Page 79 - WCM 2022 Winter
P. 79

Master of the Habitat
As my senses strained to locate the creature causing the clamor, I caught a slight movement out of the corner of my eye, and out from the snow-covered brush pile emerged a gorgeous little soul – what I later learned was a Golden-crowned Kinglet. The teeny bird shook itself off, then flew and landed right between my feet. I couldn’t believe how small it was, maybe a little larger than a hummingbird, but half of that had to be its fluffy feathers!
Author Bernd Heinrich, a University of Vermont professor emeritus, wrote about these beautiful little birds: “I am gladdened to know that a population
of these wraiths of the forest thrives. When I’m in
the warmth of my cabin and hear the gusts of wind outside that moan through the woods and shake the cabin on wintry nights, I will continue to marvel at and wonder how the little featherpuffs are faring. They defy the odds and the laws of physics, and prove that the fabulous is possible.” (from Winter World, 2003)
I met professor Heinrich at his cabin in Weld, and found him painting red dots on the wings of house flies, tossing them outdoors, and then identifying them by that red dot if they were to return indoors again. His research methods seemed so unique that I just had to meet him and learn more about his research.
To make a long story short, Heinrich discovered
that the Golden-crowned Kinglet had enough of a protective layer of feathers to fight the cold, as long
as it could get enough food. Part of their fare consists of insect life found on the underside of curled up beech leaves, dried and still clinging to the branches through the winter months. They must continue feeding to maintain an internal temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and keep pecking away from sun-up to sundown. Most folks don’t enroll in college courses to further their studies of the natural world, but by reading well informed books, anyone can become an amateur naturalist.
Gear Up for Success
My favorite time to be in the woods is just as the sun starts to appear, as the woods come alive for the day. It’s often the coldest part of the day, extremely quiet, and animals seem a bit more active than later on. It’s important to plan for extreme cold weather in order to enjoy this special time.
My go-to base clothing is Merino wool long johns, capped with heavy wool outer clothing. Keeping your feet warm goes a long way towards keeping the rest of your body comfortable, so I always wear sock liners and Merino wool socks inside a quality winter boot. The boots I have now are made by Lacrosse Footwear,
Frozen Mooselookmeguntic Lake is surrounded by huge tracts of rugged land.

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