Al Batt: Avoid honey in hummingbird feeders to keep bacteria, fungus away

Al Batt: Avoid honey in hummingbird feeders to keep bacteria, fungus away

by Al Batt, albertleatribune.com
December 8, 2018 09:00 AM

The Hawkeye goldfinchPhoto by: American goldfinch

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.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. I’m so busy, I had no time for a shower today. I had to spit into the air and walk under it.”

“Thanks for sharing that. I had fun at your father’s birthday party,” I say.

“I had to get a permit to light all the candles on Pop’s cake. I told Pop that and he called me an aperture in the hindquarters. Ma has a dog that’s a cross between a Chihuahua and a gerbil. It jumped on Ma’s piano to chase the cat. It tiptoed on the keys. That mutt’s Bach was worse than its bite. I planned on getting my Christmas shopping done early this year. I love going into stores. Where else would I go to the bathroom when I’m out? My old truck gets terrible mileage. One frigid day, I left it running while I filled it with gas. The pump couldn’t keep up with the amount of fuel being consumed. That puts a crimp in my Christmas spending. That means I’ll probably give everyone the same thing I give them every Christmas — an apology.”

Naturally

I walked the sidewalks of a small city. The stroll was an icy one, so I quoted a chickadee. Chickadees make a chickadee-dee-dee call and increase the number of dee notes when they are alarmed. Blue jays flew from yard to yard. They sampled the fare at various bird feeders as if they were running a trap line. The jays share one belief with all other jays: Jays are wonderful.

Q&A

“You cautioned against using honey in hummingbird feeders. Why?” You should use table sugar rather than honey to make hummingbird nectar because when honey is diluted with water, bacteria and fungus thrive in it. The normal mixture is ¼ cup of sugar per cup of water. In cold, rainy or foggy conditions, it’s OK to make the mixture 1/3 cup of sugar per cup of water. Concentrations of sugars in natural nectars vary within that range. If you mix small quantities of sugar water every day or two, there’s no need to boil the water. If you mix up a larger batch and refrigerate it for later use, it’s wise to make the mixture with boiling water.

“What do golden eagles eat?” A golden eagle preys primarily on mammals such as rabbits, hares and rodents. Up to 20 percent of its diet are birds and reptiles. It feeds mostly on food it catches, but will eat carrion.

“Why do some Canada geese migrate so late?” Some Canada geese don’t migrate at all. They are short distance migrants, so temperature and the resulting iced-covered water can influence their timing.

“Don’t deer eat ferns?” Deer eat most any plant if they are hungry enough. However, ferns and some ornamental grasses aren’t their preferred fare.

“What kind of bird is a snowflake?” Sometimes called “snowflakes,” snow buntings resemble snowflakes as they swirl through the air before settling on winter fields.

“What is a duck test?” The duck test is a form of abductive reasoning. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.

“Is there a national mammal?” In May 2016, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law, which made the American bison the national mammal of the United States. Once, 20 to 30 million bison roamed North America. Because of unregulated shooting and habitat loss, that population had dropped to only 1,091 by 1889.

“Are there any bird-friendly sports arenas?” A new arena named the Fiserv Forum, where the Milwaukee Bucks play, has been proclaimed the world’s first bird-friendly sports and entertainment venue. This is a victory for bird conservation because up to 1 billion birds in the United States die annually due to glass collisions. Scientists estimate that this total accounts for 5 to 10 percent of the bird population in this country. Addressing this destruction is vitally important, not only because of the inherent value of birds, but also because birds reduce pest populations, pollinate plants, disperse seeds and captivate millions of people with their breathtaking beauty and fascinating behavior. The Fiserv Forum has set a new precedent for bird-friendly building design.

Thanks for stopping by

“I think reading is a gift. It was a gift that was given to me as a child by many people, and now as an adult and a writer, I’m trying to give a little of it back to others. It’s one of the greatest pleasures I know.” — Ann M. Martin

“I go out into the woods; and every bird and flower I see stirs me to the heart with something, I do not know what it is; only I love: I love them with all my strength.”  — Ernest Seton Thompson

Do good.

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The Hawkeye goldfinch (American goldfinch) Photo by Al Batt


Haines, Alaska, as seen from outside of town.

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  “Why is a raven like a writing desk?" is a riddle proposed by the Mad Hatter during a tea party in Lewis Carroll's classic 1865 novel, ”Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.”    Just because, I think.

 “Why is a raven like a writing desk?" is a riddle proposed by the Mad Hatter during a tea party in Lewis Carroll's classic 1865 novel, ”Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.”

  Just because, I think.

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A weathervane in Juneau, Alaska.

Al Batt: Bearded lady turkeys exist in the wild, though less than common by Al Batt, albertleatribune.com December 1, 2018 09:00 AM Does this opossum have an eating disorder? Al Batt/Albert Lea Trib

 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.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. I hope everyone had a Thanksgiving almost as good as mine. I enjoyed the lefse at Thanksgiving. It’s bread, napkin, dessert and facial tissue all rolled into one.  But I get better mileage on coffee. I ordered something at Starbucks and told them my name was Bingo. I loved hearing the barista call that out. Some people groaned as if they had but one number left to make a winner of their bingo card. I ate some lutefisk. Some people look at lutefisk and ask, ’Why?’ I look at lutefisk and ask, ‘Why not?’ My nephew camped outside a store on Black Friday to be first in line to buy a tent. I hope he saved some money, because it’s too late to save his sanity. Pop says it’s going to be a nasty winter because the squirrel nests are high in the trees. I think he’s as nutty as the squirrels. I worked on Grandpa’s old cuckoo clock. The thing hadn’t worked since he died. I told Pop that my bill would be humongous. Repairs are expensive when the repairman doesn’t know what he’s doing. I fooled with it forever and it began to cuckoo. It sounded 27 times. That woke Pop. Pop thinks being retired means taking your shoes off when you get out of bed in the morning. He’d been napping in his easy chair. Even though it was 2:30 in the afternoon, Pop said, ‘I’d better get to bed. It’s later than it’s ever been.’”

Naturally

I was tap dancing on ice while eating an apple, pleased that late-season apples usually keep the longest. As my gnawing neared its conclusion, I noticed the seeds of the apple. Fall is the season of seeds. Jack Frost has put much of the world to sleep. Seasonal shifts aren’t automatic. Before the weather becomes too severe, I notice autumnal recrudescence. The light levels around the spring equinox are similar to those at the vernal equinox. Many animals, especially birds, have hormone levels that vary with the amount of light during the day. Fall can create enough confusion to prompt singing or rooster crowing. I wonder if the blooming dandelion I saw not long ago is an example of autumnal recrudescence?

A vole scurried across my path. Voles breed throughout the year, but most commonly do so in spring and summer. They have one to five litters per year with litter sizes ranging from one to 11, averaging three to six. The gestation period is about 21 days, and the young are weaned at 21 days. Females mature in 35 to 40 days. Lifespans are short, ranging from 2 to 16 months. In one study, there was an 88 percent mortality during the first month of life.

Q&A

“Do wild turkey hens ever have beards?” Yes, but it’s uncommon. Toms and jakes (young males) have nearly corralled that market. The beard is a cluster of long follicles in the center of the chest that can be up to 12 inches long. Hen droppings are spiral shaped, but gobblers typically leave an elongated J-shaped dropping. Native Americans used turkey spurs for arrow points and other sharp utensils.

Barb Thompson of New Richland asked if large muskrat houses foretell a harsh winter. Muskrat houses are dome-shaped mounds of piled marsh plants that cover holes in the ice. Muskrat mounds can be confused with beaver lodges, but aren’t made of woody material. Inside these shelters the rodents feed and rest. Folklore says muskrat houses are built big before a bad winter. I enjoy folklore, but I was unable to find any scientific credibility in this one. Many such beliefs are purely anecdotal and don’t hold up to empirical testing. Why are muskrat houses so big this year? Maybe the muskrats are eager beavers. Me, I look at the size or color of ice-fishing shacks, plus the thickness of the clothes of the fishermen and the size of their snow shovels to indicate winter’s severity.

“Do opossums eat ticks?” According to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, opossums groom themselves fastidiously and eat any trespassing ticks they find.

Albert Lea Seed House

Please join me at the Albert Lea Seed House at 9:30 Saturday morning, December 15. I’d love to hear your stories and questions and see your photos.

Thanks for stopping by

“Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would become religious overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night, and we watch television.” — Paul Hawken

“All my life I always wanted to be someone. I see now I should have been more specific.” — Lily Tomlin

Do good.

 Does this opossum have an eating disorder? Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

Does this opossum have an eating disorder? Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

“Be a harbinger,” they said. “It will be fun,” they said.

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 The flight was delayed due to pulchritude.

The flight was delayed due to pulchritude.

 A visit to Haines, Alaska, is like frosting on the cake.

A visit to Haines, Alaska, is like frosting on the cake.

Al Batt: Cloudy November a norm, but Decembers don’t fare much better

 The guy from just down the road

  My neighbor Crandall stops by.
  “How are you doing?” I ask.
  “Everything is nearly copacetic. Overall, I’m not too shabby. There are days when I wish I lived some place where I could shovel the snow from my driveway with my hat. Thanksgiving was a good one. I can tell by the weight gain. I was reminded once again that stuffing and green bean salad are what you eat when you run out of mashed potatoes and gravy. I forgot to make a list of things to do today, so I’m feeling listless. That gave me time to think about hunting with my grandfather. Grandpa was a character. He chewed tobacco because it saved on matches. We hunted rabbits without using a gun. I’d dig a hole and he’d drop a rock into it. Then we’d wait until we saw a rabbit. I’d shout and wave my arms at the critter. This scared the bunny enough that it looked for a place to hide. When the rabbit saw that hole, it jumped into it, hit its head on the rock and knocked itself out.”
Naturally
  November isn’t the favorite color of many. We have an average of 39 percent of possible sunshine in November, our cloudiest month. December, the second cloudiest month, gives us 42 percent. The two months save us money on sunscreen.
  Crows gather in flocks to circle the wagons. More eyes make for more effective predator detection.
  There is the “Farmers’ Almanac” from Lewiston, Maine, and there is the “Old Farmer’s Almanac” from Dublin, New Hampshire. The two publications are useful and entertaining, and make great gifts. They serve as reminders that I need to get out there and enjoy nature.
Going outside and staying a while
  “So you’re back?”
  “Here I am, I think,” I said in response.
  “Why did you go to Alaska?” a friend asked.
  “To visit Haines.”
  “An underwear factory?”
  “No, Haines is a beautiful city and borough in southeast Alaska.”
  “What do you go there for if you’re not looking at underwear being made?”
  “To see the bald eagles,” I say.
  “You can see them here.”
  “True, but the ones I see here aren’t in Haines, Alaska. Haines is a place where when I go outside, I want to stay outside. That’s the way I was as a boy. Haines helps me remember that.”
  That said, I have Minnesota between my toes and that suits me.
An Alaska account
  The road, tucked between mountains and a river, twisted towards road construction and bald eagles feeding upon spawned-out chum salmon. The natural phenomenon responsible for five miles of open water during freezing months is called an alluvial fan reservoir. Water there remains 10 to 20 degrees warmer than surrounding water. The warmer water percolates into the Chilkat River in Haines, Alaska, and keeps it from freezing. In 1917, the Territorial Council initiated a bounty on bald eagles, blamed for having a negative effect upon the salmon industry. Beginning at $1 per pair of feet, the bounty was raised to $2. By the time the bounty was discontinued in 1953, over 128,000 eagles had been killed. When Alaska achieved statehood in 1959, the bald eagle became protected under the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940.
  There was a lone bird against the sky. A raven watching as a bald eagle plucked a merganser from water filled with salmon. It apparently had grown weary of eating salmon.
Q-and-A
  “Why are some moths called millers?” The wings of the moths are covered with fine scales that rub off when touched. They look similar to the fine powder found on a flour mill worker's clothing.
  “Do hedge apples repel spiders? The yellow-green grapefruit-sized fruits are also called Osage oranges, hedge balls, horse apples, green brains, monkey balls or mock oranges. The hedge apple tree, related to the mulberry, has several names including Osage orange, bodark or Maclura pomifera. Early settlers found the Osage orange useful. Because of its thorny branches, it was planted as a living fence that made an effective barrier for livestock. The wood was used as fence posts, furniture, archery bows, nails and firewood. Do hedge apples repel spiders, insects or mice? The fruits are sold in supermarkets for that purpose. Iowa State researchers extracted compounds from hedge apples that were found to repel insects when concentrated. However, the scientists reported the natural concentrations of these compounds in hedge apples were too low to be an effective repellant. I’ve tromped around fallen hedge apples in the company of spiders and insects many times. Hedge apples do repel if you throw them at the spiders.
Thanks for stopping by
  “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” -- Edith Wharton
  “The lost leaves measure our years; they are gone as the days are gone.” - Richard Jefferies.
DO GOOD.

© Al Batt 2018

 

  A Steller’s jay seen in Alaska. The name Steller’s makes this one of the most often misspelled bird names. - Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune
A Steller’s jay seen in Alaska. The name Steller’s makes this one of the most often misspelled bird names. - Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

Home for Thanksgiving.

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 The scene of a bird dance class.

The scene of a bird dance class.

 Harlequin ducks.

Harlequin ducks.

   Orchards have shared their treasures,     The fields, their yellow grain,So open wide the doorway--Thanksgiving comes again !    –Unknown

 Orchards have shared their treasures,

The fields, their yellow grain,So open wide the doorway--Thanksgiving comes again!

–Unknown

 At the Tongass National Forest.

At the Tongass National Forest.

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A blue jay ponders the human condition.

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 Not all lovely fall colors fall from trees. Some fly from trees.

Not all lovely fall colors fall from trees. Some fly from trees.

 Blue jays will work for peanuts.

Blue jays will work for peanuts.

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The pond at Carleton College. Perhaps a water studies class.

 The good folks at Alaska Air always seem to be happy to see me. They may be pretending, but I don’t care.

The good folks at Alaska Air always seem to be happy to see me. They may be pretending, but I don’t care.

 It’s a new day. Time to climb another mountain and be surprised by what is on the other side.

It’s a new day. Time to climb another mountain and be surprised by what is on the other side.

 Part of my daily walk in Haines, Alaska, was downhill, yet it was uplifting.

Part of my daily walk in Haines, Alaska, was downhill, yet it was uplifting.

  “Shall we gather at the river?” said I.  “Let’s do that,” said the eagle.

 “Shall we gather at the river?” said I.

“Let’s do that,” said the eagle.

 The cafe was out of salmon patties.

The cafe was out of salmon patties.

 This young bald eagle discovers good things come to those who don’t bait, too.

This young bald eagle discovers good things come to those who don’t bait, too.

Cold weather is all fluff.

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 According to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, opossums groom themselves fastidiously and eat any trespassing ticks they find.

According to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, opossums groom themselves fastidiously and eat any trespassing ticks they find.

 This fish wheel in Haines, Alaska, is a water-powered device, consisting of a revolving wheel with baskets and paddles attached, used for catching fish, particularly salmon.

This fish wheel in Haines, Alaska, is a water-powered device, consisting of a revolving wheel with baskets and paddles attached, used for catching fish, particularly salmon.

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 A beaver chew.

A beaver chew.

 A natural high in Alaska.

A natural high in Alaska.

The cat of the house attempts to turn down the sunlight’s brightness.

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 That jokester Jack Frost gave this rusty blackbird a coldfoot (the opposite of a hotfoot) and the blackbird found a warm spot in its own feathers.

That jokester Jack Frost gave this rusty blackbird a coldfoot (the opposite of a hotfoot) and the blackbird found a warm spot in its own feathers.

 This rusty blackbird dropped a seed. Butter bill!

This rusty blackbird dropped a seed. Butter bill!

 A rusty blackbird wishing it had caught an earlier flight.

A rusty blackbird wishing it had caught an earlier flight.

 The feathers tipped with gray will slowly wear over the fall and winter, revealing a cardinal in brilliant red plumage.

The feathers tipped with gray will slowly wear over the fall and winter, revealing a cardinal in brilliant red plumage.

 A snowbird on a snowy day.

A snowbird on a snowy day.

Chipmunk cheeks

Al Batt: Beavers with satisfactory swimming holes may build lodges instead

by Al Batt, albertleatribune.com
November 17, 2018 09:00 AMBald eagles — older and younger. Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

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 say.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. I lost my mood ring. I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m glad the election is over. I voted just once this year. I know politicians keep only 6.3 percent of their promises, but I hope they are worth keeping. Maybe things will be all right. I was so busy voting only once that I haven’t had the time to do any macrame.”

“You do macrame?” I ask, changing the subject.

“I just told you that I haven’t been able to find the time to do any macrame. I’ve never been able to find the time to do any macrame.“

“How is your cold?” I say.

“One day, I was fancy free and footloose. The next day, I felt like I needed some fixing up. I finally went to see the doctor. I’d come from attending a function where I’d felt it was proper to wear a suit and tie. I’d put a flower in my lapel. I felt lousy and I must have looked worse because the doctor said I looked like a well-kept graveyard. That gets a fellow’s attention.”

Leave it to beavers

I was slaving away in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. The city was named for a beaver dam located in a stream flowing into the Beaver Dam River. The area had been known as Okwaanim, Chippewa for beaver dam. Beaver dams are built by beavers to provide ponds as protection against predators such as coyotes, wolves and bears, and to provide access to food in winter. If lakes or rivers have deep enough water, beavers may not build dams and live in bank burrows and lodges instead. If the water isn’t deep enough to keep beavers safe from predators and the lodge entrances ice-free, beavers build dams. These structures modify the natural environment in a way that the overall ecosystem builds upon the change, making beavers a keystone species. A keystone species is one that helps define an entire ecosystem and without that species, an ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist.

American Bald Eagle

Foundation

I spoke at the Bald Eagle Festival at the American Bald Eagle Foundation located in Haines, Alaska. Alaska is where folks think Texas is cute. Haines is 80 miles north of Juneau. As many as 3500 baldeagles have been found in a single count. All species of Alaska’s Pacific salmon (king, sockeye, coho, pink and chum) are caught in the Chilkat and Chilkoot Rivers. Hemlock and Sitka spruce trees predominate. Brown and black bears, wolves, coyotes, moose, mountain goats, porcupine, river otters, harbor seals, orcas and humpback whales are seen there. The 1991 movie “White Fang” was filmed in Haines as was “Gold Rush” on the Discovery Channel. The population of the Haines Borough is about 2,400 (and 1,897 dogs) in the summer, dropping to 1,800 in the winter. Haines is where the tundra and the rainforest meet. The numbers jump around depending on the source, but the average annual rainfall is approximately 48 inches with an annual snowfall of 122-130 inches. During the winter of 2011-12, 360 inches of snow fell downtown. I love seeing the mountains. I recall leading a trip to Alaska and hoping that Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley) would be visible. I arose early and delighted in seeing the highest peak in North America. I told my charges that the mountain was out. One of them asked, “Where else would it be?” I was nearly hit by a LFBE (Low Flying Bald Eagle) while birding in Haines this year.

Q&A

“Why do Canada geese like lawns?” Two reason: goose food and safety. The grass provides the food and a lawn makes it easy to detect predators.

“How much can a chipmunk stuff into its cheeks?” The eastern chipmunk is about 10 inches long including its tail. Its cheeks can stretch to three times larger than the chipmunk’s head. I’m often told that its name came from the sound that the animal makes. However, the common name may have been spelled “chitmunk” from the Odawa word jidmoonh or the Ojibwe ajidamoo. A male chipmunk is called a buck; a female is a doe; a baby is called kit, kitten or pup; and a group of chipmunks is a scurry.

Thanks for stopping by

“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” — Dalai Lama

“The thin snow now driving from the north lodges on my coat. How full of the creative genius is the air in which these flakes are generated. I could hardly more admire if real stars fell and lodged on my coat.” — Henry David Thoreau

“No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, November!” — Thomas Hood

Do good.

 Bald eagles — younger and older. 

Bald eagles — younger and older. 

We have snow, but it’s still steady as she goes.

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 Seen at the Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska.

Seen at the Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska.

 Seen at the Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska.

Seen at the Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska.

 I challenged the day to show me something. It showed me everything.

I challenged the day to show me something. It showed me everything.

 As seen at the Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska.

As seen at the Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska.

 As seen at the Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska.  Thirty-six pounds!

As seen at the Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska.

Thirty-six pounds!

 As seen at the Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska.  Birding takes many forms.

As seen at the Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska.

Birding takes many forms.

 Cold weather is the opossum Olympics

Cold weather is the opossum Olympics

 A porcupine cannot throw its quills. This is especially true of one that is stuffed and mounted.

A porcupine cannot throw its quills. This is especially true of one that is stuffed and mounted.

 My wife releases a rehabilitated bald eagle in Alaska.

My wife releases a rehabilitated bald eagle in Alaska.