Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota Annual EXPO takes place on April 6, 2019

 Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota Annual EXPO takes place on April 6, 2019 

  Looking for a wonderful spring activity? Here is an opportunity that will bring joy and satisfaction for everyone. The Bluebird Recovery Program of MN (BBRP) invites you to attend our 40th annual EXPO. Learn to be successful in attracting bluebirds to your yard and trail. The date is Saturday April 6 at the Cannon Falls High School, 820 East Minnesota Street Hwy 19, Cannon Falls MN.

  The program features speakers presenting: How to increase bluebird fledging. Lyme disease. Bluebird monitoring made simple. In addition, all-time favorites, Jim Gilbert, “WCCO Nature Notes,” and Al Batt, Southern Minnesota naturalist/writer/humorist/storyteller, return.

  Learn how to help the environment and improve your bluebird trail. Get detailed information on registration at www.bbrp.org.

The yard’s weather squirrel. When it sits in snow, I can tell it has snowed.

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An ice/snow halo on a tree trunk shows the high-water mark.

An ice/snow halo on a tree trunk shows the high-water mark.

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A blooming blue jay feather.

A blooming blue jay feather.

A red-winged blackbird singing in the rain.

A red-winged blackbird singing in the rain.

Al Batt: Dodo association with idiocy may be misnomer for unafraid bird

by Al Batt, m.albertleatribune.com
March 16, 2019 09:00 AM

 

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

The guy from just downthe road

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?“ I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. I was finally able to make it to the gym to cancel my membership. I know February was our shortest month, but we must have gotten two of them this year. February is supposed to be a dry month, not one in which kids get snow days. Uffda! Then a judge grants a restraining order against winter. That just ticked off Old Man Winter. This isn’t winter, it’s a glacier. I have to peek around giant piles of snow before cautiously entering an intersection. I did the Polar Bear Plunge with real polar bears. I’ll celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with green snow. There is snow time like the present. I got my snowplow, snowblower, snowmobile and snow shovel all stuck in the snow on the same day. Bad weather unites us. We have shared experiences. We fight the same battles. And I read more. That’s a good thing. I was a smart kid, but I grew out of it. I checked out the book, ‘Cowboy Cowards of the Old West’ and all the pages fell out. I took it back to the library and the friendly librarian told me it was because it had no spine.”

Naturally

They could have just said, “Look out!” but the newspaper headlines blared that locals were bracing for another winter storm. Bracing meaning, I should have been preparing physically and/or mentally for something unpleasant. If I’m not ready by now, I’ll never be ready. There was more than enough snow to go around. Winter isn’t an easy companion. The citizens of the yard stay busy because they need to eat. Goldfinches generally become more common customers at the bird feeders during the second half of winter, as if inspired by a coach’s halftime talk. Juncos were trilling as if it were the next season. Horned larks, Lapland longspurs and snow buntings fed on roadsides. The darling of the yard and my minimum daily bird requirement, a chickadee, sang of spring.

I stumbled outside into a day that was exactly my size.

Q&A

“Do robins eat sunflower seeds?” In the winter, some robins will eat sunflower hearts (hulled sunflower seeds) or chips (broken or semi-crushed seeds).

“My brother used to call me a dodo when he thought I’d done something stupid. Why was that extinct bird considered stupid?” The dodo was discovered by Portuguese sailors in the 1500s on Mauritius, a small island in the Indian Ocean where the flightless bird had no natural predators and no fear of humans. The sailors incorrectly thought the lack of fear was a lack of intelligence, so they named the bird the dodo from the Portuguese doudou, which means simpleton. The dodo population dwindled as they were hunted for sport and food. Their eggs were eaten by the settlers’ pigs. In approximately 80 years, the dodo was extinct.

“Why do owls cough up pellets?” Owls swallow small prey whole. The gizzard is a thick-walled organ that uses digestive fluids and grit to grind and dissolve all of the usable tissue from the prey. The types of tissue that can be dissolved by an owl’s digestive system include muscle, fat, skin and internal organs. Bones, teeth, feathers, fur and insect shells collect in the gizzard. The bird regurgitates the indigestible material as a pellet.

“Where do birds go when there are strong winds?” Wherever the wind takes them. Different birds use different methods to wait out a storm. They seek shelter. Birds that normally roost in cavities — such as chickadees, small owls and woodpeckers — hide out in natural cavities or roost boxes. Many birds seek shelter on the lee sides of trees, along tree trunks or inside thick hedges or tangles. Some find their way into buildings. They hunker down. Birds are made to survive what nature throws at them.

Thanks for

stopping by

“I who am blind can give one hint to those who see — one admonition to those who would make full use of the gift of sight: Use your eyes as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind. And the same method can be applied to other senses. Hear the music of voices, the song of a bird, the mighty strains of an orchestra, as if you would be stricken deaf tomorrow. Touch each object you want to touch as if tomorrow your tactile sense would fail. Smell the perfume of flowers, taste with relish each morsel, as if tomorrow you could never smell and taste again. Make the most of every sense; glory in all the facets of pleasure and beauty which the world reveals to you through the several means of contact which nature provides.” — Helen Keller

“Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius.” — E. O. Wilson

Do good.

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The American robin has an appetite for sunflower hearts and chips. Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

A Carolina wren in Missouri.

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The ring-billed gull never considers itself a pest.

The ring-billed gull never considers itself a pest.

When the red-winged blackbird returns, it sings of spring.

When the red-winged blackbird returns, it sings of spring.

Red-winged blackbirds like a soggy stage.

Red-winged blackbirds like a soggy stage.

A group of peafowl is called a bevy.

A group of peafowl is called a bevy.

I raised guinea fowl for years. Their loud “Quebec” calls were supposed to discourage rats and they were purported to eat ticks. I cannot attest to their efficacy in lessening the numbers of either rats or ticks.

I raised guinea fowl for years. Their loud “Quebec” calls were supposed to discourage rats and they were purported to eat ticks. I cannot attest to their efficacy in lessening the numbers of either rats or ticks.

This cardinal seems displeased with Old Man Winter.

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No matter what the weather, the house sparrow chirps cheerfully.

No matter what the weather, the house sparrow chirps cheerfully.

In today’s views: this monarch of the milkweeds found himself on the rocks.

In today’s views: this monarch of the milkweeds found himself on the rocks.

This robin has learned that sometimes a nap helps.

This robin has learned that sometimes a nap helps.

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Is that spring just around that corner?

The hairy woodpecker tends to spend more time on tree trunks than the downy, which branches out.

The hairy woodpecker tends to spend more time on tree trunks than the downy, which branches out.

In today’s views: Butterfly dreaming on such a winter’s day. A painted lady is a flying flower.

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We’re getting rain and snow and everything in between today, but no flowers.

We’re getting rain and snow and everything in between today, but no flowers.

Al Batt: Winter weather great for conversation, but less so for pheasants

by Al Batt, m.albertleatribune.com
March 9, 2019 09:00 AM

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

The guy from just down the road

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. Winter has caused me to have a glove in every pocket and to walk as if I have an egg in each shoe. My memories are clogged with a lifetime of nasty winters. All the snow shoveling I’ve done is paying off. I’ve lost several ounces. I sprained a toe kicking a hitchhiker. The hitchhiker wasn’t a person. It was that hard slush buildup in the wheel well of my truck. I’ve tried winter on for size. It’s too big for me. The most common thing I heard in February was, ‘It’s still snowing!’ I have to get up earlier than I want to just to get snow put in its proper place. I trick myself. I set my alarm clock in my bedroom to a movie trailer loudness. I set the clock in the bathroom five minutes earlier than the clock in the bedroom. The clock in the living room is five minutes earlier then the clock in the bathroom. The clock in the kitchen is set for five minutes earlier than the one in the living room. And my wrist watch is five minutes earlier than that. So, by the time I get outside, I’m 20 minutes ahead of schedule.”

Naturally

The blue jays were talkative. Mark Twain wrote, “You never saw a bluejay get stuck for a word. He is a vocabularized geyser.”

A snowplow grumbled by. It sounded tired. I was happy to see it. February was cold, but its warm sunlight melted snow. It had given itself plenty of snow to melt. “Light tomorrow with today!” said Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Freed from home by the snowplow’s good work, I drove around entertaining my camera. Most of the miles were on rural roads, some gravel and some hard surface. The snow gave a soft wind visibility. I saw more bald eagles than cows. How times have changed. You could say I drove the wrong roads, but it’s what I saw.

Brandon Brackey of Albert Lea and I talked about the weather. It’s hard not talking about the weather. Brandon is an avid pheasant hunter and is concerned about the survival of the birds over our harshest season. The loss of food due to a persistent cover of snow and/or ice is a killer. Waste grain, an important food source, becomes unavailable under a deep accumulation of snow. I read once that 300 kernels of corn per day would maintain a pheasant’s weight. Captive pheasants have been able to survive several weeks without food, but they don’t expend energy avoiding predators and staying warm. A healthy wild pheasant could go at least three days without food. The annual survival rate of ring-necked pheasants is around 50 percent. Hens are more likely to succumb to starvation than are roosters, as the females enter winter in poor condition due to the high energy demands of nesting and rearing chicks. Strong winds can sometimes be beneficial to pheasants as they might free feeding areas of snow. Another problem for pheasants is the lack of suitable winter cover.

Q&A

“Are common buckthorn berries harmful to birds?” I couldn’t find any research indicating that they are toxic to birds. I’ve read that they are in many articles, but unearthed nothing in studies to back that up. Buckthorn is invasive and outcompetes native plant species. It defines hardiness.

Jerry Viktora of Ellendale asked about the fall behavior of turkeys. Birds of a feather flock together. Hens flock with other hens, including female offspring that might no longer roost in the same trees as their

Batt

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mothers. Hens that were unsuccessful in nesting might form smaller flocks with other lone hens. Toms form their own flocks, often segregated by age. Young males, called jakes, band together. Flocks rarely interact with others. The mature toms that flock together in the winter, separate when the breeding season commences in the spring.

“What is the heaviest owl I might see in Minnesota?” The snowy owl is North America’s heaviest owl on average.

“Which is larger, a bald eagle or a golden eagle?” There are variances in the sizes of individual birds in both species, but generally, they are the same size.

“Is there enough water in Lake Superior to cover the United States?” According to the World Atlas, Lake Superior holds enough water to cover all the land of North and South America in a foot of water. Lake Superior has 10 percent of the world’s surface fresh water.

Thanks for

stopping by

“The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world; I am like a snowball — the further I am rolled the more I gain.“ — Susan B. Anthony

“A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible.” — Welsh Proverb

Do good.

This rooster (it’s both a bird and a crested Polish chicken) fell asleep while on sentry duty. Photo by Al Batt

This rooster (it’s both a bird and a crested Polish chicken) fell asleep while on sentry duty. Photo by Al Batt

Have you ever lost a contact lens in the snow?

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Curiosity paid off when this blue jay spotted two identical snowflakes.

Curiosity paid off when this blue jay spotted two identical snowflakes.

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Hopping down the bunny trail, running down the rabbit trail and capering down the cottontail trail.

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House sparrows playing a disorganized game of Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.

Pine siskin city.

Pine siskin city.

A red wow! bird.

A red wow! bird.


This pensive female cardinal may be California dreaming on such a Minnesota winter’s day.

This pensive female cardinal may be California dreaming on such a Minnesota winter’s day.

And in today’s views: a jaunty junco.

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 “You never saw a bluejay get stuck for a word. He is a vocabularized geyser. “ — Mark Twain

 “You never saw a bluejay get stuck for a word. He is a vocabularized geyser. “ — Mark Twain

Al Batt: Buried treasure: Squirrels have system to find hidden food caches 

The guy from just down the road

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. They should declare this winter a national emergency. I’m ready to build a wall to keep it out. The weather outside is frightful, but I’m so delightful. That’s what keeps me going. Things could be worse. What’s the worst that could happen? More of the same weather? Do my ears match? I think my barber flunked ears in barber school. Either that or he went to guillotine school instead. My car didn’t want to play nice any longer. It grew so winter weary, I had to have my bumper towed. They tried to tow my car, but only the bumper went with the truck.”

Naturally

The weather makes us wonder. There are winter days when it seems as if everything I might be even remotely interested in has been canceled due to the weather. That’s when nature and its great family of things come to the rescue. I watched rabbits dancing by the light of the moon.

Red osier dogwood and willows are showing more color as if they had acquired tans.

February is National Bird Feeding Month. Schools closed a number of days to honor that fact. Feeders attract many species of birds, each one an unexcelled beauty.

American tree sparrows eat under the feeders. Poorly named, they nest on or near the ground. Woodpeckers drum on resonant wood, making Pinocchio nervous.

Red squirrels moved through shallow tunnels in the deep snow in the yard. Traffic backed up. One squirrel was peeking out of a hole, checking for those on its enemies list, when another squirrel goosed it from behind. The lead squirrel shot from the hole as if it were a miniature rocket launching from Cape Canaveral.

Q&A

“What do you know about racing pigeons?” I know I can’t beat them.

Pigeon racing is the sport of releasing trained pigeons, which return to their homes over a carefully measured distance. The time it takes a bird to cover that distance is calculated and compared with other race contestants to determine the winner.

“Why are some opossums so much darker than others?” The pelage color of an opossum is influenced by genetics.

“You wrote about seeing hummingbirds in Alaska. How do they survive winter?” They have no down feathers and have a high metabolism, but Anna’s hummingbirds are tough. They depend upon flowering plants and shrubs for as long as possible, and frequent hummingbird feeders. They are able to slow their metabolism by entering a state of torpor.

“How do squirrels find food under the snow?” Smell and memory. Studies suggest that squirrels bury food in a series of locations that help form a cognitive map of storage locations. A study done at the University of Richmond found squirrels recover about 26 percent of the nuts they bury. Squirrels are likely to bury red oak acorns because they are less likely to decay in the ground. Squirrels generally consume acorns of white oaks immediately because they germinate in the fall and as they germinate, grow a thick taproot that squirrels don’t like.

“How far does a coyote travel?” Solitary coyotes travel over large areas, up to 60 square miles. Young coyotes that disperse often travel 50 to 100 miles (with up to 400 miles documented) in search of a vacant territory or a mate. Adults could move 10 miles a night throughout their territory.

Customer comments

Kent Spellman wrote, “I wanted you to know that the cover article in this month’s Minnesota History Magazine is about Alden farmer, Albert Lea Audubon Society member and conservation crusader Bill Bryson. The Albert Lea Library has a copy of the magazine.

Monarch malaise

The western monarch butterfly population in California declined 86 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, according to the Xerces Society, a nonprofit group that conducts an annual survey of the species in the Western United States. It has dropped 97 percent since the 1980s. These butterflies winter in eucalyptus trees on the California coast. Scientists believe the population decline is caused by habitat loss,

pesticides and other environmental conditions. A University of Florida study found the number of caterpillars and butterflies in North Florida has been declining since 1985 and has dropped by 80 percent since 2005. University of Michigan and Stanford University researchers found carbon dioxide from car and factory exhaust reduced a natural toxin in milkweed that feeding caterpillars use to discourage parasites.

Thanks forstopping by

“Think good thoughts. Speak good words. Take good actions. Three steps that will bring more to you than you can ever imagine.” — Rhonda Byrne

“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music — the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.” — Henry Miller

Do good.

A feathered, fish fillet knife. Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

A feathered, fish fillet knife. Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

Leaf me alone.

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A crow of winter.

I was happy to find a tent for my tent in Montana.

I was happy to find a tent for my tent in Montana.

A friend is in Hawaii, enjoying endless beaches. I’m in Minnesota, enjoying endless snowbanks. We are both living the dream, but I do dream of less snow.

A friend is in Hawaii, enjoying endless beaches. I’m in Minnesota, enjoying endless snowbanks. We are both living the dream, but I do dream of less snow.

Their choice of a getaway car was to prove the downfall of the novice bank robbers.

Their choice of a getaway car was to prove the downfall of the novice bank robbers.

A window showing nature’s artwork. Available at a freezing artist sale.

A window showing nature’s artwork. Available at a freezing artist sale.

Al Batt: For northernmost Anna’s hummingbird observation, head to Alaska

Al Batt: For northernmost Anna’s hummingbird observation, head to Alaska

by Al Batt, m.albertleatribune.com
February 16, 2019 09:00 AMBewitching and bombastic — it’s the blue jay way. - Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

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

The guy from just down the road

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. I found a sale on paper plates. I buy a lot of paper plates. I hate doing dishes. I’m on one of those diets where I stop eating when my knees begin to buckle. I’m not sure whether I’ve reached the old age of youth or the youth of old age. I know I’m at the peak of my lardhood, but I’m doing well for someone with so many old parts. I went to the gift shop at the medical clinic. It was full of Teddy Bears. I found them a little stuffy. My sister Cruella said I needed glasses. I guess she was right. If I’d have been wearing glasses, I’d have gone to the eye clinic instead of the gift shop. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but so will falling on the ice. My neighbor Weasel fell into the lake while he was ice fishing. He claimed someone had pulled the ice out from under him. I wanted to play a sad violin for him. I have a musical background. Grandpa used to spank me with his fiddle.”

Naturally

I tromped around the yard, happy to be a speck in the universe. Our yard is my local park. It’s important. Every place has an ecological significance. The landscape had fallen into a white silence. I walked through the snow, following in my own footsteps.

Blue jays and chickadees were vocal. I appreciate chickadees. I do more than appreciate. I’m their cheerleader. I wonder if there is a sports team nicknamed the Chickadees? If not, there should be.

I investigate familiar tracks. I hear them called trash pandas, but I call them noisy raccoons when they wake me at night. I’ve been seeing a pair of cardinals at my feeders all winter. I enjoy their company. This day, I saw only the male. I vowed to look harder for the female. I hoped she still survived. Cardinal pairs might stay together throughout winter, but the Cornell Lab of Ornithology found as many as 20 percent split up by nesting season. I hope the local pair of redbirds had an amicable divorce.

I was in Alaska before Thanksgiving and was entertained by the antics of Anna’s hummingbirds in Haines. They were still being seen in that fine city in January. This hummingbird either doesn’t migrate or migrates short distances to more desirable feeding areas. They are found wintering in the Pacific Northwest. The northernmost observation of Anna’s hummingbirds in December, January and February are those seen in Haines. Christopher Columbus wondered if Anna’s hummingbirds were a cross between bird and insect. They were sometimes called flybirds.

I saw a belted kingfisher not far from my home. It’s a species that goes as far south as required to find needed resources.

I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to evolve in concert with nature.

Q&A

“Is wild asparagus a real thing?” In the 1960s, Euell Gibbons wrote a book about eating wild edibles titled, “Stalking the Wild Asparagus.” I enjoy asparagus. One of my father’s favorite dishes was creamed asparagus on toast. Our asparagus patch was treated with respect. It seemed as if everyone grew asparagus. The wild plant we commonly see along roadsides is the same species as tame asparagus — Asparagus officinalis. Wild asparagus produces without human assistance or manipulation. Asparagus plants are insect pollinated and its seeds are spread by birds, allowing domesticated crops to escape into the wild.

“What is Smokey the Bear’s middle name?” The.

“What causes deer to drop their antlers?” Diminishing daylight and falling hormones following the breeding season initiate the antler-weakening process. Testosterone controls the antler cycle, but production of testosterone and the annual antler cycle is ultimately controlled by photoperiod. Large-antlered older bucks typically shed their antlers earlier than young, small-antlered bucks. Weakened bucks may shed earlier than those in better physical condition. Genetics has some effect on the time of shedding.

“How are cormorants able to feed in muddy waters?” The birds rely on vision to hunt in clear water, but their sensory abilities are limited in turbid water. I suspect they change from visual to tactile cues to maintain their foraging efficiency.

Thanks for stopping by

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” — Mary Oliver

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.” — Helen Keller

Do good.

Bewitching and bombastic — it’s the blue jay way. - Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune
Bewitching and bombastic — it’s the blue jay way. - Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

Inversion therapy.

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An American goldfinch popped up in front of my camera.

An American goldfinch popped up in front of my camera.

Mosquito Lake.

Mosquito Lake.

And in today’s views: a bad photo of a skilled fisher.

And in today’s views: a bad photo of a skilled fisher.

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Winter isn’t for everybirdy.

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A red-bellied woodpecker finds a way to turn its world upside down.

A red-bellied woodpecker finds a way to turn its world upside down.

Crows are happy they aren’t waterfowl.

Crows are happy they aren’t waterfowl.

And in today’s views: trumpeter swans.

And in today’s views: trumpeter swans.

Birds are stunningly amazing and amazingly stunning.

Birds are stunningly amazing and amazingly stunning.

A blue jay misses the cut.

A blue jay misses the cut.

The Minnesota Chapter of the Appreciation of Trumpeter Swans meets.

The Minnesota Chapter of the Appreciation of Trumpeter Swans meets.

Al Batt: Good news for butterfly lovers: Monarch population on the rise

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

The guy from just down the road

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. I know only a couple of things and I’m pretty sure one of them is wrong. I know what I know because I read a lot of T-shirts. I just wrote a message for a T-shirt. ‘Remember, there is a “me” in menu.’ That should make me rich. I weighed 10 pounds when I was born. Now look at me. Talk about the effects of inflation. I know I should get more exercise, but there is no nation like vegetation. This is the time of the year when I’ve been known to flip a slipper at a TV weatherman. I try to think about baseball to take my mind off winter. I’ve been following that game since I was old enough to throw a rock. My neighbor Scooter is headed to Florida soon to watch some spring training games of the Twins. Scooter finds it difficult to be positive when the temperature is negative. In the winter, he’ll drive only one direction — south.”

Naturally

The thingamajig with the doohickey connected to the whatchamacallit brought good news. The eastern North American monarch population estimate for the winter of 2018-19 has a population size of about 15 acres, according to World Wildlife Federation Mexico and the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas. This is the largest population since 2007 and an increase of 144 percent over last year. The Monarch Joint Venture reminds us that everyone can make a difference for monarchs by creating habitat, educating others and monitoring monarchs.

The weather report had been threatening. A volcano of winter had erupted. It was cold enough that my imaginary fire log went out. You don’t need to touch the flames to feel the warmth.

I leaned into the wind. The wind leaned back. A canvas of fresh snow showed the marks made by small travelers making their way to here and there. I’m glad they shared their tracks with mine. I look and wonder. No walk is just a walk.

There were rainbow-colored sundogs in the sky. They were caused by the diffraction by ice crystals.

I’d checked with Hartland Harry, our local groundhog. He woke up a bit cranky. He told me he had no idea when winter would end and if he did, he wouldn’t tell me. He differs from Punxsutawney Phil. If Phil sees his shadow, Phil says we’ll have six more weeks of winter. Harry is from Minnesota. He’d say we’ll have only six more weeks of winter.

“March of the Penguins” was a great documentary film. The “March of the Pine Siskins” would be, too. Many of the tiny birds had found the feeders in my yard. They joined other birds in a feeding frenzy that heralded nasty weather. The bills of some starlings had begun to turn yellow. Even at nearly -30, that’s a sign of a nearing spring.

I headed down the highway, looking at the road and glancing at raptors. Red-tailed hawks patrolled highway margins. When snow covers much of raptors’ hunting grounds, highways allow a prime place to pursue prey like voles.

I drove in the vicinity of  Albert Lea High School. There was a wild turkey standing nonchalantly in the middle of the road as cars went by on both sides of the big bird. It was obviously a turkey with street smarts.

Birds are important. I watch a good number of high school athletic events involving teams from the Big South Conference. There are 13 teams in that league. Six of them are nicknamed after birds. New Ulm and Windom are the Eagles; Fairmont, Luverne and Redwood Valley are the Cardinals; and Waseca is the Bluejays.

Q&A

“Are there any athletic teams nicknamed for plants?” There are. This list is by no means inclusive and some are named for parts of plants, but here you go. The one I am most familiar with is the Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms. Others include: Ohio State Buckeyes, Toronto Maple Leafs, Moorhead Spuds, Indiana State Sycamores, The Roses (an English rugby team), Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes, Delta State (Mississippi) Fighting Okra and the Cedar Rapids Kernels (a minor league baseball team). There used to be another minor league baseball squad in California named the Visalia Oaks, but they changed their nickname to Rawhide. I’m sure there are more plant-based nicknames.

“Why do blue jays carry so many seeds in their mouths?” It’s because they don’t have pockets.

Thanks for stopping by

“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting, over and over announcing your place in the family of things.” — Mary Oliver

“I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” — Wendell Berry

Do good.

Sports are for the birds. Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

Sports are for the birds. Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

A hairy woodpecker is a magician that makes the sunflower seeds fly.

A hairy woodpecker is a magician that makes the sunflower seeds fly.

A hairy woodpecker has woodpecker feet that are zygodactyls: two toes forward, two behind. This makes buying shoes a pain and is why you seldom see a woodpecker in a shoe store.

A hairy woodpecker has woodpecker feet that are zygodactyls: two toes forward, two behind. This makes buying shoes a pain and is why you seldom see a woodpecker in a shoe store.