This morning it was -27C. Even at 10 a.m. it was only up to -20C. This weather reminds me of the inspiration for my second Robby Robin story: watching birds trying to cope with cold weather. Some seem to be able to cope so much better than others, just like people. I have a brother who moved south right after university to escape from cold weather, just as I moved further north so as not to miss true winter. (It’s difficult to avoid at the moment!)
In New Brunswick we have birds that stay all winter and others that leave. Most that leave do so in flocks, but occasionally there are stragglers. These are the ones that have always intrigued me. How do they find the others when they realize the error of their ways? Hummingbirds usually leave when the nectar supply dwindles. In our neck of the woods this is typically the end of September or mid-October; it seems that chrysanthemum nectar just doesn’t do it when that’s all that’s left. This past year there was a lone hummingbird left at the end of October; he flitted frantically around our hummingbird feeder, but the syrup was pretty nippy before midday. And one year a young duck that had happily swum in the banks of our river all fall made the misguided decision to stay put as the area of open water got smaller and smaller and all his duck friends left. In January, as the remaining circle of open water iced over, he nestled behind our house, surviving on the seeds dropped from the feeders by the winter-loving chickadees. We threw out bread crumbs for him every day, and then one day he was gone. Hopefully he made his way to warmer climes.
When it is really cold, birds fluff up their feathers to stay warm. Doves do this, looking pretty spiffy, and get past the occasional cold spell. Robins do it and look miserable. From time to time, robins arrive back in the spring too early and their body language shows their dismay. They sit on branches so puffed up that they look like a new bird species. The ground is too hard to penetrate for food. They have to be thinking longingly of where they have come from. No More Winters For Robby addresses these difficult bird issues!