Winter companions

February 23, 2015  •  4 Comments

The temperature is 15 degrees fahrenheit right now, and a north breeze is blowing the snow into drifts around the house.  After the delicious spring tease, we are having a serious week of winter.  Wolf Creek Ski Area has received 30 inches of snow and at Taos Ski Valley, the snow keeps coming - 17 inches in the past two days, bringing their base to 57 inches.  Any moisture is a bonus for the water table, and winter sports enthusiasts are surely in a heavenly state.

During their migration around the planet, humans have used everything from animal skins, and later wool and cotton to keep themselves warm.  In the 21st century, we are lucky enough to have light, high-tech incredible articles of clothing to prevent hypothermia in conditions of extreme cold.  

But watching creatures in the wild, I always wonder how they survive in these types of conditions.  Certainly, some do not.  Migration, although a grueling and dangerous process, keeps many species of birds alive while following food supplies.  I suspect hummingbirds, with their incredible metabolic rate, could not last more than five minutes in this kind of weather.  Even larger birds, such as the larger flycatchers, occasionally are caught off guard by warmer than normal weather in southern climates and head north, only to be killed by a late frost.  We found a beautiful (possibly) brown crested flycatcher dead on our porch last spring following a night with a low of 15 degrees, the same temperature it is right now.

So, on this snowy morning, I give a photographic tip of the hat to our winter companions - Junco hyemalis.  Juncos are creatures of colder areas.  They fly down from the high country during the winter months and, in summer, they retreat to the mountains for the coolness higher elevations provide.  They flit in and out of bushes and trees, using an extremely broad and complicated language.  They are a constant joy of winter.  Last week, their sounds included those of spring, if you know what I mean.  With luck, their instincts will keep them from mating just yet. 


The photographs below are of a male dark-eyed, Oregon junco.



Layers of feathers surround their core and their feet, enabling them to stay warm as the snow falls.



To everything, there is a season....


until next Monday,


a passion for the image


Catherine Sobredo(non-registered)
Very beautiful images!
Margaret B Rodriguez(non-registered)
Hello dear friend. Brrr, yeah it really is pretty darn cold! (again). Yes, I too worry about the creatures that have to weather this cold. All the way from the tiny ones, to the medium and larger ones. Remember the winter that helicopters had to drop bales of hay to cattle that were trapped in 2-4 feet of snow. Can't remember the year, but I still remember the impression it made on me.
The other nite I threw a spider outside (one I found in my bedroom.). and I kept worrying that it would freeze that nite....
Ciao! best regards to Fred.
Steve Immel(non-registered)
Thanks for the warm and caring sentiment about tiny creatures in the wild who may have been caught off guard by this wintery last. The hardy Juncos give us some hope that other species will survive the onslaught. The well insulated Junco has it right. Dress in layers, lots of them.
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