Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Like the Cheerful Chickadee...

Was it Snow White who advised in a song to "Whistle while you work, just like the cheerful chickadee?"

We had some infrequent visitors to the feeder this morning, a pair of black-capped chickadees. They are so perky and cute. They grab a sunflower seed from the feeder and flit away to shell and eat it. A minute or two later they'll be back for another seed.

The much larger sparrows and finches hang on the feeder, they'll even lie down in the tray and take a nap. They fight and scrap, knock each other off, and many end up simply eating from the ground. The chickadees don't come to the feeder if there are sparrows and finches on it.

Seeing them reminded me of a lovely experience over 30 years in the past. We were living in a small house on a western slope above the Columbia River. The place had been built by a retired ornithologist who spent the last 20 years of his life there, feeding the birds off the balcony.

We had many feathered visitors to our feeders, and one cold winter morning I discovered that the chickadees were so tame that they would perch on my fingers and eat from my hand. What a thrill that was! I still remember the feeling of their little toes grasping my finger.

These chickadees are not so tame, but I always love hearing their cheerful chirping on winter mornings, and you know when their song changes from "chick-a-dee-dee-dee" to "Feeee-beee" that spring is on its way.

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