Salmon are in the trees near Chilkat River in Alaska

Published 6:14 am Saturday, December 8, 2012

Column: Nature’s World, by Al Batt

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

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“Everything is nearly copacetic. I had to run Pop to the emergency room. He was holding a rake and yelling at the last leaf on a tree. He called the leaf names that it didn’t appreciate. The branch that leaf was on fell and hit Pop on the head. The last time I was in the emergency room involved an incident with a nose hair trimmer. That’s all I’m saying. Pop’s going to be OK, but I thought I’d cheer him up by buying him a new coat. He spent all his mad money on hearing aids and he’s mad about it. He’s a good listener as long as his battery lasts. His old coat was made before buttons. He tried on a coat that looked good on him and fit nicely. Pop grumbled that he couldn’t see himself wearing the coat. The salesclerk, trying to be helpful, told Pop that there was a bigger mirror at the back of the store. That ended the shopping and any hopes of getting Pop into a good mood. When I got home, the phone was ringing. It was a telemarketer babbling about how he could lower my credit card rate. I told him that I was Amish, I shouldn’t be talking on a phone, and hung up on him.”


Nature by the yard

I threw some stale bread out for the crows. It’s basic recycling. It might not be the best food for them, but it looks good compared to some of the other things crows eat. When I see crows surrounding roadkill, I imagine one saying, “Let me through. I’m a scavenger.” I watched the crows sneak in to investigate the tossed bread. They pretended to steal the slices. It gives their lives purpose.

Where I live, it typically takes four crows to eat lunch. Two to eat and two to watch for cars.

Fall threw warm days at us and the boxelder bugs were appreciative. They live rent-free in my garage. They are not feeding. They are seed feeders — boxelder and maple trees. They don’t bite, sting or reproduce indoors.

A friend told me about his spider bites. It’s not normal for a spider to bite a human. Reaction to insect bites can be delayed for up to 48 hours. If it is multiple bites, it’s not from a spider. A spider bite typically shows two tiny fang marks. Spiders are often blamed for fleabites or those inflicted by other insects.


Alaska again

There is a book titled, “Salmon in the Trees.” Salmon are in the trees along the Chilkat River. The salmon are carried there by bald eagles that feed heavily upon the fish. I saw a cat alongside the road a few miles outside of Haines, Alaska, also known as the Valley of the Eagles. The cat was either brave or desirous of becoming an eagle or coyote sandwich.

The five types of salmon can be remembered by looking at your hand. The thumb is chum.

The index finger is something you might poke someone in the eye with — sockeye. The middle is the largest finger — the king is the largest salmon. The ring finger is for silver. The pinkie finger is the pink salmon. Chum, sockeye, king, silver and pink.

I enjoy seeing harbor seals in Alaska. Their numbers have declined, possibly due to diminished food supplies. Killer whales prey upon the seals that dive as deep as 1,500 feet. As I looked at the seals, I recalled the legend of the selkies that are said to live as seals in the sea, but shed their skins to become humans on land.


Nature lessons

Our European ancestors thought that guinea fowl came from Turkey, so they called guinea fowl turkey-hens and turkey-cocks. Once the origin of the guinea fowl was correctly ascertained, the turkey names were transferred to what we call turkeys today.

Baltimore Bill (a crab) was placed on a specially designed plank and he headed to the right and into the bay at Inner Harbor in Maryland. This is supposed to indicate that we’re in for an early winter, which may make some people crabby.

A skunk in Colorado Springs knocked a TV station off the air after it sprayed the transmitter. The skunk got into the transmitter room and burned itself on some equipment. The animal reacted by spraying the transmitter, causing a circuit breaker to trip. That’s why the programming stunk that day.

Armadillos are moving north. Zoologists theorize that they are searching for food, seeking mates or seceding from Texas.

Scott Hoyland of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, told me that he had talked to the operator of a campground who told him that robins often nest on trailer hitches. Apparently, robins do not follow the old idiom, “Location, location, location.”

A bird’s ability to sleep while half its brain remains alert is called unihemispherical sleep.

A friend saw his first pileated woodpecker and kindly shared his sighting with me. He said, “I didn’t know that woodpeckers got that big.”

A Hutterite gentleman was heard to remark that he appreciated bird feeders because “they are TV for our women.”

An American wigeon makes a sound like a rubber duckie.

Allen’s rule holds that the limbs, ears and other appendages of the animals living in cold climates tend to be shorter than in animals of the same species living in warm climates. Shorter and more compact body parts have less surface area than elongated ones and thus lose less body heat.


Thanks for stopping by

“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.” — Leonardo da Vinci

“The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be.” — Leo Buscaglia




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