Aerial ballet of vultures overhead looks effortless

Published 6:40 am Sunday, April 28, 2013

Column: Natures’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 showered with dish soap today. I like having that fresh lemony scent. I’ve realized that I could be a fashion plate if it weren’t for the dinner plate. I take after my grandpa. He was with that singing group the Ink Spots. He was a blotter. His singing was the only thing on the farm that the bull was afraid of. I’ve been eating for two people. My goal is to start just feeding me and letting the other guy starve. I decided I should lose a few pounds. Still Bill was only 10 years old when he was diagnosed with laziness, but that man could cook. He whipped me up some Tex-Mex stuff that he said would be filling and a little spicy. He claimed that it’d help me shed some weight. I don’t know what it was but if it doesn’t smell like chili, it probably isn’t. I ate it. It was so hot, my car alarm went off in the garage. My nose hairs were ablaze. I worried that it might be a double-burner and burn coming and going. I drank a glass of water and then filled the glass with tears. I lost five pounds in sweat. One day, I’ll look back on this and shudder.”

Photo of a fox sparrow by Darcy Sime of Alden.

Photo of a fox sparrow by Darcy Sime of Alden.



Vultures, crows and a red-tailed hawk were feeding upon dead deer. Nature’s undertakers. They all appeared to be getting along. The vultures soared overhead. Their aerial ballet looked effortless.

Robins were everywhere. Their flight plans put on hold because of the weather. The robins sang. Fox sparrows joined the choir. Juncos had become the most numerous birds at my feeders as they sometimes do in the spring. Their incessant twittering was good company as I walked. As was a hermit thrush that hopped along the road I strolled upon.

The sun peeked out. It was welcomed by an increase in birdsong.

The sun was in my ears.

Nature news

Carrol Henderson of the Department of Natural Resources sent me this. “I wanted to share the good news that John C. Goetz (of the Twin Cities law firm Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben) has donated his 549-acre tract of land in northeastern Freeborn County to be designated as a new Minnesota Wildlife Management Area. The dedication of the property (Wo Wacintanka Wildlife Management Area) will be at 1 p.m. June 6. John has worked with local DNR wildlife managers Rick Erpelding and Jeanine Vorland to convert this area into wildlife habitat consisting of wetlands, grasslands and scattered clumps of woodland. All the land is in Reinvest in Minnesota, Wetland Reserve Program and Minnesota Land Trust easements. The area holds potential for restoration of oak savanna and provides public access for wildlife observation, nature photography and hunting opportunities. John Goetz was particularly interested in the potential that this area will have as a destination for local children and nature study groups from the nearby Hormel Nature Center to explore the outdoors and learn about wildlife.”

The Raptor Center’s spring raptor release is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday with the program starting at noon. It’s at Hyland Lake Park Reserve at 10145 Bush Lake Road in Bloomington.

Lincoln Brower is concerned about the declining numbers of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico. There are 2.94 acres of roosts this year, containing 60 million butterflies. That is down from 1 billion monarchs on 52 acres. Brower blames the degradation of the forest in Mexico and the reduction in milkweed population in the US.


Bluebird Recovery Program tidbits

Mike Jeresek of Rushford said that bluebird chicks are able to fly about the length of a football field when they first leave the nest box.

Kelly Applegate, Purple Martin Working Group director, said that during its fall migration, a purple martin flew 2,000 miles in seven days. Martins spend 2 to 2 1/2 weeks resting (vacationing) before flying to their winter home in South America. In spring, one martin flew from Costa Rica to Brainerd (3,300 miles) in seven days. Purple martins don’t always arrive here during the best weather. They aren’t good at predicting the weather.

Keith Radel of Faribault said that vent holes are unnecessary on bluebird boxes, an entrance hole for chickadees should be 1 1/8-inch and that cats live three times longer if kept indoors.



Tom Stockwell of Burnsville asked how to stop sapsuckers from hammering holes in trees. Sapsuckers drill holes in a line, creating sap wells from which they lap up sap with their tongues. They also eat insects that become stuck in the sap. Hummingbirds, warblers and other birds sip sap from sapsucker wells. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers have yellow bellies and red foreheads. Males have a red patch on the throat where females have white. Sapsuckers are common over most of the state. They tend to choose sick or wounded trees for drilling and prefer tree species with high sugar concentrations in their sap, such as birch, maple, and hickory. To prevent sapsuckers from damaging trees, wrap a burlap bag or other heavy material around the damaged area. You could allow the woodpeckers to feed on a damaged tree in the hope that they will not move to other trees.

“How far south in Minnesota could I see ravens?” Once, they were confined to the northeast and north central part of the state. The common raven has now been confirmed as nesting as far south as Benton and Washington counties and as far west as Kittson, Norman and Pennington counties.

Nature lessons

Corndog grass is a nickname for cattails. The narrow-leaved cattail is often seen along roadsides because it tolerates a more saline environment than does the broad-leaved cattail. The cattail is considered a candidate for biofuel production.

Dead trees are full of life.


Thanks for stopping by

“A pessimist sees only the dark side of the clouds, and mopes; a philosopher sees both sides and shrugs; an optimist doesn’t see the clouds at all – he’s walking on them.”– Leonard Louis Levinson

“I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs.”– Joseph Addison



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