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Simply to be trusted by a shy wild creature enhances one's self-respect. -Alexander Skutch


Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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Monday, Decmber 25, 2000

Alexander Skutch is one of the great naturalists of our time. Almost seventy years ago, he went to Central America to study plants, but the tropical birds there quickly captured most of his attention. For ten years, he wandered around tropical America living in research stations or rented cabins. In 1941, he settled down on a farm he bought in a Costa Rican rainforest where the great variety of plants and animals has kept him busy for almost sixty years. Now, at ninety-six, he can still tell visitors which birds are nesting where, the number of eggs or nestlings in each nest, the behavior of the parents and the fate of the young.

Skutch is a prolific writer; his books and his lifestyle have made him a guru among birdwatchers. One of the greatest accomplishments of a good writer is to write in such a way that in telling his own story, he tells the stories of others as well, thus giving expression and understanding to the lives of his readers. His essays in "A Naturalist on a Tropical Farm," University of California Press, 1980, express how I feel about my life in the Big Woods, which, in some ways, is similar to his.

As Skutch has traveled far on his farm, I have traveled far in the Big Woods of Fillmore County. I too spent much of my earlier life roaming about and when it was time to settle down, I looked diligently for the place that might fulfill my dreams. Since moving to the Big Woods, I have found little need to leave. The woods offers me so much that I hardly need more. At the right time of year I can step outside and see yellow-bellied sapsuckers tapping on their favorite elm; walk down my driveway and see waves of migrating warblers, thrushes and sparrows; sit
on the banks of the South Fork and watch flocks of robins and cedar waxwings.

Like Skutch, I have an emotional attachment to my woods and have learned much of what I know about it through careful observation of details. I feel proud when a chickadeelands on my hand or a deer comes within touching
distance. Sometimes I look so long at a certain bur oak that I seem to enter its burly bark. Like Skutch, I know the importance of details; I've spent hours describing the colors, veins and passage of time in a single leaf.

I have a particular affinity to Northern Cardinals, who, like me, form long-term pair bonds and rarely leave their own territories. They are easy to observe because they come to our feeders every day of the year .....
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Bird Brains

Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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Monday,December 11, 2000

While some may beg to disagree, I believe most birds are smart, real smart. Far more intelligent, in fact, than science ever gives them credit for. Unlike many ornithologists (bird scientists) who evaluate avian though ..... 
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Escape from America

Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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Monday, December 11, 2000

I guess Iím a snowbird at heart because every year about this time, once the temperature dips below zero and looks like itís going to stay there awhile, I start yearning to go south. Way south. All the way down to Ecu ..... 
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The Cold Finger of Christmas

Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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Monday, December 18, 2000

One afternoon, when our youngest son was even younger, he came in from playing in the snow. He tugged off his snow armor, creating small snowdrifts on the floor as he did so. He kicked his boots into a corner and walk ..... 
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Morning meditations

Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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Monday, December 25, 2000

The windmill stands tall in the farm yard, the remnants of last yearís morning glories still clinging to its iron works

The windmill is the first thing I see when I leave the house in the morning. On some mor ..... 
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Sun, Dec 24th, 2000
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