One of the nice things about a job that usually only needs a computer, a web connection, and a phone is that you can pretty much work anywhere. Of course the bad news is that you can also work pretty much any time and often do, but the flexibility is nice, especially when a big snowstorm hits as it has this morning here in New England.
So today I'm working in the dining room with the dog at my feet and the iPod plugged into the stereo, enjoying the snowy scene outside until I feel guilty enough to take a break and shovel the front walk (I've already taken a break to blog!). We've got a few bird feeders set up out back (see above) so I'm also checking on the birds now and then. We get various birds including junkos, mourning doves, house finches, chickadees, goldfinches, and even a pair of cardinals. I'm not a serious bird watcher or anything, but it's fun to see them up close.
Even with help from feeders, birds have it pretty tough in the winter. It amazes me that most of them manage to survive. How do they do it? It turns out that some people know quite a lot about this subject, and I found a great book called Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich. Heinrich is a professor of biology at the University of Vermont, and he also spends a lot of time at his cabin in the western Maine woods. He's an incredible observer of the fine details of the winter world (not only birds), a naturalist in the grand tradition, but also one who will do things like experimentally investigate the thermodynamics of small birds (he finds dead birds, heats them up, and measures the rate of heat loss with and without the feathers to help estimate their "energy budget"). Small birds in the winter live constantly on the edge of freezing to death at night, and it's always a close thing whether they will manage to consume enough food to make it to the next day. Let's keep those bird feeders full!