Archived Story

Cooper’s and sharp-skinned hawks appear similar

Published 9:00am Sunday, March 3, 2013

Column: Nature’s World, by Al Batt

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. I’m ready for spring to arrive. I want to watch a little baseball. Remember when we were kids and our Little League team was sponsored by the bank. The bank was good to us. It loaned us the money to buy the uniforms. Our coach was one of our teachers. She was an old teacher, but I don’t know how old she was in human years. She was always on my case because I was late getting to school.”

“That’s because you got lost between the bus and the school,” I interject.”

Myrna Pearman of Red Deer took this photo of a coyote.
Myrna Pearman of Red Deer took this photo of a coyote.

“They needed better signage in that area. She was so absent-minded. If I was absent, she minded. I remember when we had to do a written book report. I chose a bad book. Not enough things blew up in it. I wrote the report, but in the middle of it, I wrote, ‘Why am I doing this? My teacher won’t even read it.’ I was wrong. She read it. My grade suffered. She wasn’t a very good coach. She spent all her time mumbling, ‘Don’t get excited, Dana. Don’t scream, Dana. Don’t yell, Dana. Keep calm, Dana.’ People thought she was kind and understanding. Those were the people who didn’t know that her name was Dana.”


I’ve been reading

I love to read. Books thrill me. They teach, entertain and transport me to amazing places. I adore the written word, and there is a tactile sensation to turning the pages of a book that pleases me. I enjoy authors with Midwestern roots. Recently, I reread “Andersonville,” a Pulitzer Prize-winner written by MacKinlay Cantor who was born in Webster City, Iowa. It’s a remarkable novel about an infamous Confederate prison camp. Then I read again “The Universal Baseball Association, Inc.” penned by Robert Coover who was born in Charles City, Iowa. This book provides a back-and-forth between the real world and the fantasy world of a baseball game determined by the roll of dice. Much of the protagonist’s life is spent in a pair of dice. That was paradise to him.

After finishing the two books, I was fortunate to be given “Semi Serious” by the author, Charlotte Stone. It tells the story of Charlotte’s journey from teacher to trucker and the faith required for the trip. Charlotte is the daughter of Charles and Martha Flugum of rural Albert Lea. Charles Flugum authored one of my favorite books, “Birding From a Tractor Seat.” It’s a delightful account of a farmer’s fondness for nature and encouraged my passion for watching birds. I look forward to reading Charlotte’s book. Perhaps it will involve some birding from a semitrailer truck seat.


Q and A

“There is a hawk pursuing the birds in my yard. How can I tell if it’s a Cooper’s or a sharp-shinned?” The two accipiters are difficult to tell apart. Sharpies are smaller, but the sizes overlap. Size, from much distance, is difficult to discern. Sharpies have squared tail tips, while Cooper’s are rounded. However, molt can make this a flawed field mark. A sharpie’s head looks small and Cooper’s looks tall. A sharpie’s head has a hooded look, whereas a Coop’s head looks capped because of its pale nape. Sharpies have coarse streaks on their breasts. Coop’s have fine streaks. The patterns of streaks are variable. Sharpies have thinner legs.

“How long does it take a snail to walk a mile?” There are so many species of snails that the mileage would vary, but according to “The World Almanac and Book of Facts,” a garden snail travels at 0.03 miles per hour. That means moving 1 mile would take 33.333 hours. The rare NASCAR snail would be faster.

“Is spider blood transparent?” Spider “blood,” actually haemolymph because it does not have red oxygen-carrying corpuscles, is typically blue or transparent.

“Can a dead rattlesnake bite?” I asked a veterinarian from Montana that. I had awakened several mornings while camping along the Missouri River to the company of live rattlesnakes. One day, as I pulled my canoe ashore, I discovered a dead rattler. I don’t know who or what killed it. The vet advised staying away from the head of a dead snake. Reflex muscle actions might cause a bite for up to an hour after the snake had died. This warning also applies to the detached heads of dead snakes.

“Did I see a crow or a raven?” Ignoring geographical limitations and differences, a raven is much larger with a heavier bill. The feather tufts at the neck and wedge-shaped tail feathers in flight differentiate it from a crow. A raven has distinctive vocalizations, including an assortment of low croaks, knocks and mumbles, that differ greatly from a crow’s caws.


Nature news

Officials at Denver International Airport discovered that rabbits have been chewing the wiring of cars parked at the airport. Wildlife officials are removing 100 rabbits a month, but the bunnies are still wreaking havoc. Some of the new methods being tried to discourage the rabbits include installing a fence, building perches for hawks and eagles and coating wires with coyote urine.

A great horned owl avoided becoming roadkill in Florida but became stuck in the grill of a vehicle. After being struck on the road, the owl survived a 140-mile overnight trip and is expected to make a full recovery.

A judge in Ontario ruled that building owners could be held liable under Canada’s Environmental Protection Act if light reflected by their windows causes death or injury to birds. The justice made the determination while acquitting the owner of a Toronto tower where more than 800 birds died after colliding with windows. That landlord subsequently applied a window film that reputedly makes the glass visible to birds.


Thanks for stopping by

“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.” — Sir Francis Bacon

“The snow itself is lonely or, if you prefer, self-sufficient. There is no other time when the whole world seems composed of one thing and one thing only.” — Joseph Wood Krutch




Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. Email him at