It was "gray" and unusually quiet when I woke up this morning. No noise from the state highway outside my bedroom window. Then I heard it - the wind whistling through the branches in the trees.
I looked out the window. It didn't look like much of a storm - at first.
It wasn't until I put on my boots, jacket, gloves and hat and headed outside to fill the bird feeders that I realized just how much of a storm it was.
The wind bit through my jacket and gloves. I could feel the burn on my face. One of my feeders, blown off its pole, sat upside down in a snow drift by my garage door.
My outdoor thermometer read 15-degrees. The morning TV weathercaster reported wind gusts to 30mph. According to the chart on the internet, that creates a windchill of -5 degrees F.
How do those little feathered creatures survive?
It's amazing to see the American Goldfinches and Black-capped Chickadees come in for a landing at the feeders, get blown off course in mid-air, flap like crazy, land on the perch and hunker down as they try to hold on and grab a seed, before they get blown away.
From the west, there's nothing to block the wind from my feeding station. No trees, no buildings.
I went out and shoveled a north-south path through the snow, an attempt to create a little "feeding tunnel," creating piles of snow to protect the birds from the wind. I dusted the path with millet and black-oil sunflower - and ran back into the house.
First to arrive?
The most intelligent, the Blue Jays. Four of them, crests flat against their heads.
As I watched them fill their faces with sunflower seed (they literally vacuum up as many seeds as they can hold in their mouths and fly off to cache them), I tried to recall the "word" for a group of jays. I had to look it up. Turns out there's more than one: a 'band,' a 'cast,' a 'party,' and a 'scold' of jays.
Today they behaved more like "cold" of jays. They were all business. And the business today was finding food and conserving energy.
I turned to look out the window just now and spotted an unexpected visitor - a Northern Shrike! The 2nd sighting of this predatory songbird at our feeding station in a decade. The other songbirds took off (how do they "know" this one is a predator? It looks like a mockingbird on steroids.)
Weather like this makes me marvel at how tough these little critters are - finding food and avoiding becoming dinner for accipiters and shrikes.