Batt: Alaska wilderness still wild as ever


Hard-shelled barnacles are attached to this humpback whale’s fluke. Barnacles feed upon plankton that the whales swim through.
By : 
AL BATT

I walked down a trail in Sitka where a brown bear had been sighted earlier in the day.  A fellow from California walked with me and expressed his concern about being in bruin territory.

I told him not to worry too much about the bears.  Neither of us would even be able to handle one of Alaska’s squirrels.

He whistled loudly and off-key in the hopes the bear would hold paws over its ears until we reached our destination.

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

"How are you doing?" I ask.

"Everything is copacetic. I understand you've been waltzing with bears in Alaska?"

"Not exactly. I saw a bear and I walked trails where bears had been seen, but I didn't waltz with any or have any anxious moments around one."

"I know what I'd do if I were attacked by a bear."

"What would that be?" I say.

"I'd immediately take a selfie."

A red squirrel could take me in a best of three falls match

I walked down a trail in Sitka where a brown bear had been sighted earlier in the day. A fellow from California walked with me and expressed his concern about being in bruin territory.

I told him not to worry too much about the bears. Neither of us would even be able to handle one of Alaska's squirrels.

He whistled loudly and off-key in the hopes the bear would hold paws over its ears until we reached our destination.

American Bald Eagle Foundation (ABEF)

The bald eagles living there enjoy ripping up cardboard tubes from toilet paper and paper towels, cardboard boxes, phonebooks, and egg cartons. It gives them something to do.

Cheryl McRoberts, executive director of the ABEF in Haines, had asked local residents to share those items with her. Cheryl said that whenever she receives toilet paper tubes, she knows someone had been thinking of her.

It was a mobile eagle feeder

Mike Walsh of Fairbanks, Alaska, told me that his closest encounter with bald eagles had come when he rented a pickup truck. Unbeknownst to him, the box of that truck had fish scraps in it. It quickly filled with eagles.

Q&A

"Will putting mothballs under the hood keep mice out of my car?"

Probably not. Mothballs are pesticides that release a gas vapor that kills and repel moths and their larvae. They are toxic to humans and pets. As a pesticide, they are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

I wouldn't recommend using mothballs to repulse mice. Mothballs aren't an effective pest repellent. The idea is that when the chemicals in mothballs react with the air, they produce fumes that are irritating to mice and rats.

For mothballs to discourage mice, the fumigant concentration must be high. If you can take the smell, so can the mice.

"I saw mourning doves in my yard last winter. Don't they migrate?"

Mourning dove migration is a complicated affair called a differential migration and is related to a bird’s age and sex. They move south from late August through November.

Young doves leave first, followed by adult females, and then the adult males. Some mourning doves, most of them adult males, don’t migrate at all but stay here.

The males find it's worth it to brave bad weather and frostbitten toes to get a head start on establishing a good breeding territory early in the spring.

The doves make a whistling sound when they take to the air. The sound comes from the bird’s powerful wings and is believed to be a natural alarm system, warning other doves that danger is near, while simultaneously startling a possible predator.

"Would pocket gophers eat my bird seed?"

Pocket gophers eat the tender underground roots of plants. They wouldn't climb to any feeders. I suppose they could eat seeds that had fallen to the ground, but I've never witnessed them doing so. Moles feed on grubs, worms and other creatures that live underground.

They rarely appear above the surface of the earth and they'd have no interest in bird seed. If a mound looks like something pushed a pile of dirt from a hole, that’s a gopher. Moles are known for their raised tunnels.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

I get the feeling that people don't really know who I am.

What makes you feel that way, Delbert?

My name is Harold.

The shoes shouldn't have squeaked; they were paid for

 I'm no clothes-horse, but I'd become a regular shoe-horse. That meant I'd bought new clodhoppers.

A friend, Jim Shook of Haines, Alaska, has big feet, too. His father told him it was difficult finding shoes for Jim because it was hard to come up with two cows exactly the same color. My new shoes squeaked loudly.

Dampness on the shoes or the floor or both that caused a duet in the library. Another patron said, "You can't sneak up on anybody wearing those."

That concerned me. I checked my to-do list. Fortunately, there was nothing on the list about sneaking up on anyone.

A traveler's tales

I was in a bookstore in Juneau, Alaska, when a little boy walked up to me and announced at full volume that he'd just wet his pants. His mother was mortified.

What am I supposed to do in a situation like that? Do I give him a high-five, say, "Way to go," or tell him that I just did, too?

I was in the Seattle-Tacoma Airport listening to a fellow traveler tell me what the perfect number of cup holders was in a car, when I heard the Alaska Airlines gate agent say, "If you are wearing a Russell Wilson sweatshirt, you are invited to board at this time." I had to ask someone who Russell Wilson was.

As you probably know, he's a quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. I figured it wasn't worth buying a sweatshirt just to board early.

I floated on a large ferry from Haines to Juneau. It was the 408-foot long Malaspina designed to carry 450 passengers and has a vehicle capacity of 1,675 linear feet, which is equal to approximately 83 twenty-foot long vehicles.

It's named after the Malaspina Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The ferry was in need of $16 million in repairs, but I didn't notice any limping on its part.

Table tending

I told Susan Johnston of Haines, that I liked the rustic table in her house. She said it wasn't hers. She had it because its owners hadn't room for it in their house. Susan was just table sitting.

Nature notes

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.

Sometimes called "snowflakes," snow buntings resemble snowflakes as they swirl through the air before settling on winter fields.

 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. Likely a mallard.

Meeting adjourned

"Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love." — Lao Tzu. I wish you a blissful Thanksgiving.

Thanks for stopping by

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." — F. Scott Fitzgerald

"A man said to the universe: 'Sir, I exist!' 'However,' replied the universe, 'The fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.'" — Stephen Crane

Do good.

© Al Batt 2019