James Bond author owned bird field guide book by James Bond

Published 9:00 am Sunday, April 5, 2015

Some Canada geese go rafting. - Al Batt/Albert Lea tribune

Some Canada geese go rafting. – Al Batt/Albert Lea tribune

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. I haven’t spilled the goldfish today. I’m the best me ever. I’d hate me if I were someone else. I chose the road less traveled and have pretty much been lost ever since. I’ve discovered that the cause of March madness has nothing to do with basketball. It comes from shoveling snow. I suppose it could also be brought about by computer problems. I’ve been told that every time a door closes, a window opens. I opened and shut every door in my house and Windows still won’t open on my computer. I’ve grown tired of waiting for the Youth Fairy to come, so I decided to grab the bull by the tail and face the situation. I’m on an exercise program that is working wonders. After only two months, I’m able to bend at the hips and touch my hips. Who knew I’d be a physical fitness superstar? I guess you can’t tell from the looks of a frog how high it will jump. Oh, I almost forgot why I stopped. I’m making sponge cake.”

Email newsletter signup

“So?” I wonder aloud.

“So I need to borrow all of the ingredients. That’s why it’s called sponge cake.”


A window unto nature

I had one of those stare out the window moments. Sometimes, it’s just the thing to do. Most of the world is out there somewhere. Daydreaming delights me and a window offers fascinating things well worth contemplating. Each gaze brings amazement. Each glimpse brings wonder. During this particular look, the signs of spring were outnumbered by the signs of March — a March made of both winter and spring. Cold and snow prevailed. Spring could have been just a myth.

Yet, the day was decorated in birds and the morning had secrets to share. Goldfinches had begun to be golden birds once again as their plumages moved from olive drab to yellow. The bills of starlings had turned yellow for spring. Canada geese honked like hounds on a fresh trail as they flew overhead. House finches sang beautiful songs that once made them caged birds sold as Hollywood finches. The red of the handsome males was good to see. They can be orangish or yellowish, too, depending upon diets. Robins fueled by testosterone tussled in territorial disputes. It seemed unnecessary at such an early date, but they must know what they are doing. My mother claimed that a returning robin needed three snows on its tail before spring could arrive. Red-osier dogwood showcased its red veins of spring. Also called red twig dogwood or red willow, it brightens the grayish landscape.

The dawn chorus, an inspiring demonstration of vocal athleticism, will begin in earnest before long. It’s when birds, mostly males, declare territories and intentions. Emily Dickinson, described it this way, “The birds begun at four o’clock —  Their period for dawn — A music numerous as space And measureless as noon.”

Studies have shown that birds sing louder to overcome traffic noise. It’s difficult to escape manmade sound.

I watched and heard a downy woodpecker hammer upon a hollow tree. That’s a cry for spring. The downy is the most common woodpecker species to visit a backyard bird feeder. A woodpecker isn’t the most melodious of singers, so it uses its pointed bill to produce sounds on resonant surfaces. Woodpeckers play percussion instruments in accompaniment to the singers of the dawn chorus.



“How can I tell by the needles if a tree is a pine or a spruce?” On pine trees, the needles are arranged and attached to the branches in clusters of two (red pines) or five (white pines) needles per cluster. Spruce trees have their needles attached individually to the branches.

“Should I clean wren houses?” Yes and no or no and yes. Wrens are perfectly capable of cleaning out their own nest boxes and the presence of a previous nest might encourage the wrens to renest. But if it’s a disgusting mess inside and the drainage holes are plugged, it’s a good idea to clean it. If there is evidence of unhatched eggs or dead baby birds in the nest, clean it. You could leave some sticks below the house to foster nest rebuilding. You could rinse the house with water or use a diluted bleach mixture. You have a good chance of getting house wrens in either a clean or dirty house.


Nature lessons

Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond books, was an avid birder. He owned a copy of James Bond’s bird field guide. When Fleming needed a name for his 007 hero, he chose James Bond because it was “brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon, and yet very masculine.” The real James Bond was an ornithologist, the curator of ornithology at the Academy of Natural Sciences and a preeminent authority on birds of the Caribbean.

The science dealing with the study of the annual rings of trees is called dendrochronology.

A bald eagle has been known to carry a stick more than a mile to its nest.



JeNean Mortenson of Faribault wrote, “The BBRP (Bluebird Recovery Program) Expo is on Saturday, April 11 at the Northfield Middle School. The featured speakers will be Loren Murphy on achieving a bluebird experience, Katie Lyn on monarch butterflies, Becky Masterman on helping people help bees, Mike Jeresek on bluebirds, Kevin Smith on art and enjoyment of bird watching for all ages, Leif Knecht on planting for wildlife and I don’t know if you ever heard of this guy by the name of Al Batt with his stories. Anyone interested can email me at jeanieandcarl@hotmail.com to obtain a form, and it’s on the website BBRP.ORG. We are having a catered Italian buffet lunch, lots of bird related items for sale and bluebird nest boxes.”


Thanks for stopping by

“I wish America would spend even half as much time complaining about plastics in our oceans as we do about actresses’ plastic surgery.” — Bette Midler

“Be happy. It’s one way of being wise.” — Colette


Do good.


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