Saturday, January 6, 2018

Black-capped Chickadee

Since 2018 has been dubbed the Year of the Bird by the National Geographic Society and yesterday was National Bird Day, it seems fitting that the first blogpost of the year should be about birds. Few birds represent the wild majesty of winter like Snowy Owls, but the birds that flit about just outside our homes all year long can be just as beautiful in their own right.

Ubiquitous across New England is the diminutive Black-capped Chickadee, sprightly, courageous, looks a bit buttoned up but full of spit and fire. Audubon has this picture of one in winter:

(That I don't have a photo of my own of one of these small fluffers in winter to upload indicates that I, too, take them for granted.)

If you live in the region put a bird feeder up in your yard and give it about 24 hours. One of these guys will show up. Give them time to get used to you and they'll light on your hand to snatch a bit of seed. When their chattering isn't full of snark and attitude, they'll sound a lovely two-note call, the second note a bit lower in pitch. "Spring soon," is how some have translated it, and consider that call a sign of winter's passing. The naturalist John Burroughs said they have "a voice full of unspeakable tenderness and compassion." In Birds and Poets, he wrote:
The chickadee is indeed a truly Emersonian bird, and the poet shows him to be both a hero and a philosopher. Hardy, active, social, a winter bird no less than a summer, a defier of both frost and heat, lover of the pine-tree, and diligent searcher after truth in the shape of eggs and larvae of insects, preeminently a New England bird, clad in black and ashen gray, with a note the most cheering and reassuring to be heard in our January woods,—I know of none other of our birds so well calculated to captivate the Emersonian muse.
There it is, a Yankee bird through and through. Listen when you step outside. Good birding.