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Date:10/31/2014 4:28:05 AM
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Coziness, Part IV
I feel sorry for wildlife in winter. We set out birdseed and we also have an electrically-warmed water dish at ground level for any creature smart enough to figure out its location. The chickadees cheeped and waited for me to add seed to their feeder. While the cold wind ripped through me I wondered how those birds could survive. I've read that more birds die of dehydration than of exposure during the cold months. We do what we can with our watering dish and what feed we set out but I still pity the birds and other wildlife. The rabbits have it easier. Around here they make burrows under the brush piles I set up for them. While they don't line their spaces with anything, they are still under the frost line and if two of them share the same hole I imagine it could be rather comfortable. They sure seem to have no trouble surviving sub-zero weather. Our local whitetail deer tend to hunker down under pine and evergreen growth. They instinctively know that the foliage on the boughs will offer them cover from the wind and retain some of the warmth from their bodies. Furthermore, the pine needles on the ground under these trees reflect heat better, whether it be from the sun during the day, or body heat. Right now there are many bare spots in our woods after the last thaw. I would imagine our deer are bedding down in those places during midday and getting what warmth they can from the January sunshine. I can see that they are scraping away the snow in the rye field each night and grazing there.

The gray and red squirrels curl themselves up in their nests during the coldest of weather, their bushy tails wrapped around them like down comforters. I don't know how well their leaf nests stop the wind high up in the oaks but I see whole families out foraging during midday and I would expect that a nest with two or more squirrels in it would be a cozy place. We humans, with our relatively hairless hides, forget how well fur bearing animals are adapted to the cold. As a fan of coziness, I like Hal Borland's description of how the chipmunk spends the winter. "Chipmunks do not hibernate, though they spend a good part of the cold months sleeping and are not really active until Spring is well within reach. They build their nests below frost line and they stock up for cold weather with hoards grain, nuts and grass seed. They eat well and they sleep warm, in nests lined with thistledown, milkweed floss, grass and other excellent mattress and comforter material." If, like me, you have a childlike affection for the image of furry creatures sleeping in warm surroundings, you'd like Borland's quote. Stay warm, my friends. -- Gary
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