There is something akin to amazement every time I look out at the cardinals in my front yard. They perch in the dormant kudzu vines wrapped around the pine trees and hang out on the feeders. No matter how many of them I have photographed over the last 17 years, I never tire of seeing them. It was very rare to see a cardinal in the part of Texas in which I lived, and to see them every day, all day long, year round is a joy that does not fade.
The cardinals and the black-capped chickadees will be here year round. My December 2020 newsletter from Cornell Labs ran an article about how the birds that remain in the north survive winter: don’t freeze and don’t starve. The chickadee’s feet are at a temperature of about 30 F while the core body temperature is higher. The arterial blood flows to the feet from the body, warming them, and the veins carry the cooled blood back to the body core. They generally sleep huddled together in a sheltering branch to remain warm over night. When you stop to think about it, is that not a most amazing design?
In the winter, birds must take in higher amounts of nutrition in order to generate enough heat to stay warm. Feeders are an important part of that, but so is having a bird-friendly winter yard. Plants or shrubs that produce berries in winter are good options. Apparently, the cardinals and the chickadees prefer to shelter among the mix of brush and kudzu vines along the edge of the hillside.
Another important need in winter is fresh water. There are no nearby fresh water supplies (creeks, rivers) so a bird bath is needed, and of course, when it gets below freezing…On cold mornings like today (30 F at 8 a.m.) I do not use the hose and instead dump the ice and refill using a jug of water from the kitchen. It is supposed to be in the 50s today, and sunny and clear for the next couple of days. Birds and I say “Yeah!”
Scruffy took advantage of the sun to take care of her morning ablutions. The sycamore tree leaves are all gone and only the seed balls remain…looking like a forlorn Christmas tree the day after.