Sunday, January 7, 2018

7 January 2018: Colder than it should have been!

The forecast for today was considerably warmer than the past couple of weeks, so I was looking forward to getting out for some pleasant birding! It was 16 F when I left the house (so warm!) but a bit of a breeze meant the windchill was only 1 F. I headed north with a tailwind and was quite comfortable for the 5 miles that it took to get to my first destination (Brice Prairie, for those familiar with the area). No need for studded tires today - the roads were dry - so I got there quickly. (My studded tires are essentially skidproof on ice, which is wonderful, but they reduce my speed by about 30% and increase muscle fatigue by at least that much!)

I locked my bike to the rack (yes! there is a bike rack at that trailhead! thank you, Upper Mississippi River NWR!) and walked trails through a small patch of prairie. I picked up five FOGYs - that's First Of Green Year species, a fun play on the FOY acronym commonly used by birders - but nothing unexpected (European Starling, Bald Eagle, etc). The light wind was pretty brutal and my fingers froze every time I took my hands out of my pockets to use my binoculars, despite being insulated with some reasonably warm gloves. 

I kept on all my layers when I started biking again, and tried to switch to my super-warm down mittens inside my pogies to keep my hands warm, but it was a tight fit. I'm not a fan of the Bar Mitts pogies that I'm using on my new touring bike, but they're the only kind that will fit on that bike (drop bars with external gear cables). 

Sub-par pogies. Too small, except for the massive wrist
openings; not well insulated, though duct tape on the
zippers helps; bad profile with a side wind - but any
pogies are better than no pogies.

Much better pogies! I guess they don't look as slick, and
they don't help you slice through a headwind, but that's
less dangerous than catching a crosswind at a bad
moment. Much warmer and roomier. If only Apocalypse
Designs would make a version for drop bars...

[True story: when I stepped out to take the above photos several days after writing the rest of this post, I had a FOGY fly over that I wasn't sure I would get at all this year, after searching fruitlessly for them last year. But that's a story for another post. Hint: it would have helped if I'd been video-recording rather than taking pictures, because then I might have had a useful recording of the call!]

Anyway, I'd had big plans to do a tour around the farm fields in the area, but soon decided that I was too cold for that, though some hot water from my thermos helped a little. I made an abbreviated loop around a field that sometimes has Lapland Longspurs and had up to 5 Snowy Owls last month, but dipped on both species. Fought the headwind all the way home, but at least I eventually warmed up on the way! 

The weather station claimed an air temperature of 25 F and a windchill of 16 when I got home. I couldn't believe how much colder I got today than on the 1st, when both the air temperature and the windchill were substantially lower than today's values. Of course, biking adds to the wind speed, whereas I was mostly walking on the 1st.

The thing about Green Birding, though, is that every trip is worthwhile. Even if I find no FOGYs, and even if I'm cold the whole time, I've still gotten fresh air and exercise and therefore done a good thing for myself. 

12 miles by bike, 2 miles walked, 5 FOGYs for the day.

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