Many a birdcall overheard, but none from turkeysPublished 8:06am Sunday, June 2, 2013
Column: Nature’s World, by Al Batt
My neighbor Crandall stops by.
“How are you doing?” I ask.
“Everything is nearly copacetic. Pop was talking to someone in Cincinnati on his cell phone. He was talking so loudly that everyone in Cincinnati would have been able to hear him without the phone. He’d put his shirt on backwards and spent the whole day going where he’d already been. I used up all day yesterday trying to get the color to come on Pop’s TV. Turns out that he owns a black and white TV. Then I tried to cure some of his plumbing problems. I had to call Vacation to fix Pop’s kitchen sink.”
“Why do you call him Vacation? He’s a plumber,” I say.
“Because every time he makes a house call, I say, ‘There goes my vacation.’ Pop wanted to help. His idea of helping is getting in the way or telling us how he is so poor that he cuts pictures of food out of old magazines he borrows from the doctor’s office and fries them up. After a bit, Pop was staggering around, bent forward into a half-moon shape. He claimed he couldn’t straighten up or lift his head. So I took him to the doctor.”
“Was the doctor able to help him?” I ask.
“Yes, he unhitched the third buttonhole of Pop’s vest from the top button of his trousers.”
Nature by the yard
Barn swallows flew over the deck of the house. They repeated their “click-it” calls as if they were doing a public service announcement promoting seat belt usage. They were bent on building a nest over a light. I asked them politely not to do that.
Other birds of the yard sang songs I have whistled for a lifetime. The air was filled with birdcalls, some of which I will not hear for a year. Many of the birds have a history of moving on and the eventual spring had slowed their progress.
A wild turkey ambled through the yard. No song there. When my neighbor Crandall sees one, he immediately looks for wild stuffing. I thought of a man who told me of the time that he was doing a turkey call while hidden in some bushes during the hunting season when another hunter shot him. Apparently, he was good at doing turkey calls. Fortunately, the wound proved to be not life-threatening. I asked him what he did after being shot. He told me that he yelled, “I’m not a turkey.”
I’ll bet real turkeys do the same thing.
When dandelions take flight
Ardy Madson of Hartland told me that her husband, Milo, thought there were a lot of dandelions on his lawn this spring. They turned out to be American goldfinches. A fellow from Chicago told me that he’d become a birder because of a day when he was a boy and saw dandelions fly. He thought the goldfinches on the ground had been dandelions. We see a lot when we see a little.
Q & A
Pearl Wolfe of Le Center asked how to discourage squirrels from monopolizing bird feeders. There is an endless list of things that could be done. I’ll offer but a few. There are some squirrel-resistant feeders — commercial or homebuilt. Baffles can be placed over and/or under a feeder. You could put out food for the squirrels far from your feeders. Do so with caution, as it might attract more squirrels. Jeri Ehrhard of Albert Lea uses a Slinky. Attach one end of the Slinky to the top of the pole holding a feeder and allow the rest to hang down so that the pole runs up through the center of the Slinky. Punch a hole into the bottom of a two-liter plastic bottle large enough to fit around the pole of a bird feeder. Secure the bottle a few inches below the feeder with duct tape. This will act as a poor man’s baffle. Cage the feeder in chicken wire. This would not allow entry to a squirrel. Feed safflower seeds. Safflower doesn’t seem to be a favorite of squirrels. Good luck.
Denny Galagan of Albert Lea reported seeing cedar waxwings eating apple blossoms. What other birds eat blossoms? A number that are said to share this habit are cardinals, house and purple finches, Baltimore orioles, blue jays, evening grosbeaks and American goldfinches. Some that appear to be eating blossoms may not be. I’ve watched house finches chew on the blossoms and then drop them to the ground. Perhaps they were merely extracting the nectar.
“How far from water will wood ducks nest?” The wood duck nests in trees near water, sometimes directly over water, but other times up to 1.2 miles away. After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water. The mother calls them to her, but doesn’t help them in any way.
“How many deer are there?” A century ago, there were less than a million white-tailed deer in North America. Now there are more than 30 million. A deer needs to consume seven pounds of food each day and can jump an 8-foot tall fence to meet their dietary needs. A deer has a well-developed sense of smell. It has more olfactory receptors than a bloodhound.
“I love my cat. Why should I keep it indoors?” To prevent its death from being hit by a car. To avoid attacks by dogs, other cats, raccoons, skunks and foxes that could result in puncture wounds, infections, rabies, distemper and other diseases. To avert being killed by hungry coyotes. As coyote numbers grow, reports of disappearances of cats increase. To preclude infestations of fleas, ticks and other parasites. To keep it from getting lost, stolen, poisoned or shot. To thwart cruel treatment by sadistic people. I’ve visited animal shelters and seen cats that have been abused. It’s not a pretty sight.
Being hit by a car is the most common injury suffered by birds brought to the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota for treatment.
Thanks for stopping by
“For observing nature, the best pace is a snail’s pace.” — Edwin Way Teale
“Tomorrow hopes that we have learned something from yesterday.” — John Wayne
Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. Email him at SnoEowl@aol.com.