Published: 2/27/2022 4:00:43 PM
Modified: 2/27/2022 4:00:10 PM
It isn’t all the time simple to recollect how a lot we people depend on know-how for each side of our trendy American lives. We can simply take sizzling working water with no consideration and it’s usually that we overlook how fortunate we’re to have recent meals at our disposal. Even extra wondrous is the truth that we’ve got constructed houses which can be saved heat even when outside temperatures plummet.
Last weekend, whereas visiting my brother-in-regulation, we took benefit of a momentary break within the chilly climate by sitting outdoors on his deck and having fun with cigars with some advantageous Scotch. The non-cease dialog flitted from one matter to a different, like a hummingbird visiting completely different flowers in a backyard, however one inescapable theme was the chilly of winter. It is smart while you assume of it as a result of this winter has been a chilly one, however even a second of 50-diploma temperatures didn’t enable us to overlook the latest beneath-zero nights that we’ve had.
At some level in our time on the deck one of us introduced up the notion of being a soldier caught within the chilly. Valley Forge got here up, as did the Battle of the Bulge, and then we someway shifted our consideration to the birds that reside round us. How do blue jays handle to outlive the chilly? Even extra astounding is the concept there are birds that reside their lives in water even when the bitter winter winds blow. How does that work?
As it occurred, I knew the reply to that query. It is one thing that I discovered once I was a pupil at UMass Amherst within the late Eighties and I’ve by no means forgotten it. It all has to do with feathers and blood circulation, however I feel I must decelerate right here and escape a few particulars to make this extra clear.
First off, geese and geese and different water birds have feathers which can be rendered waterproof by secretions of the uropygial gland, which is a construction situated on the prime of the bottom of the tail. During their preening periods, geese can usually be seen nibbling on the feathers on this area, however what they’re actually doing is activating an oil dispenser that produces chemical substances that situation feathers. Constant and fastidious consideration to their feathers ensures that the birds are surrounded by a waterproof layer of heat that forestalls chilly water from ever touching their our bodies.
But then there’s the query of the birds’ legs and ft. Without any feathers in any respect, how does this one space of naked pores and skin handle to come back involved with frigid water with out killing the birds? The reply right here is a marvel of evolution; a warmth trade system that permits the geese to manage the temperature of their blood to guard them from hypothermia.
The coronary heart is situated within the core of the physique the place temperatures are warmest. Warm blood goes to the lungs to choose up oxygen and then again to the guts for distribution all through the physique. A community of arteries carries this oxygen-wealthy blood to the pinnacle, inner organs and the legs. As the arteries transfer down by way of the legs, they create a shut-contact community with veins which can be bringing chilly blood again from the ft and right here is the place the magic of warmth trade does its job.
As the nice and cozy blood from the guts heads towards the ft, the chilly blood heading again towards the physique chills it. Simultaneously, the chilly blood heading again to the physique is warmed in order that there is no such thing as a shock to the hen’s core physique temperature. This warmth trade is so environment friendly that geese and geese can preserve their ft wholesome with oxygen and vitamins whereas minimizing warmth loss on the identical time. These birds can spend hour after hour in water that will kill a human being in a matter of minutes. Even extra wonderful are the geese that dive underwater to search out their meals daily throughout the winter. Science might clarify it, however it’s nonetheless unimaginable that it really works.
So the following time you end up all snoodled up on a chilly winter’s day, looking the window and questioning how the little birds survive the chilly, enable your thoughts to wander to the east the place many species of geese and geese have spent each winter day floating round within the coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Just interested by it makes me wish to take a journey to the coast the place I can discover a restaurant that serves clam chowder and has a view of the water. Perhaps I’ll see you there, too.
Bill Danielson has been a skilled author and nature photographer for twenty-four years. He has labored for the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy and the Massachusetts State Parks and he at present teaches highschool biology and physics. For extra in formation go to his web site at www.speakingofnature.com, or head over to Speaking of Nature on Facebook.