With a Little Help From Their Friends…
Yes, with the windchill of -14° F, I had rosy, red cheeks and very chapped lips as I was out in this weather Friday morning. I drive a Jeep which gets me just about anywhere anytime, and as a long-time skier, this weather is something I dress for and can tolerate.
That is the frozen Niagara River above. The middle of the river runs, but along the banks and out a few hundred feet, it is mostly frozen with little pockets of open water for the ducks. More on ducks coming up.
This weather does not stop the birds, unless they don’t get enough food for the day. That is something I discussed in How Do Birds Weather an Ice Storm. The birds come in numbers when the weather is at its worst. That is when we come to their rescue…
Another couple was bringing them food but did not do more than dump food, then run back to their vehicle. They were not about to hand-feed the birds in this weather, yet watched as I did.
In the image below, the water kicking up from the rapids is turning to ice particles. What looks like steam rising is definitely not.
It was so cold that the snow froze to my lens. It was like ice pellets rather than snow forming icicles on the lens, but I was warm in my ski pants and down parka.
Each time I offered food to the birds, it was like a line up of recipients. They flapped in midair, just waiting until the feeding bird left. Each bird would land on my hand taking its time picking up the biggest or most seeds it could carry. The birds waiting and flapping grew impatient and butted the bird dawdling.
If you never hand-fed birds, read my post Hand Feeding Wild Birds. Make sure you try it on a day such as this to get many varied birds. I almost had the male cardinal land on my hand right after the White-breasted Nuthatch.
The birds flew to the food as fast as it was available, and I swear, they were showing their gratitude. When I was photographing them, I had a chickadee land on my lens as I was taking a photo of a the White-throated Sparrow. It sat there through taking five photos.
Seriously, if you want to get serious about getting photos of birds like in this post, try on the worst weather day you have.
At home, I filled the feeders and my pedestal poplar logs 4 times. There were so many cardinals, I could not even count them.
At the Falls, everywhere I walk a group of chickadees and titmice are following me, well actually the bag of food.
Last night, it was -1° F and the real feel was -21°F. Birds will use energy very quickly on really cold nights, some smaller birds losing up to 10% of their body weight. My shrubs were like bird hostels these last few nights.
I feel obligated to bring the birds at the Falls food since I am photographing them all winter. It is almost critical in extremely cold conditions they get more food than normal, even though birds are equipped to withstand most winter weather.
Since I like taking photos more of the birds in the wilderness, I feel I owe them something too.
Did you notice how many different birds are in this post? I can thank 1° F for that, even a small flock of robins was nearby.
But all is not so warm as 1°F in the Midwest this Sunday. Say a prayer for the people and birds there as temperatures are predicted to get to -31°F in some places with a wind chill of 70 below zero. (source) We will have a warm spell of 34°F while the Midwest is bombarded with arctic air. It hits us Tuesday, so we will see how low we go.
Well fed, puffy and warm…. and more on birds…