‘Ecclesiastes tells us to everything there is a season’Published 9:15am Sunday, December 15, 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 as good as I can be, but galloping gravy! I underslept this morning. I had to leave the house slowly. We were so poor while I was growing up that the only way I ever got shoes was to go to the bowling alley. Yet I’ve invested some of my hard-earned money with my dimwitted brother-in-law, Annoying Elmer. It’s investicide. He’s supposed to be some kind of a financial guru, but he uses his laptop computer as a paperweight. Bless his heart, he can’t help being stupid, but he could stay home. I have my health insurance with him through some company named Blue In The Face. His mother thinks he’s a genius, but there is a lot of room on that float in the parade. His father is a farmer. He buries his money in his fields because he wants rich soil. Annoying Elmer believes that each time he is wrong, he’s one step closer to being right. I don’t know why I invested a dime with that dork. I read the horoscope in the newspaper every morning and it advised me against becoming involved in any financial foolishness.”
“Do you really believe in astrology?” I say.
“Of course not. You know how skeptical we Capricorns are.”
There’s cold in them there halls
Winter comes before I’m done with fall. Ecclesiastes tells us to everything there is a season. Winter can be a hard season to love. It would be indescribable if that didn’t describe it. I keep an eye on winter. It’s always up to something.
The house shuddered in sympathy with the wind. The flurries fairy had arrived. Weather dominated everything. Snow fell, descending in a swirling frenzy. I couldn’t stop it. Snow is a solid expression of winter. The landscape resembled a giant marshmallow. Folklore says that if I washed my hands during the first snowfall, I wouldn’t be bothered by chapped hands.
Winter writes upon the earth. All that move, from a blade of grass bending with the wind to a wayfaring rabbit, tell stories in the snow. I told stories in the ice.
Every winter, when I was a boy and the bomb was the most feared weapon imaginable and the snowball was the most obvious, I walked to the Le Sueur River that cut through our farm. At the river, which we called a “crick,” I’d step onto the ice and fall in. It was a tradition. I’d make the long walk home with frozen socks on a frigid day. Upon thawing, I’d say, “It’s good to have toes.”
Dan and Sandy Thimgan of Battle Lake are avid birders. To celebrate Dan’s birthday, the couple decided to visit all 15 sewage ponds in Otter Tail County. Birds like sewage ponds and the Thimgans like birds.
Steve Stucker of St. Paul is an ornithologist with the Minnesota Biological Survey. While doing a survey, a spruce grouse flew into a nearby tree and Steve put his backpack on the ground in order to grab a camera to photograph the grouse. He nearly dropped the backpack on a hermit thrush fledgling. That would have combined an “ah ha” moment with an “oh, no” moment. The Minnesota Biological Survey has been done from 1988 through 2013. There have been 259 potential breeding bird species identified in June. The top five most numerous species in descending order are the common yellowthroat, red-eyed vireo, red-winged blackbird, and song sparrow and ovenbird.
Dr. Pat Redig, president of the Midwest Peregrine Society, said that 121 peregrine falcons were banded and fledged in Minnesota last year. There were 36 in Iowa and 80 in Wisconsin. Most of the population is established on artificial structures. Only 26 percent on traditional cliffs. The nesting substrate types are 52 percent buildings, 14 percent smokestacks and 8 percent bridges. Nest sites include the North Star Bridge in Mankato, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Red Wing Grain Elevator and Xcel Energy on Prairie Island. We now have four to five times the historical population of peregrine falcons. They are preyed upon by great horned owls and raccoons.
Steve Wilson of Tower is a retired Department of Natural Resources forest ecologist. Steve was birding abandoned taconite mining areas in the Iron Range when he encountered a birdsong that he couldn’t identify. It was a series of high, thin, repeated notes on multiple pitches, like the ringing of small bells. It sounded to Steve as though there were five birds singing, but despite his concentrated efforts, he was unable to locate the bird on the ground. The unidentified birds stopped singing. Steve spotted a peregrine falcon flying overhead. When he trained his binoculars on the bird, he saw that the falcon had a sparrow-like bird clutched in its talons. Steve maintained a vigil, but the mystery birds sang no more. Steve consulted a digital birdsong doohickey. He discovered that the bird was a Sprague’s pipit, a rare and declining songbird of the prairie, not expected to be found in the area. Steve returned to the site but didn’t hear the song again. Displaying Sprague’s pipit males often remain airborne for 30 minutes, singing and gliding high. One male was observed displaying for three hours. Steve believes that what he thought to be five birds was actually a single bird singing high in the sky. The singing stopped because the peregrine falcon took the pipit out to lunch.
Jim Johnson of Hartland, who lives near Spicer Lake, found a four-leaf clover. Four-leaf clovers are a mutation of the usually three-leafed white clover plant. Irish folklore maintains that those finding four-leaf clovers are destined for good luck. The leaves symbolize good omens for faith, hope, love and luck for the finder. Finding a five-leaf clover brings even more of those things. Someone estimated the chances of finding a four-leaf clover to be 10,000 to 1.
Thanks for stopping by
“He that lives in hope dances without music.” – George Herbert
“When a dead tree falls, the woodpeckers share in its death.” – Malayan proverb
Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. Email him at SnoEowl@aol.com.