Days are numbered for ash trees

Published 10:35 am Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Al Batt, Nature’s World

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

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“Everything is nearly copacetic. I got up early enough today to wake the rooster. That saved him from having to crow. I like getting up early in the morning so I’ll have more time to do nothing. I’m a little tired today because I dreamed about not being able to sleep. I see you’re reading a book.”

“I love a good book,” I admit.

“I enjoy reading books, too. I apply the Crandall method of reading a book. I read the first few pages of a book. Then I read the last few pages of the book. Then I start in the middle and read to whichever end I liked the best. Oh, did I tell you that Crying Charlie got hit by lightning?”

“Oh, my goodness! Is he OK?” I ask.

Al Batt

“Well, his boots quit leaking. I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out why I’m always stuck behind the eight-ball. I’m going to change my life for the good. I’m going to go to school to get my pilot’s license.”

“Why?” I wonder aloud.

“I’ve always wanted to fly to the sun.”

“Don’t be silly. Even if you could fly there, you’d burn up,” I say.

“I’m not that stupid. I’ll go at night.”

The call of the wild

I was speaking in Lakeside, Ohio, when I met the couple from Dayton. The woman’s name was Mary. She was undergoing chemo, and it had been hard on her. Mary had managed to maintain a great smile and a bubbly personality.

A small flock of Canada geese flew overhead as we visited.

Mary looked up at the big birds and said, “Oh, please honk. Please honk.”

She looked and listened as if it might be her last time to hear the geese. I silently hoped that it would not be. I hoped to hear the sound of geese.

We did.

An ash apple

A photo of Canada geese by Al Batt.

I was walking in my backyard. I paused under a lofty ash tree. I don’t like to borrow worries, but I began to fret about the hole that would be left in my yard once the emerald ash borer hits the area. I was in the middle of hoping that somehow this tree would be spared when a falling apple nearly hit me. The yard contains apple trees, but none was close enough to drop a fruit near me. I looked up into the tree but could see no prankster amongst its branches. Something must have carried the apple into the tree, and it chose that moment to fall to the ground. I considered the animals that eat fallen apples. Deer, opossum, turkeys, raccoons, and squirrels were the first that came to mind. I eliminated deer. I rarely see them climbing trees. I think the culprit was likely a raccoon, maybe a squirrel. I may not be sure of the apple hauler, but I do know that I would certainly miss the majestic ash tree that drops apples.

Mosquito munchies

We were walking through a park when one in our group said, “What were the mosquitoes feeding on before I got here.”

The mosquitoes were big enough to cast shadows. Joel Groebner of Rice Lake State Park said that the mosquitoes are the worst in 10 years at that beautiful place.

I have eaten my share of mosquitoes. Many while driving a tractor. The skeeters aren’t bad tasting, but they do get caught between my teeth.

No robins singing

A number of listeners to radio shows I do have mentioned their quiet yards due to a lack of robins. The first robin to arrive each spring is first because he stopped to ask for directions. Our summers are filled with disgruntled robins noisily expressing irritable fowl syndrome. The robin is the quintessential early bird. Its “Merrily, verily, see?” song is summer’s background music. It sings to command territory and to entice a mate. The robin’s voice is comforting like wind chimes in a breeze. Each summer morning brings the song of the robin — a sunlight of sound. I miss the robins’ singing. I should have listened better.

Q and A

“Some of the hummingbirds at my feeder are larger than others. Are they different species?” They are likely all ruby-throated hummingbirds. It is the only regular species of hummingbirds we get here. The females are larger than the males. They are bigger because they need to produce eggs and provide body heat for incubating.

“How can I stop woodpeckers from hammering on the siding of my house?” Woodpeckers peck (or pick) on houses to declare territory and to find food. You could run outside and bang pots and pans. It’s a great exercise program for you, not so much for the birds. You could squirt the birds with water from a hose or a high-powered water gun. Bang on the inside wall opposite the point where the woodpeckers are hammering. Nail or duct tape metal or plastic sheeting over the area. Use chicken wire or wire mesh over the affected areas. It works best if the wire is raised from the surface.

“Is there a certain kind of tree that hummingbirds prefer to nest in?” I don’t think so. They will nest in odd places, but I typically find their tiny nests 10 to 40 feet high on slender, descending branches of deciduous trees.

Nature lessons

A carrier pigeon postal service that citizens could use for a fee began in the 16th century.

Stars twinkle. Planets do not.

Great horned owls eat everything from insects to turkeys, mink to bats, frogs to spiders, and fish to rabbits.

In 1680, an Irish law forbade the killing of white butterflies because they were believed to be the souls of children.

A weather proverb says, “Swallows flying high mean there’s no rain in the sky.”

The large football-shaped nests in trees are the work of bald-faced hornets. Woodpeckers feed on the wasps after a hard freeze kills the hornets or makes them sluggish. The hornets feed upon other insects, including yellowjackets.

Thanks for stopping by

“A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.” — H. L. Mencken

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” — Alice Walker


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