Life in the Cold - UPDATE January 25, 2019

After reading that a polar vortex was headed this way, I thought it might be here early as I drove to the WRI at minus 27°F. Blue Jay with frostBlue Jay with frostAt my desk, the first birds showed up out the window at 7:42 AM—Siskins. The camera is always perched ready on top of a non-working speaker from an outside microphone, so I clicked a picture and noticed frost on its back. I haven’t noticed that before. I suspect that they sleep with their heads under their wings to conserve heat and water like bears do by tucking their heads under their chests during hibernation. Bears get some frost condensation, and I suspect the frost on the siskins backs was the same. I was impressed that the feathers were insulative enough to keep it from melting. We did a study of bear fur once and with that bear, snow would accumulate on the back at temperatures below 8°F—a temperature that would vary with individual bears’ fur quality.

At 7:58 AM, a hairy woodpecker landed by the food, scaring the siskins. It, too, had frost on its head. The spots of white around its eye are tiny feathers, but near those and on the hairy base of its bill is frost.

At 8:10 AM, a blue jay stopped by with frost on each eyebrow.

Pine SiskinPine siskin Hairy WoodpeckerHairy woodpecker Blue Jay flying awayBlue jay

I looked for more frost all day but didn’t see any, so I suspect I was lucky to see it when they first got up before it evaporated, or I suppose I should say sublimated when talking about ice turning into vapor.

The rest of the day, I didn’t see any frost, making me think the frost was from overnight.

I tried to take a photo of a blue jay against the pretty blue sky, but it flew away just as I snapped the photo.

Those were my most exciting moments of the day—at least until the gray fox came just after dark for another 8 slices of bologna.

Thank you for all you do.
Lynn Rogers, Biologist, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center