As I walk along a path between beautiful Ponderosa Pines, I am greeted with peeps and chirps. Even in this blustery winter weather, birds portray cheeriness. Stopping, I notice a hole part way up in one of the tree trunks. There is a lot of fluttering and darting in and out, a closer look reveals Pygmy Nuthatches.
One of their distinctive traits is to walk upside-down and around the branches, as if following the red stripe on a candy cane.
They are very social, and when it gets cold many of them huddle together in tree cavities. An ornithologist once counted 93 of these cute little birds.
Wrapping my scarf tighter against the wind, I ponder other ways birds stay warm. The Common Redpoll comes to mind with it’s rosy colour. This Finch amazingly can burrow a tunnel in the snow, up to approximately 10 inches across and 4 inches down. Then there are the colourful Cedar Waxwings with their showy black eye masks and crested heads. They can be seen flocking, together eating Mountain Ash berries.
For winter survival the heavier and fattier the food the better. This is an important part of the winter equation: food plus puffed up feathers equals warmth. The feathers, including the down, keep the cold away by trapping body heat. This is imperative in the evening, when the temperature drops and the birds head for shelter. Even though we usually can not see them, there are hundreds of birds tucked into many nooks and crannies. Some spots include old holes made by woodpeckers or thick evergreens or are under the eaves of buildings. These spaces are small enough to hold any of the bird’s escaped body heat, which in turn warms their resting spot for the night. When early morning comes they are ready for another day of searching for food.
I keep walking and I can’t help smiling, as I watch their antics and listen to them peep and chirp.
Photo of Cedar Waxwings in Wilden: Michael Eger