Saturday, January 19, 2002

Last night and today we had a slush storm. At least we did here. A few metres above us it was snow and down below it was rain. But here it was slush that fell from the sky, not really sleet, but slush.

There is a line in a song by Lynn Miles about winter that goes "all the birds left months ago/except for the ones that are built for snow." Around here, although we aren't inundated with snow, that sentiment certainly applies to the juncos who arrive here for the winter and also the chickadees who stay here all year round, but who pack up in little gangs when the weather turns cold.

Black capped chickadee

We have two kinds of chickadees here, the familar black capped, and the more unusual chestnut backed. I spent about 10 minutes watching a flock of them this morning in Miller's Landing flit between a large cedar tree and a naked rose bush, where they could launch a final assault on a bird feeder. There were about 30 of them in the flock as well as a couple of white breasted nuthatches. In winter, chickadees eat all day, because at night they burn off all the fat they store up during the day. It's an endless cycle to keep their little metabolic fires stoked in the cold months. In fact this pursuit of fat is so intense that chickadees will even occaisionally eat the fat of dead animals, to the point where they will imitate coyotes to tell other chickadees of a potential kill. Don't believe me? Click here.

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