There is a spot in the Grey Nuns Spruce Woodlot, an opening in the forest where the trail takes a turn, where there is a bird feeder. Someone has scrawled “Feed Us” on the side of the feeder…, and fed they get. The other day when we visited someone had hanged several colourful bird houses in the surrounding trees. All freshly painted this prime real estate is just waiting for someone to move in.
At the Grey Nuns Spruce Woodlot we came across this paper birch tree that the Black-capped Chickadees seemed to take a particular fondness to. A handful of chickadees were busy clinging to the bark and working away with their beaks on the bark. It looked like they were looking for something on the bark and in the cervices. Occasionally a chickadee would tap at the bark like a woodpecker. I assume they were looking for food. Chickadees are known to store, or “cache,” food such as seeds. Perhaps this tree was their cache location. Either way, it was an entertaining sight.
It is not often one is catches a chickadee just chilling. They always seem to be on the move, never stopping, never resting and never perching long enough for you to aim your camera, focus and get a good picture. Today it was my lucky day though as I encountered this fluffy little fellow just chilling on a branch. Maybe it had had its fill of sunflower seeds and then found this sunny spot where it just contently perched and watched the world go by.
Black-capped Chickadees are small and charismatic and it is difficult to sneak up on one without it noticing. This little fella was busy trying to open a sunflower seed and was completely oblivious to the large creature sneaking up on it from behind. I managed to get a picture of the lesser-seen side of chickadees and, guess what, it is just as feathery as the front side.
I came across this Black-capped Chickadee enjoying a snack on an afternoon. It was all fluffed up and seemed quite content as it was sitting on a branch basking in the sunshine with a small seed in its beak. In one respect chickadees are like human teenagers – always hungry and looking for food. In other respects they are unlike unman teenagers. For one, they are much more energetic early in the morning than the average human teenager.
I have lost count of the number pictures and posts I have so far with chickadees, but there must e quite a number by now. For good measure, here is another one. Chickadees never cease to entertain. They may be one of the smallest birds we have in these neck of the woods but they are feisty, spunky and not the least bit shy. They are a “go-getter” – they know what they want (always food) and they do not hesitate getting it, even if it means they have to get our of your hand. They are rather particular about where they eat their acquired sunflower seed. Once they have the treat they take off to a into cover, like a tree or a bush and go to work cracking open the seed.
Today’s picture is of a fuzzy Black-capped Chickadee that is visiting one of the bird feeders in Hermitage Park. Any nature walk in these neck of the woods this time of the year (or any time of the year for that matter) will virtually guarantee the companionship of Black-capped Chickadees. There does not seem to be a temperature low enough to faze these diminutive birds. They always seem to be on the go and always looking for the next meal. This one has struck the mother lode.
On New Year’s Day, superstitious birder-watchers like to say, the very first bird you see is an omen for the future. This is a twist on the traditional Chinese zodiac – which assign each year to an animal, like the Year of the Dragon, or Rat – and it’s amazingly reliable. One year I woke up on January 1, glanced outside, and saw a Black-capped Chickadee, a nice, friendly creature everybody likes. That was a fantastic year. The next New Year, my first bird was a European Starling, a despised North American invader that poops on parked cars and habitually kills bluebirds just because it can. Compared to the Year of the Chickadee, The Year of the Starling was pretty much a write-off.
Fortunately in these neck of the woods we do not get many European Starlings. Ironically the only place where I have seen starlings in Alberta was where I was least expecting to find them, at Elk Island National Park. We do, however, have a lot of Black-capped Chickadees and as it turns out my first bird of 2020 was indeed a Black-capped Chickadee. So while this did not come as a surprise, I am quite content with this well-deserving bird getting the honor of being the first bird of the year and of the decade. I did not take a picture of the chickadees (sorry chickadees)…, after all I see them everyday and everywhere, specially in the winter. Things get better, however. The second bird I saw this year was a flock of Common Ravens. The name “common” really does not make justice to these intelligent and magnificent birds. This was the first picture of a bird of 2020. I would say that a Black-capped Chickadee followed by ravens is a very good omen indeed, if you believe in such things. Things get even more better(er). The third bird of the year was…, drum roll please…, a Bald Eagle! Yes you read that right. I spotted the mythical Whitemud Creek Bald Eagle on my morning walk today. As I came out of the forest, there it was soaring over the tree tops like it was no big deal. Well, it is a big deal. Everyone who has spend some time with the birds down at the Whitemud Creek has hear about The Bald Eagle, but few people has seen it. This was the second time that I spotted it. The first time was a fraction of a second glance of it as it flashed between the tree tops, majestic and serene, yet elusive and mythical. On this windy cold winter day I came across it again. It was soaring high above the creek and was unmistakable. This was the third species of the year and the second species I photographed. A Black-capped Chickadee, followed by a Common Raven and then a Bald Eagle undoubtedly must be a very very good omen indeed, if you believe in such things. It was an exciting morning and my only conundrum is what to call the year. Technically it should be The Year of the Chickadee, but one could also make a case for calling it The Year of the Raven or even The Year of the Bald Eagle (at least photographically speaking). I will, however, to be fair to the chickadees, call it The Year of the Chickadee, which I think holds promise of great things to come in the next 12 months. Long live the chickadee, and the raven and the Bald Eagle!
At this time of the year there seems to only be one single thing on the mind of the Black-capped Chickadees…, food. They seem to spend all their time looking for food and feeding and clearly view us humans as a source of food. A 1992 study estimated that chickadees, and similar small birds, need about 10 kcal per day to survive. Chickadees consume a wide range of food stuffs, including insects and seeds. One of their favorite treats, particularly this time of year, are sunflower seeds. According to my calculation a single hulled sunflower seed has on average 0.29 kcal (100 grams of sunflower seeds has 585 kcal, which corresponds to approximately 2000 hulled seeds…, the rest is math). This little fella was thoroughly enjoying his snack and in the pan of a few minutes came by about 10 times to pickup another seed. That means he got about a third of its daily energy intake from the snack we brought. Here is more food for though. An adult chickadee weights about 10 grams and this adult birder weights about 8000 times more. If I would have the same daily per gram energy requirements as the chickadee my total daily energy requirement would be 80000 kcal, about 30 times what it actually is. I would get all my energy from sunflower seeds I would have to consume almost 14 kg of hulled sunflower seeds every day. There is some food for thought. Fortunately metabolic rates in warm-blooded animals does not scale linearly, but that is a different story.
Chickadees might be tiny but they sure know what they want and make sure you know what it is. They regularly follow one along as you go for walks in the forest. They flutter around, chirp and it is pretty clear that they are hoping for a treat. They might be common and in your face, but they are que painful difficult to photograph as they never seem to sit still. They are always moving and on the go. This fella sat still long enough for me to quickly take a picture, but before I knew what had happened it was off and on to a different branch.