Al Batt: Bird’s name possibly inspired by Biblical behavior around water

Published 9:00 am Saturday, December 15, 2018

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

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

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“Everything is nearly copacetic. I plugged in the Christmas lights on the tree I’d not taken down from last year. I’ll do some shopping, but you don’t get rich by shopping. I’d rather just go for a drive. I remember going along for Sunday drives when I was a boy and playing the name that smell game. I took Pop to get a cup of mud in the big city. There was a small branch of a coffee shop inside a larger coffee shop so I could get a cup while waiting in line. Pop fell recently. Tests have ruled out falling down from laughing. He was upset because some of his M&M’s turned out to be W’s. He’s been writing letters to his elected representatives. He wants the days of the week to run alphabetically. Friday, Monday, Saturday, Sunday, Thursday, Tuesday and Wednesday. He says it’s time for a change. My sister Cruella doesn’t care much for people and enjoys being unreachable, so she got a job in customer service. Oh, my neighbor Still Bill was headed up north to go ice fishing. He moves so slowly you have to drive stakes by him to see if he’s moving, except when he’s on his way to go ice fishing. He was speeding down the highway, feeling safe in a group of other speeding cars. He was pulled over by a highway patrolman who handed him a ticket. Still Bill asked, ’Officer, I know I was speeding, but it’s not fair. The cars around me were going just as fast. Why did I get the ticket?’ ‘You’re going fishing?” the police officer asked in return. Still Bill said he was, hoping the patrolman was a compassionate angler. The officer grinned and said, ‘Have you ever caught all the fish?’”


I walked by a talking oak. Its limbs moaned and groaned in the wind. I’d seen a tufted titmouse recently. It was some distance from my yard where I’ve seen but one titmouse. The bird was at my feeders for a single day. The weather changed for the worse. When the going gets tough, the tufted get going.

Snow buntings flew up from a roadside field. They flew along with my car as if we were racing for pink slips. I’m glad we weren’t. My slow moseying would have resulted in snow buntings driving my Subaru.

I like wearing a cap bearing the image of a bird. People ask what kind of bird it is and an interesting conversation typically ensues. The other day, the bird was a Caspian tern. It’s the largest tern in the world. The Caspian Sea is the Earth’s largest inland body of water. I wore that cap as I watched goldeneyes in Alaska. Ernest Hemingway wrote that the wings of this duck make the sound of ripping silk. It’s a wonderful time of year. An appreciation of nature means that presents aren’t just under a tree. They are over, on, in and around a tree.


“What’s a bumblebee duck?” The bufflehead, the smallest diving duck in North America with a fast, buzzy flight. The name bufflehead is a corruption of buffalo head, referring to the large head of the drake.

“Do honeybees hibernate?” The hive is buzzing all year. Honeybees don’t hibernate over the winter. They form a cluster, generating heat by beating their wings, just as we shiver when cold. They consume honey collected over the summer. On warm days they may leave the hive to eliminate waste and remove their dead.

“How tall is Big Bird?” The towering Sesame Street character is 8-foot-2-inches of yellow feathers.

“How many times does a chickadee flap its wings in flight?” A chickadee’s wing beats are about 27 times per second. A hummingbird’s is approximately 80 beats per second.

“What would cause a robin to stay here in the winter?” The availability of fruit and open water.

“How big a territory does a coyote have?” The Department of Natural Resources says coyotes are nomads. Males might roam territories as large as 36 square miles, while females generally remain within a 6 square mile area.

“I saw a bird on TV called a storm petrel. How did it get its name?” The bird got the name storm petrel because sailors believed the bird’s appearance indicated a storm and a theory is that it was named after St. Peter, who walked on water in the Gospel of Matthew. The petrel’s habit of flying low over water with legs extended gives the appearance of walking on water.

Thanks for stopping by

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” — Neil deGrasse Tyson

“All your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate. I choose love.” — Johnny Cash

Do good.

Merry Christmas.