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Bird Brains


Sun, Dec 31st, 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 thought processes solely on the basis of brain shape and size, my belief in the mental power of birds is based not just on what is known of their anatomy and behavior or what I have read in books but from personal long-term observations of individual birds as well. I have, after all, lived with one particular bird for well over 30 years.

The bird in question is a Yellow-naped Amazon, a green South American parrot just about the size of a crow. The name Yellow-naped stems from a small, rectangular patch of bright yellow feathers located at the base of the animalís head. Other Amazon parrots including Yellow-headed, Blue-fronted, Red-spectacled, Green-cheeked and so on are often likewise also differentiated by head color. Like virtually all parrots, Amazons feed largely on thick-shelled nuts and seeds, which are opened "nutcracker" fashion between incredibly powerful bills. These highly specialized beaks are typically razor sharp as well; a combination making for excruciatingly painful and profusely bleeding bites tha, believe me, simply cannot be forgotten.

Be that as it may, I first met this particular parrot through my father back in 1966. Although now quite a long time ago, I can still remember aspects of the event vividly; dad entering through the kitchen doorway, a cardboard box nonchalantly tucked under his arm, my motherís inevitable question. Above all else I recall "Mike," the furiously angry bird that emerge dfrom the carton with a hiss, to stalk menacingly across our table.

According to dad, Mike was purchased as a youngster sometime in the late 1940s by a middle-aged couple. Some 20 years or so later the husband died, leaving the bereaved widow behind to look after what had become over time "his" pet bird. Before too long the elderly woman decided parrot care was really not her "cup of tea" and that Mike should go reside somewhere else (hence his trip to my house in a box), as she really didnít like the bird all that much to begin with.

If his actions in my parentís kitchen that first day provided any indication, the parrot certainly was not overly fond of the old lady in return. While obviously more than willing to bite any one of us if pressed, Mike was particular aggress .....
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Hoffman Stables

Escape from America

Sun, Dec 31st, 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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Sonnenbergís Hill

Sun, Dec 31st, 2000
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Monday, January 1, 2001

Snow is a necessary evil here in Minnesota, but it isnít as evil as I was once led to believe. One of my earliest memories is of a snowfall. I recall running around outdoors in the late afternoon of a very gray, very ch ..... 
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Morning meditations

Sun, Dec 31st, 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 31st, 2000
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Sun, Dec 31st, 2000
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Sun, Dec 31st, 2000
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Sun, Dec 31st, 2000
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Monday, December 25, 2000

Sun, Dec 31st, 2000
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To the Editor,

Some weeks ago I wrote an article for your paper depicting an encounter one of our local citizens had with a Jackelope - along with a photo of the critter. Your naturalist writer, one John P. Levell, took me to task as ..... 
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