Archived Story

Yellow-rumped warbler is not ‘just a’ bird; it is beautiful specimen

Published 9:00am Sunday, May 25, 2014

Nature’s World by Al Batt

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. I’m still trying to determine where my mustache ends and my nose hairs begin. If it were raining gravy, I’d be outside with a fork. But I did get my boat, the S.S. Lutefisk, out of the shed. I was going to put it on the water, but I had to put on a necktie instead.”

A snowy owl perches on a post. – Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune
A snowy owl perches on a post. – Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

“Who died?” I ask.

“I’ll get to that. I had to buy a new tie, so I went to Natalie Attired’s store. She picked out a necktie that she said would bring out my blue eyes. I told her that any tie would make my blue eyes stand out if I tied it tight enough.”

“Who died?” I repeat myself.

“Do you remember Grumpy Grumpwell?”

“Yes, he and his wife fought constantly,” I say. “They had some epic battles.”

“That’s him. Grumpy would get so mad at his wife that he’d shake like a dog passing peach pits. Well, Grumpy passed away. He’s as dead as yesterday’s dishwater. He was cremated. He specified that his ashes be spread near his wife.”

“Oh, so he did care about her after all,” I say.

“Sort of. He had the ashes spread on their living room carpet, just to tick her off.”


Seeing red

Sailors say that the weather is a great bluffer.

The weather surprised me by being quite different from what was predicted. It’s been doing that all my life.

I spotted a couple of lovely scarlet tanagers. A friend, Rod Meyer of Mankato, saw a scarlet tanager this spring. It was the first scarlet tanager he has ever seen. Rod asked me how many I see in a year. My answer was, “Not enough.”


No snow, but a snowy owl

My wife and I looked for a snowy owl still hanging around not far from our home on May 14. I spotted it, as it stood on the rural road, likely hunting for voles. I pulled over, stopped the car and asked my wife to grab the camera for me. She handed me a shoe. At least, even in her excitement of seeing the owl so close, it wasn’t a shoe she was still wearing. Crows hectored the handsome owl and a hawk harassed it. I’m sure the voles weren’t happy with its presence either. The snowy owl was an unwelcome guest to all but my wife and me. We were delighted to see the beauty of the visitor from the tundra.


Spring sprang sprung

I love this time of year when I need to remind myself not to say, “It’s just a yellow-rumped warbler.”

Nothing so beautiful as the numerous “butterbutts” could ever be a “just a.”

Barred owls serenaded me outside my open bedroom window. I spotted a pair of yellow-bellied sapsuckers in an intimate embrace.

I saw a summer tanager at Myre-Big Island State Park.

A yellow-throated vireo flew in and gleaned insects at eye level — my eye level. Red-headed woodpeckers, Baltimore orioles, orchard orioles, indigo buntings, rose-breasted grosbeaks, magnolia warblers, Cape May warblers, chestnut-sided warblers, yellow warblers (my father called them summer warblers), and scarlet tanagers brought captivating colors to my yard. A scarlet tanager male battled his reflection in my office window.

I love this time of year. It is a spring tonic.



“What do red-tailed hawks eat?” Red-tailed hawks have a varied diet. Generally, they eat small to medium-sized mammals (lots of mice and voles), but will also eat birds, reptiles, insects and carrion.

They can carry prey up to about half their body weight.

Seymour Berdz asks, “I put up a birdfeeder, but get no birds. What can I do?” Put some seed in the feeder.

“Would a red fox eat peanuts?” The red fox eats a wide variety of foods. It’s an omnivore and its diet includes fruits, berries and grasses. It also eats birds and small mammals like squirrels, rabbits and mice. A large part of the red fox’s diet is made up invertebrates like beetles, crayfish, crickets, caterpillars and grasshoppers. It stores extra food. I have no doubt that a fox would eat peanuts.

“Where is the most painful place to be stung?”

Michael Smith studies the evolution and behavior of honeybees. Each day for 38 days, Smith used forceps to hold a honeybee on the spot he was testing for pain, keeping the stinger in place for a full minute. Smith did this 190 times and rated the pain on a scale of 1 to 10. Smith stung himself in 25 different body parts. The entire body from the toes to the top of the skull and everything in between was included. Everything. The results revealed that the most painful place for a bee to sting was the nose. Smith ranked it a 9 out of 10 on the pain level. Lips followed close behind with a rating of 8.7.

“What kind of bird is a mope?” It’s a nickname for the pine grosbeak.


Nature lessons

A golden eagle can exert 440 pounds per square inch of pressure with its talons, 15 times more pressure than a human hand.

A study from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute indicated that cats than kill more birds than cars, pesticides, poisons, colliding with windows and towers or any other human cause.

Honeybees make good use of dandelions. Dandelions are often the first major nectar source in spring. The honey produced is a deep yellow, has a strong, often bitter taste and smells like the flowers. Dandelion honey is usually used in early brood rearing and is considered one of the most important spring stimulants for this purpose. Dandelions are also good pollen sources.


Thanks for 

stopping by

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

Do good.


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