Al Batt: Speaking engagements end with epicurean delights

Gunnar Berg of Albert Lea shared this photo of a hooded warbler.
By : 
Al Batt
For the Birds

I spoke at M State College in Detroit Lakes. I ate longer than I spoke. The meal was meatloaf covered with a plum sauce, new potatoes (at least they were new to me), asparagus and a lime-flavored dessert. 

I spoke at Good Earth Village in Spring Valley. They fed me well, too. Part of the meal was a delicious onion salad. I didn't take a photo of that salad and post it anywhere. Some cultures and families used to show their appreciation to the cook by belching. Now those same people take photos instead.

Those two meals were why the word "yummy" was created.

Warren Buffet uses a flip phone, eschews coffee and has a Coke for breakfast. He has the pop with Utz Potato Stix or chocolate chip ice cream. Or maybe with a McDonald's breakfast. Buffet's reasoning? He explained, “I checked the actuarial tables, and the lowest death rate is among 6-year-olds. So, I decided to eat like a 6-year-old.”

Echoes from Loafers’ Club

What’s that? 

It’s a list of things I have to do today. 

The paper is blank. 

I know. It’s my day off.

Driving by Bruce's drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his driveway, thoughts occur to me, such as: I was walking with a friend at Caswell Park in Mankato. We were talking about important stuff that might have brought peace to the world when a woman's voice yelled, "Amber!"

We both stopped and looked toward the voice. We were two men, neither of whom was named Amber. Why did we stop? Because men are listeners, but we don't always believe what we hear.

We were watching a softball game, sitting in the ubiquitous camping chairs. The gnats were horrendous. A friend, Kris Heinrichs of Sleepy Eye, covered with the tiny flying insects, said, "I feel like a rotting carcass."

Vanilla extract or vanilla essential oil seems to repel the little buggers.

Brain cramps

There are few country songs about kale.

If birds had hands, a car parked under a tree would be covered with bird poop and toilet paper.

My rental car had a flat tire in Alaska. A friend visiting from Georgia helped me change it. He could do that because he had the spare time.

If your alphabet soup spells out "YUCK," don't eat it.

Each mile of spring potholes is an antique roadshow.

Nature notes

A gray catbird was sitting pretty. It was in the catbird’s seat next to our bedroom’s screened window. Its plumage is muted, but it has an abundance of personality. Its mimicking song is a series of short musical and harsh notes collected into phrases. A song can last 10 minutes, but it seems longer outside my predawn window. A catbird puts in a long day, as it continues to sing after the sun goes down. 

I visited several grocery stores as I did my errands. The cheapest grape jelly was absent from their shelves. It had gone to feed orioles. Chipmunks like jelly, too. I watched one putting sunflower seeds into its mouth, using its cheeks as lunch boxes.

I spotted a tiny bird standing out from the green vegetation. It was more yellow than bird. It was a yellow warbler losing yet another game of hide-and-seek. A friend, Dave Lewis of Stow, Ohio, said that it sings, “Feet, feet, feet; smell my feet.”

Another bird, petite and blue, perched nearby. The indigo bunting breeds from southeastern Saskatchewan east to New Brunswick, and south to central Arizona, central Texas, Gulf Coast and northern Florida. It must be very tired.

Samaras, the winged seeds of maple trees, covered the drive. They had been carried by the wind. As a child, I called samaras whirlybirds, helicopters or whirligigs.

Dandelions serve as important sources of nectar for bees in the early spring, when most other flowers aren’t yet in bloom. Creeping Charlie, also called ground ivy, is an herbaceous plant native to Europe, brought to North American by the European settlers as medicine and a ground cover. Who was Charlie and why was he creeping? I strolled by the rhubarb. One of my parents preferred cutting rhubarb while the other felt pulling was the best way to go. My mother reminded me that no more than a third of the plant should be harvested at one time.

A turkey vulture took advantage of the 86,400-second rule to enjoy a road-killed raccoon. I found a pileated woodpecker on the road. Pileated can be correctly pronounced PIE-lee-ay-tid or PILL-ee-ay-tid. Sadly, I pronounced this handsome woodpecker dead.


In the dooryard, I watched warblers feed on caterpillars feeding on leaflets as toads trilled the background music. I appreciated the blooms of wild plum, lilac, serviceberry (Juneberry), cherry and crabapple. I saw the silken nests of eastern tent caterpillars in the forks of the branches of apple, chokecherry, crabapple, plum and cherry trees in May and June. The larvae feed on leaves, sometimes defoliating trees, but generally don't affect tree health. The hairy larvae have blue, black and orange markings, a white stripe down the back, and a series of hairs sticking out from the sides of their bodies. Two inches long when fully grown, eastern tent caterpillars feed on tree leaves during the day and remain in their tents at night and during rainy weather.

A catbird, slim and slate-gray, produced jumbled songs that mimicked other birds. I heard a robin caroling. Donald Kroodsma, in his book "The Singing Life of Birds," wrote, "Anyone who listens thoughtfully to robins can’t help but bubble with questions about why robins are the way they are." Kroodsma found that each male robin has 10 to 20 different, whistled “caroling” phrases and 75-100 varied, high-pitched “hisselly” phrases. The familiar daytime song consists of caroling phrases that sound like, "Cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up." At dawn and dusk, the bird often tosses in hisselly phrases.

I watched an American redstart female gather plant fibers for nesting material along Albert Lea Lake. A boy told me redstarts were junior orioles. A correspondent from Mankato told me about a shopper at Aldi's who had bought three cases of grape jelly. The orioles in that person's neighborhood were eating well.

I attended an outdoor church service at a state park when a hooded warbler landed on one of the pews. It was the first time I'd gone to church with a hooded warbler. Hallelujah!

The gnats have been terrible. Vanilla extract or vanilla essentials oil seem to repel the little buggers. Some people mix it with water and use it in a spray bottle. The gnats will leave you alone, but people will be attracted to you because they think you've been baking.

Customer comment

Mark Christenson of Columbia Heights wrote, "When the Smothers Brothers were on TV, they had Pat Paulsen as a candidate for the presidency. His best line was, 'I'm not right winged or left winged, I'm kind of like I'm in the middle of the bird.'" 

Pelican Breeze

Please join me as I host cruises on Albert Lea Lake on the prepossessing Pelican Breeze boarding at Frank Hall Park Boat Landing in Albert Lea. The cruises are at 1:30 p.m. on June 23, July 28, Aug. 25 and Sept. 29. For more information, please call 507-383-7273.

Thanks for stopping by

"I should dearly love that the world should be ever so little better for my presence. Even on this small stage we have our two sides, and something might be done by throwing all one's weight on the scale of breadth, tolerance, charity, temperance, peace and kindliness to man and beast. We can't all strike very big blows, and even the little ones count for something." — Arthur Conan Doyle

"Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence." — Hal Borland

Meeting adjourned

Stay friendly to yourself, be gentle in your disappointment, forgive others and yourself easily, and be kind.


© Al Batt 2019