Friday, March 4, 2011


Cold winter days can certainly suck. For that matter, cold winter nights can suck even worse.  Sure, we have the luxury of staying inside with a furnace and a nice porter  for the winter blahs (I strongly suggest the County Cork's Irish Stout (#948) from Grizzly Peak Brewing Company in Ann Arbor).  But wildlife can't say that.

They have no furnace. They have no super-creamy stouts from a super brewery.   The plan is to simply find warmth where they can and how they can.  Food is key.  If they eat , they stoke the internal furnace so they can find more they can stay warm long enough to find food.... and so on.....

For birds, many beat it on down the road.  Thousands of miles, actually. Central America. Maybe even South America.  "What is there, you ask?" Food!  "But why can't they stay here and eat?". The food they want is there and they are prepared to deal with all the trouble of getting to it.  For an insect-eating bird in, say, Canada, finding spiders and other crawlies in the dead of winter simply won't happen. No food means no heat.  No heat means death.  The tropics have bugs. Lots of 'em. 

But, some species aren't game such an outrageous adventure.  Flying thousands of miles to distant corners of the globe complicated by exhaustion,weather and who knows what else it simply won't do. The plan?

Stay here.

With a furnace and a porter? No, we do that.

Related to the American Robin, this Hermit Thrush has an interesting twist to the migration/food issue. Unlike its cousins who head off to the tropics, this thrush stays in North America.  Down south, they are not so crazy-rare. For that matter, they are not crazy-rare here in southeast Michigan, either, but you won't see dozens of them.  One here. One there.  That is more or less it. Check this Christmas Bird Count range map and you will see what I mean. 

But what about food thing? They manages the awful temps by finding a new source of fuel.   During the summer months, bugs and such are it, right? Winter time?  Berries.  Sure, if a bug or spider is blundered upon during the search for fruits, down the hatch it goes! But, for the most part, fruits are key.

So, for months now, this fellow has been seen roaming around the Museum yard.   Birders all winter long were finding it.  On cold days, he would be tugging at berries on various shrubs and vines (even Poison Ivy, believe it or not - it doesn't bother them). The warmer days of these last few weeks have seen him picking through leaf litter.

Come nightfall and the loss of the warming effects of the sun (what little there might be, it all adds up), his whereabouts were unknown.  There are no reports from any of the regional beerbars or breweries, so I suspect he simply hid in deep cover. At sunrise, the whole story ran again.  

Scrounge and rummage for food in the deep cold of winter?  Sounds like a drag to me. 

I'll stick with that porter.

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