Black-capped Chickadee - photo by Greg Gillson
Saturday morning on my way into my part-time job at RC Willey, I realized that the early morning traffic was less than usual and I was ahead of schedule. I decided to stop and bird a random location for eBird and pulled off into a new subdivision off of Eagle Rd. where I found a short dead-end road. When a beautiful Great Blue Heron flew out in front of me I realized I had discovered a pretty vast marshy area and a stream. I was still on Eagle Island after all.
A mix of rain and snow was falling lightly. My eyes darted rapidly following the movement in the brush and trees. Song Sparrows were everywhere. I noticed a recently fallen tree, courtesy of a beaver which also swam just feet away from me. I've only seen a few beavers while out in the wild, so it was pretty cool to see one almost in town. I'm sure the developer will not enjoy the results of the dam now underway. A pair of Downy Woodpeckers cruised up and down the cottonwoods and willows. White-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and European Starlings made themselves known along with Mallards, Canada Geese, and Ring-billed Gulls flying overhead. But what brought me the greatest joy were the Black-capped Chickadees excitedly and frantically calling and moving through the branches.
Over the weekend, I pondered on Chickadees. I see and hear them regularly when I go birding and even when I'm not birding. What is it about them that makes me happy to see them every time?
Mountain Chickadee by Terry Gray
They sure are cute little critters with their black and white contrasting color pattern. The way they feed and flit about charms the heck out of me. Even their calls of alarm are about as threatening as a tiny puppy's bark. The sounds they make are pleasant and easily recognizable...CHICKA-dee-dee-dee...and a whistling FEE-bee. I hear them on TV and in the movies all the time.
At my first visit to the Idaho Bird Observatory, they had netted a family group of Mountain Chickadees, so after each was measured and banded I was asked to hold a pair of them in my hands so we could release them all together. We bonded during those minutes!
Another cool thing about flocks of Chickadees is that other bird species will often hang out near them for the sake of safety in numbers. I often watch flocks of Chickadees closely to see if there are any nuthatches and creepers hanging out nearby.
Black-capped Chickadee by Terry Gray
Perhaps there is one main reason that makes Chickadees extra special in my heart and mind and it took a weekend of thinking about it to remind me.
When my dear sweet Grandmother lay in her bed for the entire last year of her life, Uncle Dick had placed bird feeders outside her bedroom windows. The birds would give Grandma something to enjoy and occupy her mind besides the pain. That last time we visited her, Black-capped Chickadees swarmed over the feeders and neighboring bushes. Those little Chickadees brought me joy during that time and I could see by the light in Grandma's eyes that she felt it too. They were a symbol of life and vitality contrasted with the tiny frame deteriorating in a mountain of covers in the bed...a symbol of hope for that life which awaits us beyond this mortal existence. That's why I like Chickadees and I expect to find them with Grandma Carlson in Heaven.