I think of the poor birds so cold outside, yet when I pull back the curtains at 9 a.m., when there's enough light to see something in the yard, there's a great deal of bird activity at my feeders. Common Red Polls in the driveway, on the shoveled snow mounds around the feeders, in the trees - busy eating the high protein black-oiled sunflower seeds. A Downy Woodpecker clings to the log suet feeder pecking at the peanut butter suet mix; a Hairy Woodpecker climbs up the poplar tree trunk. A few Pine Grosbeaks mingle with the Red Polls at the feeders; most sit on the tree branches shivering to increase their metabolic rate to warm up. All the birds are speckled with frost.
In this extreme cold, I don't see the Chickadees feeding in the morning. Either they've already eaten and will return near sunset or they are still snuggled together with their lowered temperatures in a cozy place. I won't see the Gray Jays until the temperature rises.
Cold days mean blue skies and intense sunshine. Between feeding, the birds sit high in the treetops where the sun rays reach. Their bodies are round balls with feathers fluffed to trap air creating insulating layers. As the Red Polls hop around the driveway feeding on seeds, their legs are hidden by the feathers, and it looks like they're hopping just on their fat bellies.
Then, the ravens come. They settle on the ground in the driveway and under some of the feeders. The smaller birds fly up to the tree branches or move to other feeders. Today, the ravens have frosted white caps and cheeks, and as they move around, their 'pants' are fluffed to keep their legs warmer. As I move in the window, the ravens fly off to find another source of food, and the other birds return to the feeders.
I put on my thick snow pants, parka, toque, neck warmer, mitts and big boots, fill up a bucket with seed and venture into the cold. My breath floats as a cloud before me; my boots scrunch on the dry snow. The birds fly into the trees and wait for me to fill the feeders and throw some on the ground. I return to the warmth of my woodstove and watch the busy birds through the window. What better thing to do on such a cold day?