Winter symphony a welcome distraction

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 18, 2004

By Al Batt, Nature’s


My neighbor Crandall stops by.

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&uot;How are you doing?&uot; I ask.

&uot;Remember when you told me that happy cows are better cows?&uot;

&uot;Sure, I do.&uot;

&uot;Well, every morning, I’ve been going out and telling jokes to my cows.

I tell such great jokes that all of the cows laugh.

But now I’m worried. I am afraid that my cows have become the laughing stock of the zip code. Say, that was quite a bash thrown for my Uncle Curty and Aunt Carly’s 50th Anniversary.

I figure there must be a lot of wisdom and knowledge accumulated after that many years of wedded bliss. I asked Curty what he had learned from all those years of marriage.&uot;

&uot;What did he say?&uot;

&uot;He said that marriage is the best teacher.

It taught him loyalty, humility, forbearance, forgiveness and self-restraint &045; and a lot of other great qualities he wouldn’t even need if he had stayed single.

Aunt Carly says she’s figured out what’s wrong with men.

She says the problem lies in the two halves of his brain.

The left half has nothing right in it and the right half has nothing left in it. Oh, I applied for a job today.

I did a phone interview.

The interviewer asked if I could tell him what gross aggrandized annuity meant.&uot;

&uot;Could you tell him?&uot; I ask.

&uot;Oh, I knew what it meant.

It meant I wouldn’t be getting the job.&uot;

Where’s the mail?

It feels like one of those days that used to be.

I am walking to the mailbox with my faithful canine companion, Towhee.

We are on a mission.

We are getting the mail. My dog has a boundless zest for these walks.

It is one of the highlights of her day and I have nothing better to do.

We are walking to the mailbox, but my dog and I lose our way.

We must have missed the sign for our turn.

It’s Towhee’s fault.

She finds dead things on our walks.

My dog’s New Year’s resolution is to smell even more like a dead squirrel.

She likes to roll on dead things.

Dogs have a perverted idea of what constitutes a roll-on deodorant.

A light snow has fallen during the night.

I like snow.

It softens the world.

It deadens sounds and makes the landscape look fresh and new.

The only things spoiling the pristine state of our yard are the footprints of earlier travelers.

The dog and I both examine the tracks left in the snow by rabbits, squirrels, pheasants and cats.

Towhee has a conspiracy theory about each one.

She gives each track a thorough snuffling.

The footprints thoroughly investigated, we move on.

The leaves hanging stubbornly to a red oak tree clack in the breeze as we walk by.

It’s part of the winter symphony.

I stop to marvel at the beauty of the cardinals feeding on the ground and to listen to the whistling wings of a small flock of Mourning Doves escaping our presence.

I have work to do, but it can wait.

Work was invented for folks who don’t like to look at birds.

I hear a whistle other than that of the wings of the doves.

Both the dog and I look up to see a Red-tailed Hawk flying overhead and making the whistling sound.

The beautiful buteo is hunting.

We weren’t the only ones to take notice of the raptor.

The hawk whistled up a murder of crows.

The crows quickly form a gang. Four corvids begin to caw and attack the hawk from above.

They dive-bomb the hawk, making contact with their beaks.

Towhee and I become mesmerized watching the feathered dogfight.

It’s easy to see that the crows relish their work.

If a bird could smile, the four large, black birds would be smiling.

The crows continue the cacophony as they attempt to cuss the intruder from the area.

The dog and I watch for a long while as the drama in the skies takes place.

We watch for a long time, forgetting all other matters of the day.

After the combatants fly from our sight, the dog and I walk into the house.

&uot;Hadn’t the mail come yet?&uot; asks my wife.

We had forgotten to get the mail.

It was the supposed reason for our walk.

The dog and I go outside again.

She has a boundless zest for these walks and I am determined to actually make it to the mailbox this time.

Great BackyardBird Count

All you need is birds and access to the Internet.

The GBBC takes place from Feb. 13-16 this year.

Count the birds in your backyard, local park or other areas on one or all four count days.

Watch the birds for at least 15 minutes on each day that you participate.

Your data will be used by scientists to analyze bird populations.

You can join in the fun by going to the following website: http//

In 2003, in Minnesota, the number of species most often observed, according to submitted reports, was in order: Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Blue Jay, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow, American Crow, American Goldfinch and Hairy Woodpecker.

The largest number of birds seen in descending order was: Canada Goose, House Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, American Goldfinch, Black-capped Chickadee, European Starling, Mallard, American Crow, Blue Jay and House Finch.

CBC 2004

The annual Albert Lea Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) took place on January 3.

There were 44 species of birds spotted this year (down from 50 last year) and a total of 4,615 birds seen compared to 9,891 last CBC.

The most numerous bird reported was the House Sparrow, followed in order by Mallard, European Starling, American Crow, Rock Pigeon, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, House Finch and White-breasted Nuthatch.

I delight in birds and in the wonderful folks who are kind enough to report their sightings.

Bird reports

My thanks to all the nice folks who have reported bird sightings.

A Varied Thrush was seen between Blooming Prairie and Geneva.

Eurasian Collared Doves are in Emmons and in Geneva.

If any of you kind readers happen to see these birds, I would love to hear about them.

A photograph would be much appreciated.

Albert Lea Audubon

Please join me at the Feb. 3 gathering of the Albert Lea Audubon Society.

At 7 p.m., I will be showing some photos from Alaska and the Bald Eagle Festival in Haines.

The meeting is held at the Audubon Science Center located at 1416 W. Main St. in Albert Lea.

Everyone is welcome and there is no charge.


&uot;Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.&uot;&045;Henry David Thoreau

&uot;There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness.&uot;&045;Josh Billings


(Allen Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. E-mail him at