Al Batt: When do we first see monarch butterflies in state of Minnesota?

Published 9:00 am Saturday, June 10, 2017

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

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. I went off that goofy diet that my sister Cruella had me on. Sticks and leaves! I’m trying to live a happy, healthy and productive life without broccoli. I’m back to eating Honey Smacks cereal for the fiber. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst, for they are sticking to their diets. I’m still exercising a bit. It’s not easy to do that in my old house. The floors are so low that I can’t touch my toes.”

Nature by the yard

I was feeling tolerable. Happy to be home. A hospital isn’t a bad place to get out of.

I dreamed of reading a John McPhee book by the light of fireflies until I was awakened at 4:30 in the morning by a vociferous bird. I listened to a cacophony of calls cobbled together by a catbird. I considered having the catbird tuned until I was reminded once more how much I enjoy its company. Later after the sun had lit the day, I saw a spatzie, an old nickname for the house sparrow. Then a red-headed woodpecker flew into the feeder. My day brightened more than the sun. I felt better. That woodpecker had provided a tonic.


“I found some bird heads on the sidewalk. What happened to them?” They are the calling cards of peregrine falcons. They often sever heads, legs and other less appetizing parts of their avian prey and discard them. Peregrines often hunt by flying very high, then stooping in spectacular dives over 200 mph to strike prey out of the sky. Larger prey may be knocked out of the air and fed upon on the ground where it fell. They also pursue prey in a level flight, after spotting it from a perch or flying very low over ground, surprising prey. An adult peregrine eats about 2 1/2 ounces of food per day–about the size of two orioles. The most common prey for peregrine falcons is other birds. The most common prey item might be the pigeon. Peregrines also eat small reptiles and mammals. Females lay a clutch of 3 to 5 eggs in the spring. Young falcons double their weight in about six days and at three weeks will be 10 times their birth size. Hatchlings are covered with fluffy white down, replaced by feathers in 21 to 35 days. Peregrines fly 35 to 45 days after hatching, when they have reached adult size. Females can be as much as one-third larger than males.

“When do we see the first monarch butterflies in Minnesota?” They typically make an appearance in May.

“When do fireflies hit their peak in Minnesota?” During most years, it’s around the 4th of July. These lightning bugs, actually beetles, light up our lives.

“Do bats carry their babies?” The mothers can carry the pups when they fly, but the babies soon grow too large and heavy to be carried. Then the pups are left in the roost while the mothers go out to find food.

“What is the origin of the phrase ‘in the catbird’s seat’?” The gray catbird is called a catbird because one of its most common calls sounds like the mew of a cat. Catbird seat means to be in an advantageous or prominent position, a place of ease, to be sitting pretty. Its first appearance in print was in a short story of that title by James Thurber, published in “The New Yorker” in 1942. Thurber’s character said that the expression had been popularized by the famous radio baseball announcer Red Barber. A batter with three balls and no strikes on him might be said to be in the catbird seat. Catbird males often put their vocal abilities on display from a prominent perch, striving to indicate an effortless superiority.

“Why are birds on the road?” There are a number of reasons. Food. From insects and seeds to rodents scurrying across a road that owls hunt. Grit. Warmth. Roads are often drier than the grassy areas nearby after a rain or heavy dew. I see pheasants on roads after a rain because of that.

Roger Batt of Algona asked if cardinals eat insects. Cardinals eat mainly seeds and fruit, but supplement that diet with insects. They feed their nestlings mostly insects.

Thanks for stopping by

“If you want to see birds, you must have birds in your heart.” — John Burroughs

“To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do good.