Search for warblers worth it

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 23, 2004

By al Batt, Nature’s world

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

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

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&uot;Everything is copacetic.

Spring is a springin’, flowers are a flowerin’, birds are a singin’ and dogwoods are a barkin’.

My garden is going to be a good one.

I got bloomers spreading like rumors.

There are flocks of phlox and irises growing like computer viruses.

No muggy nights and no buggy bites. Life is good. Of course, that may be because I lost my job in town.&uot;

&uot;You lost another job?&uot;

&uot;Yeah, I don’t think that my boss liked me.

If I was late to work, I was being troublesome.

If I was early I was a suck-up. If I was on time, I was compulsive.

I think I’m going to open a restaurant.&uot;

&uot;We have enough restaurants.&uot;

&uot;Maybe so, but this one will be different.

Mine will only serve venison dishes.

I’m going to call it ‘The Buck Stops Here.’ I even have a catchy slogan.&uot;

&uot;I don’t want to hear it.&uot;

&uot;It’s ‘Bambi.

You’ve seen the movie.

Now lunch with the star.’&uot;

Warbler weekend

I was as busy as a three-legged cat in a new litter box.

I was staying at the Villa Maria in Frontenac, Minn.

I was there for the Warbler Weekend.

To be precise, it was the St. Paul Audubon Warbler Migration Weekend that has been held every year since 1972.

Frontenac is located between Lake City and Red Wing.

The Villa Maria Center is an interfaith retreat and conference center sponsored by the Ursuline Sisters. The property on which it stands was given to the Sisters by Israel Garrard.

Thanks to the records supplied by Bill Stjern, I know that over this period of time, the average number of species seen on this weekend is 127 with 22 of those species being warblers.

There has been 244 species of birds sighted during this span of time including 34 species of warblers.

Some of the warblers are quite dependable.

A Yellow Warbler and a Northern Waterthrush have been sighted every year. A Common Yellowthroat and an American Redstart has been spotted every year except one.

A Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler and Ovenbird have been seen all but two years.

Lots of warblers. I love looking at the tiny warblers that come to Minnesota during May.

They are like feathered jewels that glow brightly in sunlit trees.

It requires a lot of patience to see warblers because the warblers don’t have much.

They are 3-second birds.

They stay in view for 3 seconds.

The problem is that it typically takes us 4 seconds to find them.

But when we find a warbler, the search is worth it.

Many of the warblers find lunch in the tops of the trees.

This requires a binoculars user to spend some time looking straight up.

This can cause a condition known as warbler neck.

When you look at warblers, you first feel the experience in your arms.

They might become sore or achy.

Then you feel it in your neck.

A sore or stiff neck.

These are a small price to pay to look at the delicate beauty found in a warbler.

When you look at warblers, you first feel it in your arms, then in your neck and finally in your heart.

I love attending the Warbler Weekend.

The birds had never let me down in the past.

They didn’t let me down this year either.

I spotted about 20 varieties of warblers, Great Horned Owlets in a nest on a broken snag, young Bald Eagles in a nest and approximately 200 Chimney Swifts entering a chimney roost at dusk at Villa Maria.

I spent time looking at a log at the edge of water.

I was watching the log because there was a Sora feeding at one end and a Virgina Rail feeding at the other.

The birds were very accommodating for bird lookers like me.

A Red-shouldered Hawk grabbed a mouse to the delight of all who witnessed the hunt.

I became excited about showing folks the world’s largest wood ticks.

Alas, they proved to be painted turtles sunning themselves on a log.

I should have known as they were much smaller than the wood ticks we have in the woods here in Hartland.

I found never-ending joy in goldfinches.

Their undulating flight provides the dip to go with their &uot;potato chip&uot; call.

I pointed out a Red-tailed Gas Hawk and several Silver-tailed Metal Larks to those in my company. These, of course, are airplanes, but this day everything was a bird.

Unless it was a wildflower.

Birds and wildflowers go together like a horse and carriage, Abbott and Costello or lutefisk and Norwegians.

When nature laughs, it does so with flowers.

When nature sings, it does so with birds.

A warble escaping from the bill of a warbler truly is music to our ears.

I showed a fire-throated Blackburnian Warbler and a car-stupid Red-headed Woodpecker to some teens.

The glamorous warbler and the woodpecker with the blood-red noggin thrilled the young people just as much as they did me.

I will never forget what one of the young men said to me.

&uot;Dude, that’s like a beauty bird.&uot;

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I listened to the chorus of birdsong that accompanied me that day.

I found the goodness of spirit uplifting.

I hiked the day away.

I walked from first light to last light.

I had $20 shoes and a million dollar day.

My day of warblers was a day of epic proportions.

The kind of day that has been made nearly extinct by TV.

Israel Garrard said, &uot;I fell in love with this place 40 years ago, and I have been in love with it ever since.&uot;

I know just how he felt.


The &uot;Gone to the Birds Award&uot; goes to the following people for their recent calls, reports or assistance: Harlan Lutteke, Colleen Carlson, Joy Christian, Earl Jacobsen, Carol Bertelson, Bill Bryson, Brian Bashans, Tom Sheehan, Keith Miller, Al Sack, Kermit Kalke, Sharon Wangen, Mark Bernard, Ted Myers, Pat McGuire, Lu Denzene, Andrea Mauer, Dick Smaby, Nancy Skophammer, Terry Dorsey, Tom Tubbs, Larry Dolphin, Rachelle Fliehman, Linda Anderson, Bill Aanerud, Sonny Simon, Denny Tostenson, Vance Hill, Doug Vandegrift, Deb Weitzel, Jeff Reese, Paul Lynne, Randy Cockeram,

Wayne Buckmaster, Marlyss Johnson, Lois Wangen, Ken Joachim, Tim Scott, Sophie Ehrhardt, Randy Kapaun, Audrey Shepard, Sue Peterson, Mike Dombroske, Nels Thompsen, Roger Batt, Arvil Bartness and Nate Berg.

Thank you.

&uot;I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from him.&uot;–Galileo Galilei

&uot;Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he isn’t.

A sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is.&uot; &045; Horace Walpole


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