Friday, February 2, 2007

It is cold, cold, cold! The car thermometer read -13F as I pulled in last night from Search and Rescue training. As if that isn't bad enough, what makes it really miserable is the wind. This is not the usual howler for which our area is so well known; just a steady 10 to 20 mph breeze that takes the temperature with windchill down to a bracing -45F. It is tough on the animals. Our sheds are all built for protection from the prevailing winds which come from the southwest. This wind is blowing straight out of the north. As is often the case in rural areas, weather issues mean electrical issues. I had a dentist appointment in Powell yesterday morning and when I got home I noticed all the clocks blinking at me. I had to turn around and go back out the door to training in Cody and didn't get back home until about 11pm last night. So it wasn't until I went out to feed this morning that I realized the electrical outage had taken out the heat lamps for the chickens and they had spent the last 24 hours - the coldest 24 hours in about 5 years - without a source of heat. The heat lamps are set to come on automatically at 25F and the system has a battery backup in case of power outage but obviously something failed. Amazingly, all the birds seem fine. What saved them was that I had closed the door to the outside coop yesterday morning knowing it was going to get really cold. They were at least completely protected from the wind and even though it got very cold in there they were saved from frostbite or worse. The first year we had chickens we didn't know we had to lock them in when it got really cold. We assumed they would figure out for themselves that it was to their advantage to stay inside. Wrong. All our roosters that first year lost their combs and their wattles to frostbite. They grew back but it must have been painful in the meantime.
Some things show up when you least expect them. When I went out this morning I saw a large bird sitting on a fence post across the yard. I was pretty sure I knew what it was but ran back in to get the binoculars and the bird book anyway. Sure enough it was the Northern Goshawk back for a visit. I thought about trying to get a photo but I didn't even know if the camera would work in this weather and it was obvious he wasn't going to sit for long with all the harassment he was getting from the magpies. So I just enjoyed watching him for a few minutes instead. The first time we saw the goshawk on our place was about four years ago. We decided to not tell anyone about it because we didn't think they would believe us. Even though Ken is amazing at identifying birds, the book does say they are "uncommon to rare" and "found in very small numbers in forests". The nearest forest to us is several miles away. Then last year we looked out one day to see him sitting on the fence post just outside the front door. He stayed around, on and off, for about three days and we got some great photos which provide indisputable proof that the largest accipiter does occasionally slum in the sagebrush. I don't know if this cold weather has pushed him into the open for some reason or if he just felt like a change but it was a little bit like seeing an old friend. Just what the doctor ordered to warm a heart on a cold winter day.

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