Eastern Kingbird

An eastern kingbird with its crown concealed.

By Al Batt

For the Birds

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting 

I told my wife I wanted to be cremated.

It’s good to talk about those kinds of things.

No, it’s not. She made me an appointment for Tuesday.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me, such as: The days go by too quickly. I tried to make one day seem as if it’d last forever by walking in the rain. Rain was no strain for Mother Nature as she’d become one of those gardeners whose answer for every problem is, “Just water it more.” 

Mosquitoes thought I was a meal they’d ordered from room service. For every drop of rain that fell, a mosquito grew. Mosquitoes can breed in a bottle cap of water. 

A picnic beetle bit me and I heard myself snarl, “I’ll fix your wagon.” I remember hearing my father say that very same thing as he stalked a fly with a flyswatter.

I fled the Batt Cave for a few hours to go to a farmer’s market. I followed my new mantra, “Wash up, mask up, back up.” 

We’ve had social distancing all my life. It’s called loaning someone money. I’d feel odd without a flu fence on my public face. It’s a second face. 

Lou Christie sang, “Two faces have I. One to laugh and one to cry.” In Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates and doorways. He was depicted as having two faces, one looking back at the past and the other towards the future. 

Duck, duck, what?

 When I was in grade school, a group of kids sat in a circle, facing inward, while one child who was “it,” walked around them tapping each seated player and calling each a “duck” until declaring one a “gray duck.” 

The “gray duck” arose and tried to tag the “it,” before the “it” was able to run around the circle and sit where the “gray duck” had been sitting. 

If “it” succeeded, the “gray duck” became “it” and the process was repeated. If the “gray duck” tagged the “it,” the “it” remained “it.” 

I’ve heard rumors that Minnesota is the only state that plays “Duck, duck, gray duck.” The other states play “Duck, duck, goose.” The game was brought to this country by the Swedes. There were two versions of the game in Sweden. One translated into “Duck, duck, goose.” The other to “Duck, duck, gray duck.” 

The hypothesis is that the Swedes playing the second version were the ones who settled in Minnesota. Or maybe it was because no Minnesota child wanted to be labeled a goose. “Duck, duck, gray duck” is the proper and righteous way to play the game and will undoubtedly become an Olympic event.

Naturally 

The red admiral butterfly feeds on tree sap, rotting fruit and bird droppings. Its caterpillar eats nettles. This makes them nearly impossible to cook for. When I was a dear boy, I called the painted lady a “thistle butterfly.” Thistles are host plants for the caterpillars.

I watched an aggressive eastern kingbird fight with a crow, a couple of blue jays and a robin all in one day. Why attack a robin? It must have considered it a threat and the kingbird granted no pardons to anyone. It has a forceful personality. 

Eastern kingbirds often perch in an exposed position in the high trees or along utility lines or fences. They fly in shallow, rowing wingbeats, typically accompanied by electric, sputtering calls.

The perfume of flowers lingered in the air. In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the cricket chirps tonight. In the jungle, the quiet jungle, the cricket chirps tonight. Go outside at dusk and listen to a chirping cricket. Count the number of chirps it makes during a 15-second period. Adding 40 to that number will give you the approximate temperature in Fahrenheit. 

I look forward to seeing northwestern crows in Alaska each year. Considered a cousin of the familiar American crow until a recent study on the genetics of the two species prompted the American Ornithological Society to conclude that the two species are actually one and the same. It’s a variation within a species.

Mallard drakes have yellow bills. Hens and juveniles sport orange-and-brown bills. 

Q&A

“What do squirrels eat?” Acorns, hazelnuts, walnuts, butternuts, hickory nuts, tree seeds, fungi, buds, corn, fruits, berries, sap, eggs, nestlings, sunflower seeds, insects, caterpillars, small animals and snakes, carrion and goodies from the garden. When it comes to a diet, they don’t carrot all. It might have been easier to list what they won’t eat. 

“Do rabbits tunnel?” The eastern cottontail rabbit doesn’t dig its own burrows. They use deserted burrows of other animals, woody vegetation, decks or brush piles to escape the elements. A Michigan study showed only two out of 226 tagged cottontails lived 2 years. Other studies found about 30% of rabbits survive a winter. A cottontail’s range is around 5 acres.

“What’s the point of a yellow jacket?” It’s on the opposite end of their heads. Seriously, a yellow jacket gives you something to wear with those light orange pants. Yellow jackets are beneficial insects. They feed their young caterpillars, flies and other insects that damage crops and garden plants. 

“What kind of gopher is Goldy Gopher?” The mascot of the University of Minnesota isn’t a pocket gopher. He has stripes and looks like a thirteen-lined ground squirrel, which is often called a striped gopher. The original design was based on a thirteen-lined ground squirrel. The state nickname derives from a political cartoon by R. O. Sweeny, published as a broadside in 1858. The word “gopher” is a generic term for any rodent living underground. Some people think the original model for Goldy must have been a chipmunk, an animal more commonly seen than the thirteen-lined ground squirrel (other nicknames include striper, squinney, leopard ground squirrel and striped ground squirrel). I’ve heard a ground squirrel called a grinnie, but that term is more often used for a chipmunk.

Thanks for stopping by

“Nothing limits intelligence more than ignorance; nothing fosters ignorance more than one’s own opinions; nothing strengthens opinions more than refusing to look at reality.” — Sheri S. Tepper

“A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself. — May Sarton

Meeting adjourned

“Kindness is not without its rocks ahead. People are apt to put it down to an easy temper and seldom recognize it as the secret striving of a generous nature; whilst, on the other hand, the ill-natured get credit for all the evil they refrain from.” —Honore De Balzac.     

Do good.

© Al Batt 2020

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