Al Batt: Fall migrations offer more birds, but spring migration brings color
Published 9:00 am Saturday, May 11, 2019
Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. Email him at SnoEowl@aol.com.
My neighbor Crandall stops by.
“How are you doing?” I ask.
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“Everything is nearly copacetic. I should be checking the roof of my house for winter damage, but I don’t like heights. I suffer a bout of anxiety when I stand on my tiptoes. So, I think I’ll set up a lawn chair and make a day of it.”
“Make a day of what?” I say.
“Sitting in a lawn chair, of course.”
I watched a red-tailed hawk kiting into the wind. It had nothing to do with a check-kiting scheme. The wind allowed the raptor to hover while hunting. This hawk preys primarily on mammals.
The yard birds come and go. They are not to be confused with the Yardbirds, a rock band, whose hits included “For Your Love” and “Heart Full of Soul.” Back to my yard birds. Bird migrations carry magic and wonder in their feathers. Spring migrations are more colorful as birds wear breeding plumages. Fall migration has more birds with the young birds included. The new birds are more likely to take a wrong turn and end up where they aren’t supposed to be, much to the delight of a birder.
The world is in technicolor and most birds are breath-stopping beauties, but the loveliness of some of the warblers makes for feathered jewels. I recall being a boy toiling the farm fields on a tractor without a cab one spring day. The weather had been good and bad. A little rain, some wind and then sun. I brought the tractor to a stop at the edge of the woods. I grabbed my poor man’s lunch pail (a bread wrapper) and climbed onto a low hanging branch of a lofty tree to enjoy a couple of bologna and Velveeta sandwiches and a like number of sugar cookies. As I munched away, I heard the chips of birds. I looked up to see branches covered in American redstarts drooping wings and fanning tails in order to flush insect prey from vegetation. The males flashed orange and black, while the females, nicknamed yellowstarts by some birders, showed yellow and gray. The large number of dancing warblers made me say “Wow” more than once. Their presence made for the best of dinner entertainment. I watched the warblers for exactly too long when I should have been working. As I resumed work, I wished the tractor offered a warbler floor show, too.
Spring may have sprung. My winter coat has been put away, the land smells of spring, the whole world seems to be chirping and a visit to an ice cream shop doesn’t sound like an insane idea.
Birds have to deal with the weather. Everything does. For the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and Midwest, the “Farmers’ Almanac” predicts heat and humidity will build in June and July will be stormy and warm. A stormy summer is on tap for the region overall. Severe weather may rumble through in late July.
Time is fleeting. It seems as if the juncos had just arrived and now, they have left. I’ll miss the lovely, little birds. Dark-eyed juncos do nest in northeastern and north central Minnesota.
Karen Wright of Mankato asked how to tell whether a bumblebee is a queen. Queens are larger than bumblebee workers. Nearly all bumblebees seen early in the spring will be queens.
“I’ve seen murmurations of starlings. How do birds in those flocks keep from colliding with other birds?” I am mesmerized by those pulsating clouds of birds swirling through the sky. Princeton University researchers have revealed a key behind this magic. It’s the number seven. Starlings coordinate movement with their seven nearest neighbors and they do so gracefully and safely.
“Why does a cow chew its cud?” Compared to cows, humans have a simple stomach, a pouch-like structure containing glands which secrete digestive enzymes. Forage-consuming species called ruminants, such as cattle, consume large amounts of fibrous material. The four compartments of a ruminant’s stomach are the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. The rumen, the largest of the four, is where the food is collected and fermented by microorganisms. In order to digest roughage efficiently, it must be in small pieces. Cattle re-chew their food several times to make it smaller. When cattle ruminate or chew their cud, they have regurgitated partly digested feed from the rumen. No matter how hard they try, cows are unable to blow bubbles with their cuds, but stubbornly refuse to give bubblegum a try.
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“I would rather be able to appreciate things I cannot have than to have things I am not able to appreciate.” — Elbert Hubbard
“A sense of humor is needed armor. Joy in one’s heart and some laughter on one’s lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.” — Hugh Sidey