Dec
31
2008

  High Winds and Fast Birds

It's windy again for the second day in a row. Really windy, so much that the house shakes. I don't know if it's this windy in town, but we have a little microclimate out here that provides refreshing breezes all summer, but howling winds in the winter. It used to scare me when we first moved in, I hadn't lived anywhere with so much wind before. But now I'm used to it.

I was looking out the upstairs bedroom window to see if any trees had blown over, but I couldn't see any new damage. The trees grow up with the wind, so most are pretty resilient, but sometimes the old or diseased ones will fall in a windy storm.

I continued to look out the window since it was a pretty view despite the wind. And I noticed how fast the birds were soaring! We get a lot of turkey vultures circling the fields. In the summer I once counted fifteen in view. Usually they fly in groups from two to five. There were about three or four out today, but instead of lazily circling overhead (they have a six-foot wingspan and don't flap much, just float on the air currents), they were shooting through the sky.

I wonder if the vultures like windy days. Does the wind speed allow them to scan more fields for dead animals to eat? Or does it move them too fast for them to see? Is it more fun to fly really fast than to just coast slowly in the air, like being on a roller coaster or race car? They're also higher than usual. I don't know if they're flying higher on purpose, or if the wind just took them higher and they can't ride the wind closer to the ground. If I were a vulture, I'd be more scared if the wind took me higher than usual than if it just carried me faster than usual. But today, the birds get both.

There aren't any smaller birds out today. They can't handle wind like this. Once during a windy snowstorm I saw a little bird trying to fly, something a bit larger than a chickadee but I don't remember what kind it was. It was trying to fly into the snowy wind, and was flapping its wings furiously. But it was moving backwards, in the direction of the wind. No matter how hard it tried, and it tried dodging the wind left and right, higher and lower, but the best it could do was keep from losing ground, it couldn't fly forward. It seemed determined, so I suspect it was trying to get to its nest. I don't remember what happened. It would have been better off trying to hop through the field or just finding shelter until the storm was over. But if it had chicks in the nest, they probably wouldn't have done well in that storm by themselves.

I also watched dried leaves blowing past the bedroom window. On the windy days, things blow around all over. You'll see twigs, and in the summer our patio chair cushions, and other things that size blow past the downstairs windows. Only lighter things like the fallen leaves get blown up around the second story windows. But from the second story you can see all the treetops. They sway quite a lot, it's interesting to watch. I'm glad I don't live in a nest. I don't like it when this big old sturdy house creaks in the wind, I really wouldn't like swaying every direction in the limbs of one of the trees being blown around.