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Winter Birds


Fri, Jan 26th, 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 Thomsens 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

Whats In A Name?

Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
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Monday, January 8, 2001

While it may not have mattered much to Romeos Juliet, names are of paramount importance to those working in the biological sciences. Naturally, in the absence of names a discussion on virtually any topic would prove at ..... 
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Escape from America

Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
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Monday, December 11, 2000

I guess Im a snowbird at heart because every year about this time, once the temperature dips below zero and looks like its going to stay there awhile, I start yearning to go south. Way south. All the way down to Ecu ..... 
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Cast Iron Epidemic

Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
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Monday, January 29, 2001

I decided that it was time to change oil in both of our vehicles last Sunday. I drafted our sixteen-year-old son, Matt, to help. I thought it was a good opportunity for Matt to profit from some of my long experience an ..... 
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Chicken Run

Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
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Monday, January 22, 2000

Its hard being brave when youre a chicken.
~from the movie Chicken Run

I am not much of a golfer. I rationalize my poor scores with the notion that I am involved in too many other activities to dev ..... 
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Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
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Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
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