Al Batt: Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, but it sure reddened one little stinker

Published 9:00 am Saturday, September 28, 2019

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 got a ticket.

“Speeding?” I wonder aloud.

“No, parallel parking. Apparently, you’re allowed only five attempts. I ate at a table at one of those open-air cafes and it rained the whole time. It took me three hours to finish my bowl of soup. I lost weight, but I gained it back during my weight loss-celebration. If you are what you eat, that’s why eat all the rich foods I can. I watched a tractor parade. Allis-Chalmers, Case, Farmall, Minneapolis Moline, Oliver, John Deere and a Canardly.”

“A Canardly?” I say.

“Yeah, you canardly tell it was a tractor.”


I wandered outside to see if the yard was still where I’d left it. Unruly plants are becoming less so. I’d heard the calls of both an eastern screech owl and a great horned owl during the night. The vocalizations likely served territorial functions. I hoped the screech owl was vigilant as great horned owls do prey upon other owls.

The visually appealing blue jays don’t have much love for owls and the jay language can be abusive. As I walked, I heard the jays making sounds I wasn’t accustomed to hearing. It was caused by a mysterious presence. Then a bald eagle flew from a tree. The blue jays were mobbing the big bird with voices only, no actions. Great horned owls eat skunks. There was a skunk dead on the road near my home. A turkey vulture had its eye on the delicacy.

Mushrooms were much in evidence. Seeing a fairy ring tickled me. A fairy ring is a ring of mushrooms. Fairy rings have fostered much folklore. One is that a ring is caused by fairies dancing.

There were barn swallows perched on a wire in the yard a couple of weeks ago. They were huddled close together as if tethered by an invisible thread. Young fledglings trying to replicate their previous positions in the nest. I worry about the swallows. The number of birds in the United States and Canada has declined by 29 percent over the past half-century according to a study published in Science. This alarming news signals a massive reduction in abundance and an impending ecological crisis. Of the birds lost, 90 percent belong to 12 bird families, including sparrows, warblers, finches and swallows — common, widespread species that play influential roles in food webs and ecosystem functioning, from seed dispersal to pest control.

Walking White Woods

I’d been leading walks all day at a lovely county park named White Woods. On my last nature hike of the day, one woman indicated she was tired. There was a bench nearby. I suggested we sit and bird from there.

“Ten minutes should help,” I offered.

She smiled and said, “I doubt it will. It took me 80 years to get this tired.”

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, but it reddened one little stinker

When I was knee-high to a tall grasshopper, a skunk had aroused my curiosity. It crawled under a truck and I crawled under the same truck to see what the skunk was up to. The skunk sprayed me because there was no reasoning with it. My curiosity had been sated. My mother gave me a bath in tomato juice. It reddened my exterior. My father claimed I smelled like a skunk that had been swimming in Tomato Juice Lake.


“Do geese fly at night?” Yes, most waterfowl migrations occur at night. Migratory movements typically intensify shortly after sunset and peak in the middle of the night. Waterfowl also make shorter, local movements at night.

“What animal lives the longest? The ocean quahog has lived as long as 507 years, Greenland shark 392 years, bowhead whale 211, rougheye rockfish 205, Red Sea urchin 200 and Galapagos tortoise 177 years. An immortal jellyfish likely outlives them all by the ability to clone itself.

“Why did my oak tree drop green leaves in the heat of summer?” Trees often set more leaves in the spring than they can support during the summer. Heat or drought stress will cause the tree to lose leaves it cannot support with the available soil moisture.

Things to look
and listen for

1. Owls giving a hoot.

2. Ruby-throated hummingbirds fattening up for migration. They fly from Louisiana, Florida or Texas on a nonstop flight across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatán Peninsula. That’s over 500 miles without a single rest area. Some might take an overland route through Mexico. The females are larger than the males.

3. Large, twisting flocks of blackbirds of mixed species. It’s the joining of various factions.

Thanks for stopping by

“The Supreme Ethical Rule: Act so as to elicit the best in others and thereby in thyself.” — Felix Adler

“I am two with nature.” — Woody Allen

Do good.