Winter Birds in Winter Gales

The chimes ring, the house shakes, the aspen branches scrape the skylights.

Off San Juan Ave, Port Townsend, Quimper Peninsula, E. Jefferson County, Washington State, USA.

Last night gave residents of Port Townsend gusts of 47 mph (maybe even higher).   It is a reminder that we live on a peninsula and that the weather (and winds) have some to time to build before hitting us.  I recall winters of 2007 and 2008 being similarly windy (though wind is certainly not limited to the winter).  Tonight’s forecast is for winds up to 50 mph.

This morning, the wind began to let up and I was lured into the thought that I would go on a bike ride (there is nothing more I hate than riding my bike in the wind).  I stood at the front door gazing through the windows and debating this idea when it struck me- there were countless birds flying about from branch to branch.  The flocked was mixed with nuthatches and other species whose names I couldn’t remember.  Their activity seemed quite more active than I have recently seem.  In fact, it struck me that this was the most small bird activity I have seen in a while.

I instantly interpreted that the birds have been roosting in safe spots for long enough to really work up an appetite.  It has been a couple of days since we have really had fairly calm weather.  Birds have amazing feather diversity to insulate themselves from wind and water (assuming the feathers are clean and oiled).  Some birds can even slow down their metabolism and enter a period of near-hibernation (torpor) for short periods of time.

What is the threshold for birds to wait for better flying conditions?  Is there a ratio of bird weight to wind speed?  How long can a bird survive without eating- relying on its reserves?

I did go on that ride in the lull of wind (though that was the cue for the rain to take over).  I was especially thankful today to the goose that provided the down for my vest.  Maybe torpor would have been a better strategy for me than riding my bike in the pouring rain.


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One Response to “Winter Birds in Winter Gales”

  1. Pauline Says:

    I saw these mixed flocks also and remembered that many birds will come down on their migration before a storm and provide good birding opportunities. That could be part of it besides being hungry after hunkering down.

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