Why would anyone go out in -10F windchill?

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Hope everyone else is enjoying our Little Ice Age weather!

So why would I go out in such lousy weather? Well, it certainly puts a finer point on any musings regarding metabolism, body size and natural selection to stand in the same Arctic air as a tiny black-capped chickadee foraging for nearly invisible insect pupa on branch tips. While I did, in fact, muse on the different energetic constraints faced by the chickadee in contrast to a crow-sized pileated woodpecker who allowed relatively close approach, I braved the flesh-freezing weather mostly to beef up my “year list” for birds seen in 2010.

I went to the Overland Park Arboretum from about 10:30-11:45 to become their first visitor for the day. The bird feeder clearing down in the woods was hopping and the observation hut at least kept out the howling wind. I got a high count of 18 cardinals. I’m sure there were more, and they were a sight to see! In addition to the handful of white-throats and several song sparrows, there were three fox sparrows. A female purple finch put in a cameo appearance. In better weather, the hut is a fine place to spend a while, even for the non-birders. Set in a clearing in the woods, it is surrounded by feeders and allow a person to view birds near enough that binoculars are not necessary. Come back in spring or summer and you could be treated to close views of indigo buntings — tiny, shockingly blue birds. They have the sense to head for central America, while those of us with different instincts trudge about in the frozen woods in January. And, unlike the sharp-shinned hawk watching the birds at the feeders for an opportunity, I wasn’t even looking for something warm to eat.

Jeff Witters
Olathe

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5 thoughts on “Why would anyone go out in -10F windchill?

  1. I caught 31 fish! Saw 3 bald eagles. Numerous species of ducks, and geese, and really cool ice build up. Glad I was out!!!

  2. Eighteen cardinals against a backdrop of white snow and leafless trees must have been quite a sight. I am reminded of the works of Charley Harper. Here are a couple.

    http://codex99.com/illustration/images/harper/cardinal_lg.jpg

    http://www.galleryone.com/images/harper/harper-cardinal-courtship.jpg

    Otherwise, thanks for the suggestion Brad. I have read another of Heinrich’s books (probably at your suggetion) and have seen the one you mention at the half price book store a time or two, but haven’t got it yet. Given that we are having quite a winter I think I’ll go see if I can find it again.

    Thanks for sharing Jeff!

  3. I thought as much—so did you actually find frozen insect pupae like the caterpillarsicles that kinglets forage for?

  4. Terrific book! In fact, it was his focus throughout the book on survival issues for a golden-crowned kinglet during Maine winters that inspired my thoughts today. I’ve never looked at insectivorous birds in winter the same way since reading it.

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