Al Batt: Primary consideration when choosing binoculars is ease of use

Published 9:00 am Saturday, January 12, 2019

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

The guy from just down the road

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

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“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. I had my shoes on the wrong feet until lunch, I flossed with a gummy bear this morning and I ran out of plastic silverware. Don’t ever try eating chili through a straw. I’m waiting for the flying monkeys. I knew bad weather was on the way. The cows were on the porch. They always beg to get into the house when the weather is getting colder. I returned a pile of my Christmas gifts to Dollar Tree. I’m ahead by nearly $7 on that deal. I stopped to see my nephew Carl’s new baby, a son named Carl, Jr. The kid has that new Carl smell.”


The cold had been overly ambitious, but my “Arizona is for wimps” T-shirt warmed me. I hit the trail, hoping curiosity might drag some information with it. I took a lovely walk filled with wonder and discovery. It was a quiet day. The outdoors must have been listening. Demonstrating the art of patience, I hoped to stumble upon things.

I looked at a dandelion plant. Dandelions develop taproots that can extend 15 feet deep in ideal conditions. I watched squirrels and woodpeckers on a dead tree. A dead tree lives. I’m a member of the dead tree appreciation society. Dead trees provide vital habitat for many species of wildlife.

A chickadee was busy at a feeder. It was on a diet in which it eats only one thing. More. I watched it fly into the shelter of a small tree and fluff up for warmth. On cold days, being fluffy is a good thing to be.

I spoke at the Albert Lea Seed House and told the wonderful crowd gathered there why the chickadee was my favorite bird. As I listened to the stories of others, my wife shopped for Christmas gifts. I bloviated. She bought.

While doing Christmas Bird Counts, I’ve noticed an abundance of squirrels this winter. Rabbits were, as always, in good numbers. This year, I called every eastern cottontail Hopalong. CBCs are a way of playing hide-and-seek with birds. John Hockema of Rochester showed up with old Swift Audubon binoculars. It was good to see John. He and his aged optics brought great memories. I did stumble onto good birds.

John Leininger of Albert Lea informed me of some bad behavior demonstrated by wild turkeys in his neighborhood. The birds have been acting aggressively towards humans. It’s a good idea not to turn your back to this kind of a bully.

Snow fell. It was lovely, as if I were in a snow globe. I don’t appreciate each individual snowflake as much as I should.

Birds wallpapered my stroll. There was a dazzling array of winter birds. The sounds they and the squirrels made were calls of the wild. I watched downy woodpeckers forage. Males and females divide feeding territories in winter. Males tend to feed on small branches and weed stems, while females feed on larger branches and trunks. Males discourage females from foraging in better spots. Downies eat foods that larger woodpeckers cannot reach.


“Did you really kick a skunk when you were barefooted?” Yes, but I’m not stupid. I thought it was a rock.

“What is the most important thing to look for in binoculars?” They should be easy to use. There are two primary kinds of binoculars — porro prism and roof prism. A porro looks like an M and a roof prism resembles a capital H.

”Where is the best location for a feeder?” Where you can watch the birds visiting it. Try to find a place sheltered from wind and away from predators.

“Can birds fly upside down?” Hummingbirds can for short periods. Other species do during conflicts and while courting.

“What bird is most likely to be hit by an aircraft in North America?” According to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, the species most often involved in birdstrikes is the horned lark.

“What could I do to get a young child to watch birds?” An easy way is to attach a feeder to a window where the child could watch it.

“What preys upon Japanese beetle grubs in the lawn?” Starlings, grackles, crows, meadowlarks, catbirds, gulls, pheasants, chickens, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, skunks, raccoons and moles are predators.

Thanks for stopping by

“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” — John Muir

“I don’t want to be a great leader; I want to be a man who goes around with a little oilcan and when he sees a breakdown, offers his help. To me, the man who does that is greater than any holy man in saffron-colored robes. The mechanic with the oilcan: that is my ideal in life.”  Baba Amte

Do good.