Tuesday, January 7, 2014

BITTER COLD

I awakened at 2 AM to the sound of howling wind and what I perceived as tiny ice particles striking the bedroom windows.  I eased out from under the covers and raised myself over Happy who was sound asleep on the edge of the bed.  Chestnut hound who lay behind me let out a soft groan at the disturbance.  A quick check out the window showed a snow covered yard and adjoining forest with swirls of light snow blowing in all directions.  I went downstairs and opened the front door to get a feel for how cold it was.  Yikes!  Back to bed I went.
It's amazing how things have changed on the river since yesterday.  The cheerful billowy, white clouds are replaced by gray sky's and frigid temperatures and the land and water reflect those attributes and seem to intensify the icy temperatures.
The cold water is raging and has been since yesterday morning without a break.  It seems to be colder here close to the water, and in reality probably is.. A quick check of water temperature indicates a reading of 45 degrees.  I sure don't want to fall into that.  There was not a human being anywhere near the river today but I continued on with my route.  Mine is not to wonder why but to do or die.  
Golden Crowned Kinglet

I switched the truck's motor off in the empty parking area at Nance Ferry and scanned the area for wildlife.  There were numerous species of birds coming and going and I wondered how those little beings survive in this intense cold.  I know Tennessee isn't known for it's cold climate but when we get weather that lingers in the zero degree temperatures for lengthy periods of time - it is an issue.  It seemed that separate species of birds would show up in the scrub, linger briefly searching for food and immediately move on only to be replaced by a small or large flock of another species that would emulate the first.
Ruby Crowned Kinglet

These tiny birds are challenging to photograph as they flit, hop and fly limb to limb very quickly making it difficult to get the camera on them and even more difficult to focus the lens and make camera adjustments.  That's what makes it fun though.

 Look at the face on this swamp sparrow.  He is cold, wet, hungry and totally miserable not to mention pissed off that I'm sitting here in front of him.

One of the prettiest little birds that is found here is the Golden Crowned Kinglet.
 A flock of about 15 birds settled in and jumped from branch to branch pecking against the bark and never being still for more than two or three seconds.  I felt bad for them - the intense search for something to eat in these bleak times.  How many would succumb to starvation?



 This tiny sparrow beauty in his wispy surroundings appears to be a natural art work.
Notice he's holding a tiny, black, flat, dried up berry in his beak.
The last few shots for this entry are of a Tit Mouse who is acting like no other wren, warbler, sparrow or kinglet I've ever seen.
I had to put the binoculars on him to see what he was eating.  No - it wasn't seeds or insects.





This handsome little fellow found a dead ground mole and was pecking pieces of flesh off it.  This is not a routine food for this bird and proves that the extreme cold is making survival difficult for them.  All their flying about in search for food burns up their calories and without calories their energy dissipates and death is the result.  Therefore they will consume whatever is edible whenever they can find it.
 Look closely and you can see the legs of the dead ground mole and the little bird is holding a morsel of food in his beak.  He's only doing the best he can to survive until the warmth of spring arrives.



It's been a slow day near the river today but it's never a dull day when one appreciates our wild friends and neighbors.  They always amaze and cause wonder in the observer and often times refute what is accepted as "known behavior" in a species. 

Tomorrow is to be a very cold day with temperatures near zero and I plan to work on the smaller boat at the work center.  I'm definitely not putting the boat on Douglas Lake in these temperatures.  It's a safety issue.  Try to stay warm and I'll talk to you shortly.