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Winter Birds


Fri, Feb 9th, 2001
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Monday, January 22, 2000

January 1, 2001: We hear birds singing and see activity in fir trees as we drive slowly past a farm bordering the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Dana Gardner and I are participating in the Whitewater Christmas Bird Count (CBC) and we need to identify these birds, so I pull my car to the side of the road and back up.

CBC's take place every year all across the Americas. Over 45,000 people participate each year in this census of winter bird populations. The first CBC's took place Christmas day 1900 at the suggestion of ornithologist Frank Chapman who asked people to count birds instead of shooting them for specimens, as was the current practice

Each count lasts one day and must occur between mid-December and mid-January. Participants record numbers and species of birds within a fifteen-mile radius of a central location. Our base today is the Whitewater State Park Visitor Center, where we met early this morning to pick up our assigned routes. Carol Schumacher, Winona, has organized this count for the past five years. Participants have come from all over Southeast Minnesota.

Now, after looking for over an hour, Dana and I have only seen crows and blue jays--not an auspicious beginning. As I back up to look at the birds in the fir trees, I feel my car sinking into snow at the edge of the road; I pull forward and sink deeper, then backward again and deeper yet. Dana tries to push me out with no success. He thinks we will have to call a tow truck, but I say he has been living away from Minnesota too long and doesn't remember the helpfulness of area farmers.

We cross the road to the farmhouse and knock on the door. A young boy answers and says he will ask his dad to help us. Soon a sleepy farmer comes into the kitchen where we are waiting. He says he will pull us out and heads to his barn. As Dana and I walk back to the car, we cheerfully realize we now have a good story to tell. This reminds me of author Moritz Thomsenís words in "The Saddest Pleasure":

I will be like a traveler who, toward the end of his journey begins to carry a camera and finds his vision detoured and distorted, reality now seen as something that can be arranged or lighted for the camera's eye.

The farmer soon comes out of his barn on a tractor. Does he think we were stupid to have driven into the ditch? Is he suspicious of our intentions? He is friendly enough, but not talkative. He hooks a chain to .....
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Hoffman Stables

Beneath Tropical Seas

Fri, Feb 9th, 2001
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Monday, February 5, 2001

Waves roll in and then recede, as the ocean endlessly caresses this lonely tropical shore. Shallow, crystal clear and deliciously warm are the waters of the all-encompassing sea. The white sand beach is deserted, polis ..... 
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Escape from America

Fri, Feb 9th, 2001
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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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Telephones

Fri, Feb 9th, 2001
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Monday, February 12, 2001

It is Saturday and the telephone rang again for about the sixth time and it is only two p.m. The various jingles, tones, and warbling throughout the house barely stir me. The kids will get it. The phone hardly ever ri ..... 
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Fri, Feb 9th, 2001
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A Fear of FlyingBy John TorgrimsonMonday, February 5, 2000

When I booked an October flight to Ireland for my son and I last summer, I believed that by planning far enough in advance I would eliminate any chance of a screw-up later on. After al ..... 
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Fri, Feb 9th, 2001
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Fri, Feb 9th, 2001
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Editorís note: After my story about the Runaway Chicken, a rooster who hitchhiked to Preston in the back of my pickup last October, was published a few weeks ago, I have been overwhelmed with comments from people who have seen (or heard) the bird. ..... 
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