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January is for the Birds in the Finger Lakes

Normally in January, the north end of Canandaigua Lake would be frozen over and the ice cover would extend for at least a mile down the lake. The hardier kind of folks would be out in the January cold ice fishing for perch along the weed beds. But this year is different. A group of Canadian geese were basking in the 20 degree temperatures and having a good time right behind the bathhouse in Kershaw Park!

Their southern migration is off schedule due to the unseasonable temperatures but they are very much at home in the cold in their goose down jackets – as long as they have open water and some grain fields that are not too deeply covered with snow. There were thousands of birds resting up along the lake, swimming slowly back and forth, or just taking a nap on the ice along the edge of the lake.

I’ve tried to figure out why they don’t get cold feet. Some of the explanations that I’ve read tell about them standing on one foot while keeping the other leg tucked into their down jackets. Sometimes when they sleep on the ice, you can see them conveniently tucking their heads into their jackets and placing their down covered bodies over their feet. I’ve even read more complicated explanations about some kind of special circulation system which sends warm blood to their feet while it warms up the returning cold blood.

Cold feet have always been a problem for me. I can remember when I was a child that after I came in from playing in the snow, there would be no feeling in my feet. And I would have to soak my feet in a bucket of cold well water to slowly thaw them out. Fortunately, my days of cold feet are over. The invention of Gore-Tex linings in hiking boots and winter boots has solved the problem for me. I’m thinking that maybe the Canadian Geese already have their own brand of Gore-Tex skin on their legs and feet. How else can they stand in ice water and enjoy it?

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