Spring takes its turn in the turn of seasons

AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER I love the two-toned bill of the American tree sparrow. They are singing now of their plans to fly northward.
By : 
Al Batt
For The Birds

Hal Borland wrote, “No winter lasts forever, no spring skips its turn.”

The Farmers’ Almanac says our spring will be chilly and showery. It’s nice to see temperatures without a minus sign in front of them.

The smell of spring was in the air, compliments of a skunk. 

Spring was in the air in the flight of migrating birds. On my walk, I encountered robins that had migrated back to Minnesota. I could tell because they were skittish and vociferous. The robins that wintered here are hushed and reserved in comparison. The wintering robins are too beaten up to be thrilled about anything. The killdeer were stirred, calling out their name excitedly. There were grackles galore. I once played the part of the mayor of a make-believe city named Grackle Junction, leaving me with a soft spot for the birds. Greg Bartsch of Geneva told me of the many eagles on Geneva Lake. Only food could cause that many bald eagles to congregate like that. They enjoy a fish buffet.

I saw tiny, black flecks sprinkled in the melting snow around the base of a tree. They were springtails called snow fleas.

Chipmunks chipped. Chipmunks hibernate, but don’t enter deep hibernations like ground squirrels. Chipmunks rely on food they’ve cached in their burrows. It’s good to see the little animals in the spring, but some individuals become active on warm, sunny, winter days. 

Wild turkeys gobbled. A red-tailed hawk carried nesting material. This raptor’s nest is a tall pile of sticks. As I watched the hawk, I thought of Aeschylus, an Ancient Greek playwright, who has been described as the father of tragedy. He died in Sicily, in the city of Gela, in 456 or 455 BC without having given a thought to Tesla or Twitter. Valerius Maximus wrote that Aeschylus was killed by a tortoise dropped by an eagle or a lammergeier or bearded vulture (which do feed on tortoises after dropping them on hard objects). It was written that the bird had mistaken the bald head of Aeschylus for a rock suitable for shattering the tortoise’s shell. Pliny, a Roman scholar and naturalist, wrote that Aeschylus had received a prophecy that he’d be killed by a falling object, so things worked out. This story may be mythical.

I’m happy spring is taking its turn.

Echoes from Loafers’ Club

Do you know what smart people eat for breakfast?


I didn’t think you’d know.

Driving by Bruce's drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his driveway, thoughts occur to me, such as: I’m told that a vehicle’s owner’s manual has instructions on how to use a turn signal. I’m a man, so I don’t read owner’s manuals, but judging by the turn signal usage I see, I don’t think many people read owner’s manuals.

Every automobile on the road moves too fast or two slow for someone else’s liking. In a perfect world, everyone could move at his or her own preferred speed without criticism or danger. My speed was the perfect one to get me to town and a seat near food.

I stopped at the Eat Around It Cafe to be fed and watered. I sat at the Table of Infinite Knowledge where we each take turns having a clue and being completely clueless. The table wobbled, but not as much as some of those seated around it. It was an information exchange program.

I ate a lovely salad, a combination of fruit and vegetables. I added a couple of embellishments to the salad, so I wasn’t just grazing. I strive to find happiness in the little things in life like protons, neurons, electrons and croutons.

A scene from a marriage

My wife wanted a new toaster, so she asked me to see if I’d fix the old one. I once overhauled the engine of a Rambler while using only a pocket knife and rusty pliers. That came to no good.

By the time I’d finishing fixing the toaster, it was beyond repair.

The new toaster works fine. I miss the old one, but not as much as I miss people.

A cousin died. I’d heard wonderful things about her teaching skills. We didn’t live near one another. I saw her at funerals and reunions. I miss her. I should have reached out to her more often, but I didn’t. More’s the pity.

Al Batt’s brain cramps

I had a neighbor who had a bed hanging from the ceiling to keep the rats from running over him in his sleep. Some people thought that odd. They were the ones who had never had a rat run over them while they were sleeping.

You live in a small town if the directions you give are based on where things used to be.

Ask Al

“When I was in high school, some of the boys put tires on the rear of their cars that were much bigger than those on the front. Why did they do this?”

So their cars would think they were coasting downhill and get better mileage.

“Is everyone who spends the winter in Minnesota a part of a witness protection program?”

Not everyone. There are 17 who aren’t. See if you can pick them out.

“What can you tell me about the Minnesota border with Iowa?”

It’s not very well defended.

Customer comments

Glen Shirley of Farmington sent this (edited): The Bluebird Recovery Program invites you to attend its 40th annual Expo at the Cannon Falls High School on April 6. Presentations include How to increase bluebird fledging. Lyme disease. Bluebird monitoring. In addition, all-time favorites Jim Gilbert, “WCCO Nature Notes,” and Al Batt, Southern Minnesota naturalist/storyteller, return. Information at www.bbrp.org.

Nature notes

The weather was abnormal. That’s normal. We gain over 90 minutes of daylight in March.

A Cooper’s hawk waited in ambush in tangled vegetation not far from my feeders. To the hawk, the birdfeeder provides birds for eating. It was a female hawk, as female raptors are generally larger than the males. Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks look similar. A sharpie male is the size of a blue jay and a Cooper’s female the size of a crow. A sharpie’s tail tip is generally squared and a Coop’s rounded, but this identification hint isn’t infallible. I didn’t find the hawk on my own. The blue jays located it and had a collective cow, drawing my attention in the process.

In the darkness, I heard a fox bark, sounding like a decaffeinated Chihuahua. In the light of the day, I heard a starling doing the call of a hawk.

Each day brings oddities, beginning with a glance in my mirror. Weather is odd by nature. According to the U.S. Climate Data, in 2010 we had no snowfall in my yard during the month of March. Now that’s odd.

Pierre Salinger said, “The things that stand out are often the oddities.”


“What bird builds the biggest nest in Minnesota?”

The bald eagle constructs the largest nest of any North American bird. It gathers sticks, grass and cornstalks, often reusing nests and adding to it each year. A nest can weigh a ton and be over 9 feet across. The “Guinness Book of World Records” lists a Florida bald eagle nest as being the largest at 9.5 feet across, 20 feet deep and weighing 4,409 pounds.

“What is the mast of a tree?”

Mast typically refers to the nut crop of a tree, but it also includes seeds and fruit of trees and shrubs. Hard mast is nuts and seeds. Soft mast is fruits and berries. The definition of mast can be expanded to buds and catkins. Mast is an important provider of food for wildlife.

Thanks for stopping by

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

“There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.” — Indira Gandhi


© Al Batt 2019