Deciphering dandelions eaters and researching early robin calls

Published 9:00 am Sunday, June 1, 2014

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’d like to see a pro golfer or NASCAR driver who wasn’t wearing all of his or her sponsor logos. The world is divided into two groups. There are those who know and those who don’t know. Those who don’t know are in two groups. One is those who don’t know and know they don’t know. Then there are those who don’t know and don’t know they don’t know. The last group is where my in-laws come from. One of my brothers-in-law got a tattoo. It reads, ‘Tattoo.’ He wears safety glasses when he clips his toenails. He believes that wine doesn’t make you fat, it makes you lean — against tables, chairs and walls. My tractor dented his new Lexus. He had a cow. He hurled more obscenities my way than I could dodge.”

“What did you say?” I ask.

A male orchard oriole perches on a feeder. – Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

A male orchard oriole perches on a feeder. – Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

“I told him that I didn’t have his vocabulary, but I hoped that when he got home that his mother ran out from under the porch and bit him. I applied for a part-time job at the Inconvenience Store. The boss would give me $9 an hour starting today and in three months, he’ll raise it to $12 an hour.”

“When do you start?” I say.

“In three months.”


The crabapple caper

Tony Guggisberg of New Ulm has some red splendor crabapple trees with fruit that persists over the winter. Pheasants flew into the trees and ate all the crabapples. Tony said that he planted some black hills spruce trees and chipping sparrows, robins and grackles built nests in the trees almost immediately. Tony has a Christmas tree farm. He reckoned that every fourth Christmas tree contained a nest.

A caller said that gangs of Tennessee warblers slurped up the nectar from the crabapple blossoms in her yard.


Breaking and walnutting

Cindy St. John of Fairmont told me that her parents once brought a harvest of black walnuts into their house. While they were away from home, squirrels got into the house and had their way with the walnuts. Eating walnuts must be thirsty work, as the squirrels removed the cover from the back of the toilet so that they might have a few drinks at the banquet.


Opossums to the right of me, opossums to the left of me

A friend named Bill lives in Omaha. He feeds the birds. He noticed an opossum in the yard. He live-trapped it and hauled the opossum to a park near Boys Town. The next day there was another opossum. He caught it and deposited it at the same place. He caught and delivered a number of opossums.

Several weeks passed. A man told Bill’s wife that he was thinking of quitting feeding birds because his yard was being overrun by opossums.

She asked him where he lived. His residence was near Boys Town.


When wrens attack

Don Selvig of Winnebago said that he was puttering around in the yard when he was attacked by a house wren. The attack consisted of the tiny bird flying straight at Don. Don took refuge in his house and shared his tale of woe with his spouse. His wife didn’t believe him. Don had to show her. He ventured back outside and the attacks began anew.

My tower has been buzzed by robins mistaking me for a worm.



“How can I tell a Eurasian collared-dove from a mourning dove?” Eurasian collared-doves look larger than mourning doves and are slightly lighter in color. The collared-dove has a diagnostic black collar on the back of its neck and has a squared tail as opposed to the pointed tails of mourning doves. It looks as if the end of the tail had been cut off with scissors.

“What eats dandelions?” The flowers of dandelions are nectared by bees, butterflies and flies. Chipping, field, house, song and white-throated sparrows, American goldfinches and indigo buntings are a few of the songbirds that eat dandelion seeds. Dandelions are devoured by wild turkeys, pheasants, ruffed grouse, rabbits, deer, ground squirrels, mice and chipmunks. Cooked dandelion greens have long been food for humans. The leaves and roots could be served on buttered bread or used in salads and the flowers dipped in batter and fried. During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers used dried dandelion roots as a coffee substitute. The plant is a great source of iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, carotenoids and vitamins A, B, C and D.

Tom Jessen of Madelia asked about robins calling in the middle of the night. Studies have shown that robins in areas with much artificial light begin singing before robins in low-light areas. I’ve noticed robin songs early after a storm or under a bright moon. Call notes in the night might indicate the presence of a predator. The robins in my yard begin vocalizing as early as 3:30 in the morning. I suppose it’s on their list of things to do.


Nature lessons

The snowy owl is likely the oldest bird species recognizable in prehistoric cave art.

Charles Darwin was a pigeon fancier.

The oldest state park in Minnesota is Itasca State Park, established in 1891. The newest is La Salle Lake State Recreation Area, established in 2011. The largest is St. Croix State Park (31,775 acres) and the smallest is Franz Jevne State Park (118 acres). The top three state parks for visits in 2013 were, in descending order, Fort Snelling State Park, Gooseberry Falls State Park and Itasca State Park.

The extinct dodo was a dove found only on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.

The photo of sandhill cranes in last week’s column was taken by Darcy Sime of Alden.


Thanks for stopping by

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” — Marcel Proust

“You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing — that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.” — Richard Feynman


Do good.


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