First some numbers. The thermometer read -22F at 7:11 AM. The sun would not rise for another 57 minutes. The wind speed was a dawdling 5 mph from the north. But at -22 the air felt like an immobilizing -35F.
At noon the air temperature was subzero -15F. The north wind continued at nearly 10 mph keeping the wind chill around -35. By 7:02 PM the thermometer reading had dropped to -20F. Nearly 12 hours of actual air temperature of -15 or colder and wind chill factors of more than -30.
To complete the picture a few more numbers. Tonight’s forecast low temperature is -27 with wind chill values reaching -40F. By sunrise tomorrow at 8:08 AM 24 hours of continuous polar cold will have transpired.
Now the truth. The White Breasted Nuthatch in the photo will have been outside for every second of those 24 hours. During the daylight-8 hours and 39 minutes worth- it would spend most of its time feeding to fuel its 1 ounce; 5-6 inch body for the long winter night. Its mate spent all of the daylight always nearby. One watched, the other fed. They communicated with each other with their nasal “yenk, yenk.” Both had their feathers in full fluff to maximize the insulating quality of the down feathers against their skin. Tonight, will be more than 15 hours long.
They are designed to survive cold like this. During the 8 hours of daylight the pair of nuthatches will add fat equal to 10% of its body weight. This fat will give it life during the polar night. Imagine a 140-human gaining 14 pounds in one day!
The pair will survive. They will be back tomorrow. They will face winter again. No fear.
The final truth, it is no coincidence that the Nuthatch, or the other permanent winter bird residents of this cold climate, can survive not only one cold night but an entire winter of cold. The infinite wisdom of God as Creator designed the nuthatch metabolism, and behavior. Consider the numbers again…winter in the latitude where these nuthatches are found lasts a minimum of 5 months. 5 months or 151 nights, most or all below 32F.
Yes, the nuthatch is amazing, beyond my grasp. Comprehension of an infinite Creator God is humanly impossible. But it is wonder and delight to try.