Al Batt: Predicting the movements of snowy owls

Published 6:06 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

I answered the phone. The caller sneezed and hung up.

Do you know who it was?

Email newsletter signup

It was a cold call.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me. The guy didn’t talk to me at all on the flight from Seattle to Juneau until we landed, when he asked if he could catch a ride to his hotel. I told him I was riding Shank’s pony (walking). I’m not sure he knew what that meant, but he said not another word and I journeyed from Juneau to Haines via a ferry. Things were happening in Haines, Alaska.

The willows were greener

on the other side

A yearling bull moose named Duck Moses escaped from the Kroschel Wildlife Center near Mosquito Lake north of Haines days before the moose hunting season began. Bad timing. The 60-acre Center is home to wolves, wolverines, bears, snowy owls, otters, porcupines, lynx and caribou. The fate of the docile moose remains unknown.

The breakfast rush

I was at the Mountain Market looking over the food offerings in a cleverly arranged display case when a young woman came up from behind and grabbed me lovingly and said those sweet words every man longs to hear, “Babe, I worry about  cross-contamination with those two foods together like that.”

I’ve been married a long time, so I responded with an oft-used reply, “Whatever you think, dear.”

Hearing my voice, which wasn’t that of her fiancée, caused her to drop me like a hot potato.

Dragging Main in Haines

I rode around with a fellow named Steve, a reverse snowbird who moved from southern Florida to Alaska. He came to Alaska as did Joel Fleischman in the TV show “Northern Exposure.” Steve is a chiropractor. After riding around with him, I felt great, but I need to see him for adjustments every week for a few months.

Bears typically wear Crocs

An angler told me he’d been recreating at Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site. He’d taken his boots off and put on waders. He looked up from his fishing to see a brown bear carrying the boots away. He pursued the bear into the forest before  realizing no boots were worth that much.

I’ve learned

Those who are happy with what they packed for a trip that involved flying are a fortunate few.

None of the 10 Commandments say anything about what our neighbors should be doing.

Take a gourd and divide its circumference by its diameter. That’s my recipe for pumpkin pi.

Bad jokes department

What did one duck say to another when they flew under the bridge? Duck!

How many electricians does it take to screw in a light bulb? Just one. They’re good at those sorts of things.

SCUBA is an acronym that stands for “Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.” TUBA is an acronym for “Terrible Underwater Breathing Apparatus.”

Jokes about sausage are the wurst.

If you put memory foam insoles into your shoes, you’ll always remember why you’ve walked into a room.

Be grateful for those you’ve known

In December 2020 Haines residents Jenae Larson and David Simmons lost their lives in a devastating landslide. I didn’t know Jenae (a kindergarten teacher) and knew David only slightly, but I felt the loss of both. David was 30 years old. I stood on an unmarked observation deck erected in his memory and looked out at what he might have seen from his window.

Nature notes

Predicting the movements of snowy owls is difficult due to limited information on prey availability and nest success at their remote breeding sites in the Arctic. Some snowy owls migrate south every winter. Every three to five years, a spike in the population of lemmings, their chief food source, results in a larger number of surviving owl chicks. Adult owls chase young owls from their territory. The owls aren’t coming south because they’re hungry. Peaks in lemming numbers cause a boom in snowy owls. Large numbers of owls force the lemming population down. With fewer lemmings around the next year, snowy owl numbers fall. Fewer owls mean lemming numbers rise and the cycle repeats.

Squirrels are good at locating buried foods. They use a combination of landmarks, cues, memory and a sense of smell to narrow their search.

The term Jayhawk combines two birds: the blue jay, noisy and quarrelsome, and the sparrowhawk, a stealthy hunter, according to the University of Kansas.

Meeting adjourned

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive.”—Marcus Aurelius. Be kind. Happy Thanksgiving.