Winter Survival

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We lost the temperature lottery over the weekend and experienced the first truly cold air of the season. I think this is only a temporary blast although one should expect a return visit. When it gets cold, many of the birds around our house end up looking like little puffballs with their feathers all fluffed up. I know it is a survival thing but it is still cute.

Do I look like I’m enjoying the cold!

Our three legged deer was back this morning. Silly to say “our” since he or she clearly doesn’t belong to us. The survival instinct in animals is sometimes hard to watch but it is also impressive. There is still a lot of winter to get through so we just have to see what nature dishes out. Clearly it is able to move although there is a road behind our house that is must cross at times to get the field across the street.

I grew up in Michigan where the robin was the state bird. Not sure why states feel the need to have a bird and a tree and whatever else they decided to designate but, for some reason, I remember this. I know there was “controversy” a few years back and some in government wanted to change to the Chickadee which bravely toughs out the Michigan winters. Unlike the Robin since they tend to head south like other snowbirds.

Growing up, the robin was considered a sign of spring but that is not really the case anymore. I’m sure some fly south but a hardy bunch attempt to overwinter in our area. Its a survival thing. If you make it through the winter, then you’ve got first dibs on all the hot nesting sights. The ones who fly up from the south are too tired to fight so they get the leftovers. Of course, robins nest anywhere so I’m not sure it is a bargain. And the ones that stay are playing the lottery hoping for a normal winter. A long cold winter with a significant snow cover wouldn’t be good.

I only mention the robins because there was a small flock of them at the gym this morning when I pulled in. They have a couple of ornamental fruit trees out front because that’s what a lot of people use for landscaping. And the robins will eat the dried up and frozen berries as a way to help make it through the winter. Don’t have any real stats but if there is now an abundance of fruit trees that didn’t exist before, it probably helps to explain why more and more of them decided to roll the dice and not fly south.

It is like bird feeding. Here are humans doing things to subtly change the natural environment. We had bluebirds at our feeders the other day when it turned colder. They are fruit and insect eaters like the robins but they’ve learned to use feeders for nuts if they are available. I don’t know if we actually make the birds dependent (I’ve heard yes and no) but I can’t help but think that providing a ready food source through the cold weather keeps the population up.

I guess it is a win/win. We love watching the various birds at the feeders. Except the starlings. Starlings are ugly, noisy birds that come in huge flocks and can empty a feeder in no time. And they leave a mess all over the place. Of course, starlings weren’t native here. Some idiot decided that it would be fun to introduce them and they’ve just taken over. Just an example that we shouldn’t be messing any more with nature than we have to.

You wouldn’t do this with a starling!

Coming back to the beginning – nature isn’t cruel. It just is. Winter is a part of life. I do think little birds like the Chickadee above are kind of amazing in that they can survive outside through some very cold winters. Some of the lazy mammals just sleep through it but the birds have to go out every day and look for food and water.

And they do brighten cold winter days.

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