Derek – Saturday 2nd February 2019

It is a cold morning, 2 degrees C, though the sun is out, but there is not a lot of heat in its glow. The pond is frozen over and almost full to the brim. The surface vegetation is mostly shrivelled. I see a few snails, hibernating. And no other animal life in the pond. It’s dormant, awaiting spring warmth.

Our bird feeders are near full. I don’t see any birds at all. Though on the walk to the garden, sparrows were chirping in large bush. Eating the buds most likely. This is a tough time for birds, with the days and nights so chilly. When it’s very cold, say 10 below, they can freeze to death. But mostly birds get by in our winters.

They store fat in autumn and in early winter which helps insulate them. During frosty nights, they fluff out their feathers, as another measure, to hold in heat. Often they will huddle together at night, making a ball of birds to further conserve heat. Their metabolism will also slow to conserve energy. That does though make them vulnerable to predators.

Birds are the only extant descendants of dinosaurs. Over the past 30 years in China, Palaeontologists have found many dinosaurs with feathers. They were not used for flight but for insulation. In a few small therapod species of dinosaurs, these feathers gradually became adapted, via gliding, to full flight. And became the birds.

Some snowdrops are planted today, very late to do so, and I wonder whether they will flower. I’ll keep an eye on them. Though, I do have a friend in Saskatchewan, the prairie province of Canada, where bulbs are planted in April, and they flower in a month or so. They can’t be planted earlier as the ground is frozen, and even if they could be they’d likely be killed by temperatures that drop to minus 30 below.

It may not feel like spring today, but there are signs of it. About the garden, there are daffodil shoots here and there. I spot a few crocuses in flower near the greenhouse which is completely glassed now. Inside, there’s a table with plants on top, and some on the ground too.

The turkey tail fungus is still on the dead cherry tree coming out of the back stage. The fungus doesn’t look so happy in the cold. The ‘ears’ we see are the fruiting body. Its mycelium, thin cotton-like threads, permeate the tree for sustenance. Though it’s dormant now, in these fridge temperatures.

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