Fall to winter

The beautiful weather that we had on the Canadian Prairies yesterday was due to dramatically change over night.

Footpath linking Portage Avenue with Assiniboine Park over the Assiniboine River

Our weather will go from nice blue skies and unseasonably warm temperatures to snow and then snow mixed with rain. It is currently 0 degrees C and will warm up to a balmy 2 degrees C in the morning when the precipitation begins. My daughter messaged me to tell me there were still some Canada Geese and ducks in the Assiniboine River. It seemed like a good time to get out and go for one last nice walk.

The little Red Squirrel at Assiniboine Park knows that the warmth is not going to last. It was busy pulling off the seeds from a Maple tree and cramming them into holes and in the grooves in the bark of a tree. He was so busy he did not even notice the people standing and watching him.

The geese were looking for any blade of grass to eat they could find.

Some were in the duck pond flapping their wings trying to stir up the plants from the bottom of the pond.

Others were simply enjoying a beautiful afternoon in the warm sunshine.

It gets dark around 17:00 and as I was leaving some of the geese were flying away. Are they heading south for the winter?

I really hope that the geese and ducks got out of the City last night like the ones above taking flight. As promised, we have snow. Mr Blue Jay has come to visit and the sparrows are trying to find seed under the snow.

There are many feeders filled with sunflower chips, suet, black oil sunflower seeds, and then that wonderful ‘trail’ mix which looks better than what I make.

The sparrows in the snow on the deck know there are goodies underneath. Why they are not back at the feeders I cannot tell you. There is room for everyone there.

What a handsome little House Sparrow this fellow is. You can always tell them by their grey caps!

So how do birds cope with winter? This article was published by Daisy Yuhas in 2013 but it is still accurate now. Have a read – it is really interesting:

“Each autumn as many birds begin epic journeys to warmer climates, there are always some species that stay put for the winter. These winter birds have a better chance of maintaining their territory year-round, and they avoid the hazards of migration. But in exchange they have to endure the cold.Like us, birds are warm blooded, which means their bodies maintain a constant temperature, often around 106 degrees Fahrenheit. To make enough heat, and maintain it, they’ve evolved many different strategies–some similar to our own.Sparrows, for example, seek out shelter in dense foliage or cavities to avoid the elements. They also huddle, bunching together to share warmth, and try to minimize their total surface area by tucking in their head and feet and sticking up their feathers. Cardinals, impossible to miss against the snow, and other smaller birds puff up into the shape of a little round beach ball to minimize heat loss.”Big birds, like geese and grouse, do what we do,” says physiologist David Swanson at the University of South Dakota. “They put on insulation.” Their insulation often involves growing an extra set of insulating downy feathers.Birds can also put on fat as both an insulator and energy source: More than 10 percent of winter body weight may be fat in certain species, including chickadees and finches. As a result, some birds spend the vast majority of their daylight hours seeking fatty food sources, making feeder food even more precious for surviving a frosty night.When asked which birds are toughest winter survivors, Swanson points to little ones like chickadees. These small creatures can’t put on too much bulk for aerodynamic reasons. Instead, explains Swanson, they are experts in shivering. This isn’t the familiar tremble that mammals use to generate heat. Birds shiver by activating opposing muscle groups, creating muscle contractions without all of the jiggling typical when humans shiver. This form of shaking is better at retaining the bird’s heat.Another adaptation shared by many species is the ability to keep warm blood circulating near vital organs while allowing extremities to cool down. Take gulls. They can stand on ice with feet at near-freezing temperatures while keeping their body’s core nice and toasty.Keeping warm when the sun is up is one thing, but few winter challenges are more daunting than nightfall, when temperatures drop and birds must rely on every adaptation they have to survive their sleep. Some birds save energy by allowing their internal thermostat to drop. Hummingbirds are a famous example of this, undergoing torpor nightly as their body temperature drops close to outside temperatures. But torpor is not too common in winter birds, because the morning warm up would take too much extra energy. Instead, black-capped chickadees and other species undergo a more moderate version of this, reducing their body temperature as much as 22 degrees Fahrenheit from their daytime level in a process called regulated hypothermia.One simple way to help birds when the weather outside is frightful is to hang feeders. To attract a diversity of birds, select different feeder designs and a variety of foods. A tube feeder filled with black oil sunflower or mixed seeds, for example, will attract chickadees and finches. Woodpeckers devour suet feeders. And a safflower or sunflower-filled hopper feeder entices the usual visitors plus larger birds like cardinals and red-winged blackbirds. The birds benefit from the backyard buffet, and you’ll have a front-row seat to numerous species flocking to your plants and feeders.” Some raptor species, lower their body temperatures. More on that another day as we shift from fall to winter.

It is not clear how many birds are on the ledge at 367 Collins Street. The Mum was there overnight with one – the one with some floof still on its back and wings in the scrape box below. There were two. Where is the other one? at the other end? flown off? difficult to tell. The one on the scrape box has just vocalized and headed down the gutter. I suspect it could be breakfast.

It is almost flying along the gutter now.

Fledging will be happening soon down in Port Lincoln and if you want to see how a hungry falcon acts just go over to the scrape in Orange. Yurruga is a week younger than the eyases in Melbourne. It is really foggy in Orange this morning so breakfast could be delayed. That link is:

Look for a lot of wing exercises and hovering from the trio at Port Lincoln. Ervie was doing a fabulous job yesterday.

Oh, I am really going to miss these lads when they fly to find their own way. Last year it was this Osprey nest that almost put me off my interest in third hatch ospreys. Siblicide is horrific. And it is this same nest (along with Achieva and Foulshaw Moss) that gives me hope that things can turn around for the good for the chicks. It has been incredible this season.

It is time for some hot tea. Thank you so much for joining me. Take care everyone. See you soon.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen captures: 367 Collins Street Falcons by Mirvac and Port Lincoln Osprey Project.

1 Comment

  1. Linda Kontol says:

    Thanks Mary Ann! Very nice update as always! So glad most of the ducks and geese have left for their migration.
    The PLOโ€™s will surely be missed! ๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’•
    The little falcon may be or may not be alone if they other one is still at the other end of the ledge.
    Hopefully they all are fine and didnโ€™t leave too soon. ๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’•
    When I was watching little Yurruga he/she was in the corner alone eating something ! ๐Ÿ’•
    Thanks for the article , the link, the info and all the wonderful photos!
    Take care!
    Linda

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