Friday, May 26, 2006

The Chickadee

The Black-capped Chickadee Parus atricapillus
“ In recent years, ultrahigh-speed motion pictures have revealed a number of remarkable things about the activity of the familiar black-capped chickadee. Its wings beat with a frequency of about thirty times a second. This is approximately three-fourths the speed of wing movement of a ruby-throated hummingbird. When a chickadee is alarmed in mid-flight, it can begin altering its course of direction in the incredibly short time of three one-hundredths of a second. After strenuous exercise, the heart of this little bird may beat 1,000 times a minute. Even when it is asleep, the rate of its heartbeat is about 500 times a minute.” --- Edwin Way Teale p 275 Wandering Through Winter

Ever changing view through the windows. Patterns cross my desk – feathery shadows cross my books and papers as wind sets the trees to swaying before the rising sun. More shadows flit as light catches the wings of passing chickadees on their morning rounds. Today they are busy putting finishing touches to their nests, although some chickadees are already firmly settled in waiting for their eggs to hatch. These year-round neighbors go about their business with a charm and aplomb that we never cease to enjoy. What is it that makes them so endearing? Certainly one thing is their black and white cap and face which, like the mask of the raccoon, gives a certain roguish charm. Add to that the delightfully distinctive chick-a-dee-dee-dee call but the to those important traits must be added the essential component of personality
The National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England refers to them as “friendly” and “inquisitive” and mentions that they are “acrobatic” when feeding. The unpretentious, self-assured manner in which these little bits of fluff go about their business, often landing just inches away from us to quickly snatch a seed from a feeder, is in striking contrast to the furtive manner in which larger birds warily scan the landscape and flee in panic at the slightest flutter of leaves or other unexplained movement. Could it be that these little guys are just so small as to be of no interest to predators that would like to feast on a larger bird?
A few weeks ago we were watching in fascination as two chickadees took turns darting in and out of a hole in a small rotted stump just a few feet from the road in the middle of a campground in New Jersey. We were thinking “How exciting to watch this pair feeding their young so close at hand. They must be feeding on a hatch of moths or other insects close by that enables them to keep darting back to their nest so quickly.” And “How bold of them to nest right next to the road in this busy campground.” Then, as we took a closer look through the binoculars, we realized these birds were coming out of the hole with their mouths full. As we watched, we realized that they were apparently pulling dry fibers of soft rotten punk wood from within the stump to line their near by nest. As long as we made no threatening move, they were content to go on with their energetic housekeeping task right beside us. If the rest of us could more often adopt their industrious and self assured live-and-let-live manner, the world would surely be a much better place.

26 Comments:

Blogger Sky said...

lol....they are indeed so cute to watch, and ours provide us with weekly entertainment. i wish all our birds were so audacious! thanks for the bits of information you provided from Teale...fascinating facts.

5:19 AM  
Blogger kerrdelune said...

Endment, I love these wee girls and fellows. In summer they visit the deck every morning, and in winter (along with the nuthatches) they follow us along on our rambles in Lanark. We fill winter feeders up the trail and hang seed bells for them there, and what a welcome they give us when we arrive! There have been many winter mornings when we pottered along on our snowshoes with chickadees sitting on our hats and singing.

7:11 AM  
Anonymous Suzanne said...

The unpretentious little chickadees deserve all the praise you give them in here. They are fascinating birds. Their sounds and songs are so much part of our days from spring to fall, that on the rare days that they are not around (bad weather) we find ourselves worrying about them.

8:37 AM  
Blogger harmonyinline said...

They are charming birds, lovly post

8:53 AM  
Blogger Jimmy said...

I have a pair nesting in my bird house I built for them...they are so much fun to watch...Great post.

9:20 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

I am still so amazed you are able to capture such beautiful photos of birds. THe last one, in flight, was an amazing shot.

I love what you wrote about in the last line. What a difference that would make indeed.
a.

10:14 AM  
Blogger robin andrea said...

Wonderfully documented, great story and fantastic photographs. I love to watch the chickadees fly. They swoop and rise in such graceful arcs. There is such a joyousness in their flight. That last shot is quite spectacular.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Kara said...

Oh, I love the photo of the one in flight with its mouth full. What a nice tribute to these cuties!

7:16 PM  
Anonymous pablo said...

We have chickadees nearly constantly at our backyard feeder. We fill it with safflower seeds (shelled) and they feast all day long. And the sing nicely for us.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Endment said...

Sky
aren't they entertaining?

kerrdelune
we are hoping as time passes that the chickadees will become more friendly... there is a park were we use to go where they would eat out of our hands... dream :)

suzanne
glad you also find joy in their presence

harmonyinline
thank you - it was an experience that I will treasure for a long long time.

jimmy
how nice to have a pair nestng where you can watch them.

andrea
thank you --- I really think we need to find some answers to our relationship problems.

robin andrea
thank you - they are so much fun!

kara
oh yes, i love that one also

pablo -
where do you find shelled safflower seeds?

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am more amazed than ever by your bird photos-- we have some wonderful visitors at the feeder right now including an indigo bunting, but damn if I can't capture a shot to share.

I loved your last lines in this post-- how true!

~bluepoppy

9:35 PM  
Blogger Endment said...

blue poppy
you have my sympathy - I have been trying to get bird photos all day today - have a lot of pictures of blurry and fuzzy leaves:)

9:38 PM  
Blogger silverlight said...

I love Chick-a-Dees. They seem so self satisfied. And self confident. But, that is most likely just me.

12:04 AM  
Blogger TDharma said...

great shots - that last one of the bird flying is fantastic!

may I ask, what camera do you use? I'm in the market for an SLR digital and am curious.

1:16 AM  
Anonymous pablo said...

Endment - we get our shelled safflower seeds at our local Wild Bird Shop, often in 40 pound bags if we're feeling spendthrift. We also get it at, um, WalMart, and the local pet store. I like it because all of the attractive birds (including doves, cardinals, finches, and chickadees) eat it, but the starlings don't like it and stay away. Also, we don't have the problem of the shells killing the grass under the feeder. We pay a little more for it, but it seems worth the price.

5:47 AM  
Blogger Gwyn said...

What a wonderful way to spend a few hours, watching their industry. I have yet to get one to feed from my hand, but it's one of those things I want to do.

I don't know where ours go when the weather warms up. They are constant visitors when the branches are bare, but seem to go elsewhere as the leaves grow.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Mary Ann said...

Chickadees are like dandelions. Only the fact that they're so numerous keeps them from being sought after as everyone's favorite.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Endment said...

silverlight
I love them Mostly because they are so friendly and sympathetic:)

tdharma
I use a Canon EOS Rebel XT with an EF70-300mm lens and a Canon PowerShot S2IS with a telephoto extension lens
We used both cameras for these photos

pablo
thanks - our WalMart doesn't carry shelled safflower seeds and we are half a state away from a Wild Bird Shop guess I will have to find some on line.
I really appreciate the info.

gwyn
during the warm weather I have to keep a close eye out for our chickadees - they are busy nesting and caring for their young ones - If I watch really carefully I can usually find their nests --- once the little ones are hatched, sometimes I can find the nest by listening carefully...
I hope you get them to eat from your hand :)

12:40 PM  
Blogger Endment said...

mary ann
Guess I must like some of the common things of life. I really love chickadees.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Pam in Tucson said...

Wonderful, wonderful photos and another piece of lyric writing to accompany them. Thanks for the info in the Teale quote - fascinating! Chickadees are so sweet - another bird I miss. The first photo would make a wonderful card. Great winged shot with nesting material - congrats!

2:41 PM  
Blogger Susan Gets Native said...

Thank you for a great chickadee fix! I miss my little guys who have fledged...As always, your blog is a joy to visit.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Nan said...

Fabulous shots, especially the one in flight. Aren't chickadees fun to watch? So industrious, as you pointed out. There is a pair in an old apple tree branch outside our bedroom window. The branch is dead and covered with lichen. They've hollowed out a beautiful little cubbyhole that I can clearly see through the binoculars. I'd love to photograph them, but alas, my camera is not up to the task. I will just have to enjoy your lovely photos.

9:53 PM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Such amazing photographs! Thank you for sharing your story about the Chickadee. My husband is a bird-watcher and he's mad about this sort of thing (I've showed him your pieces about birds).

11:30 AM  
Blogger Endment said...

pam in tucson
Glad you like the Teale information. Thanks for your encouragement!

susan kaiholz williams and nan
when I checked out the window a few minutes ago I see there are still little ones in the birdhouse mamma and papa are very busy taking food in through the entrance.

paris parfait
We love chickadees and avid birders ;-)

6:58 PM  
Blogger threecollie said...

I am so grateful that you stop by my blog every now and then, thus reminding me to visit here. Your photos are fabulous! Chickdees are my favorite birds. We have a pair nesting in an ornamental bird house on the front porch. They sit right there and brood with us only inches away. However, I can't get a picture either. You must have incredible patience.

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Paula, Apprentice of Wonder said...

Absolutely fantastic, spectacular photos. I wish I could see and photograph birds this close up.

5:07 PM  

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