turbines near my home would be disgusted.

Meeting adjourned

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."

Thanks for stopping by

"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." - Maria Robinson

Preserve nature where you live, not just where you visit.


©Al Batt 2012