Column: Odds, ends from Nature’s World

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 18, 2006

By Al Batt, Tribune Columnist

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

&8220;How are you doing?&8221; I ask.

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&8220;Everything is copacetic,&8221; comes my neighbor’s reply. &8220;I’m back on regular coffee. I tried switching to decaf.&160; I couldn’t stay awake long enough to finish a cup.&160; Now that I’m awake, I’m looking for that gravy creek and a biscuit tree so I could just sit down and sop.&160; When I find it, I’ll be as happy as a raccoon eating sweet corn.&160; I am the gold tooth in a crooked smile.&160; I’m just putting the final touches on the country western song I’m writing. I call it, &8216;Crandall Broke My Heart at The Dollar Store And I Cried All the Way to Hy-Vee.’ With the royalties that will be pouring in after my song tops the charts, I’m fixing to get myself a snazzy red LeBaron convertible.&8221;

&8220;Oh, oh, it sounds like you might be undergoing a midlife crisis. Maybe that explains your sign. I couldn’t help noticing it,&8221; I say.

&8220;The one that says, &8216;Boat For Sale’?&8221;

&8220;Yes,&8221; I say, &8220;that one.&160; I not only noticed the sign, but I noticed the rusty push lawn mower and

the one-wheeled bicycle near the sign.&160; What I didn’t see is a boat.&8221;

&8220;Of course, you wouldn’t see a boat.&160; I don’t have a boat.&8221;

&8220;But the sign says, &8216;Boat For Sale,’&8221; I question.

&8220;Yeah, I have an old lawn mower and a crippled bicycle and they’re boat for sale.&8221;


David Farrelly, in his &8220;The Book of Bamboo,&8221; says that bamboo has been measured to grow 47.6 inches in a 24-hour period. I’m sure that was under ideal conditions of heat, humidity and soil.

&160;It’s amazing that eight-inch diameter, 60 to 80 foot tall bamboos have reached that height in one growing season, which might have been as short as two months.&160;

A warming trend

A report from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks documents that average annual temperatures of interior Alaska have warmed by as much as 3.5 degrees F since 1950, while winter average temperatures have warmed as much as 6.0 degrees. This level of warming in the winter is nearly twice what we have seen here in Minnesota. Higher latitudes are warming at a more rapid rate in recent years. The warming in some parts of Alaska has been enough to cause the loss of permafrost so that lakes and ponds formerly perched on top of frozen ground are disappearing.

Odds and ends

Falcons have bills with a characteristic notch, comparatively long, pointed wings, and do not build their own nests.

The Chipping Sparrow is the only sparrow that regularly nests well off the ground. Their nests have been observed at heights over 50 feet.

On Sept. 18, 14922, Christopher Columbus noticed flocks of songbirds flying south.&160; He changed course to follow the birds which were likely golden plovers, making land on Oct. 12, 1492.

I am amazed how far north opossums have gotten.&160; I saw one near International Falls recently.

I listened to the Canada Geese at a State Park the other day. They sounded like callers to a talk radio station. They were outraged. When they calmed down, I could still hear the whispered mutterings between the birds. I think geese have trouble hearing muted voices, because they kept repeating, &8220;Huh?&8221;

Take one of those little 35mm film containers or the cap of a spray can, poke a hole in the bottom and string the feeders’ wire through it with a knot to keep it in place.&160; Then coat the inside with petroleum jelly. Be careful not to leave any petroleum jelly on the edge where birds might get it in their feathers.

Folk wisdom holds that if you see a robin head for its nest, particularly if no young or eggs are present, prepare for a storm. The robin’s nest of mud would be destroyed if not protected. A robin will sometimes reuse the nest.

Red-eyed Vireo

The Red-eyed Vireo is a common nesting bird in Minnesota.&160; The word &8220;vireo&8221; is Latin for &8220;green bird.&8221;&160; The bird is a persistent singer, earning the nickname &8220;Preacher Bird&8221; because of its lengthy sermons. I find the vireo’s song to be repetitive, but cheerful. Some mnemonics for remembering its call are &8220;Look up, over here, see me, up here,&8221; &8220;Here I am, over here, vireo,&8221;&160; &8220;Here I am. Where are you?&8221; and &8220;You see it, you know it, you hear, do you believe it?&8221;&160; I prefer to think of them as counting the leaves.

From out of the past

Kevin Savick sent me some wonderful newspaper clippings.&160; Here are a couple.

From the Freeborn County Times of Nov. 24, 1901, &8220;Probably the largest eagle ever captured alive in this county is at present on exhibition in the front window of the clothing department of the Big Four.&160; It was captured by Richard White of Bear Lake and measures over 14 feet across the wings from tip to tip.&8221;&160; Al says: The newspaper might have exaggerated the wingspan a bit.&160; A Bald Eagle has a wingspan of around 80 inches, a Turkey Vulture 67 inches and an American White Pelican checks in at 108 inches.

From The Albert Lea Tribune of April 2, 1930, &8220;A large timber wolf was killed on the William Buchanan farm near Gordonsville by his hired man, Raymond Fischer.&160; Mr. Fischer took the carcass to Albert Lea and got a bounty of $15.&8221;

&160;Purple Martin Festival

The Fourth Annual Minnesota Purple Martin Festival will be hosted by Sharon Wangen on Saturday, June 24, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be displays, handouts, speakers, and door prizes.&160; Located at 16631 710th Ave., take Highway 69 south to 180 Street (County Road 17) where you turn right (west). Continue on County Road 17 to 710the Avenue.&160; Turn left (south) to fourth place on the right.&160; Follow the balloons and bring a lawn chair and binoculars.

Pelican Breeze

Please join me as I host a tour of beautiful Albert Lea Lake.&160; Call 507-383-2630 to book a seat on Saturday, June 24 at 7 p.m., Saturday, August 26 at p.m. or Sunday, September 3 at 2 p.m.


A trip to Alaska is like a piano–grand.&160; Please join me on a tour of Alaska on Aug. 10-17.

For more information on this delightful trip, call 373-4705 or 800-328-4298.

Shameless self-promotion

I do have some of my books, CDs, videos, and cassettes available.&160; You could find more information by going to&160;

or e-mailing me at

Thanks for stopping by

&8220;When we accept tough jobs as a challenge and wade into them with joy and enthusiasm, miracles can happen.&8221;&160; &045;Arland Gilbert

&8220;Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.&8221;&160; &045;

Winston Churchill


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