Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cold turkey

A mass of cold arctic air settled in this week and the bird feeder continues to be busy. In addition to the steady stream of chickadees, nuthatches, Blue Jays and woodpeckers, deer are present through the day. Most are does with swelling mid-sections. They quarrel with each other and scratch the snow for what seems to be the very meager reward of a few fallen sunflower seeds.

Just down the road the servings are more generous. Today I watched the deer assemble in anticipation of their afternoon feeding at the neighbouring resort. Rob, the employee who dispensed feed from a 50 lb bag, pointed out some of the individuals he's come to recognize. One had a healed forelimb fracture, another was missing part of her lower jaw and another had a good sized tumour on its flank. I asked about predators. Rob said that coyotes have keyed in on the area and that there are several kills a week, usually out on the lake ice. I guess it's not easy being a deer.

At dawn it was -36 C - cold enough to freeze the wattles off a rooster I suspect. I wonder how the Wild Turkeys, with their unfeathered heads, cope with the deepest of freezes. The 20 or so birds mingling with the deer seemed to be just fine - they gobbled and squabbled and scratched as they always do. I looked closely at their exposed extremities and saw no signs of frostbite. Tough birds.

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