In winter’s cold, birds endure

January 11, 2014 

February is a great time for bird watching, best done while sitting beside the family wood stove and through frost glazed windows.

One wonders why birds, waterfowl in particular, don’t appear to be bothered by cold feet. If you have doubts, ask any duck hunter worth his bourbon-laced coffee to repeat the tale of some visiting upstate duck hunters who came upon a flock of redheads, their feet frozen fast to the middle of a pond. Much too eager, one hunter fired his gun too hastily only to see the entire flock lifting as one bird, taking the pond with them.

Considering that there were over 160 species of birds identified in the Carolina coastal region last year in December, it calls the question of where the birds sleep on freezing cold nights when ice forms on every branch and twig. How do they locate grub, bug or seed when it’s encased in a frozen earth?

A flotilla of mallards approaches the open sandy beaches where the awakening sun casts its morning light across chilled waters. The birds do not appear to have any question about protocol. The procedure includes, upon reaching the sandy shore, waddling ashore, shaking their feathers and turning to enjoy the warming sun, while watching the loons and cormorants play under the icy waters or lining up on a beach to dry frosty feathers.

Only 22 days of winter remain before the clairvoyant ground hog is due to be rousted from its winter nap to assume its role in the passing of the seasons and to take the blame for any guessing regarding the winter chill remaining – and perhaps when it will be the time for the violets to waken. The New Year is now on a roll, the past discarded like a used Christmas tree. It’s a good time to watch the birds with their cold feet.

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