My Little Chickadee

I can’t lay claim to any true relationship with this young Carolina Chickadee, Poecile carolinensis.  Though it isn’t my little chickadee, I confess an affection toward the little bird as it satisfied my selfish desire to observe as it perched, relatively still, and fed for a period of time, long enough for this watcher to watch. 

The neophyte chickadee sat at the feeder, nibbling at the small pieces of peanut available.  No adult chickadee would consent to spend that much time at a feeder;  adult chickadees dash and perch, grab and go.   A mature–and wary–Carolina Chickadee would dart to the feeder, and lickety-split, grab a peanut, or part of a peanut, and sprint out of clear sight to a safe place to eat.  The young chickadee’s inexperience at peanut picking allowed me to watch for several minutes, appreciating its birdie beauty, even though I also recognize that it must be more careful:  move fast or become someone’s meal. 

I observed, then realized that maybe, just maybe, I could capture some of this darling since it was spending an un-chickadee-like amount of time at the feeder.

Successful photos of a Carolina Chickadee?  That’s a rare treat for me!

To its credit, when a parent Blue Jay muscled its way onto the feeder, the young bird flit to the tree, then to the cord from which the feeder hangs, then safely to an evergreen shrub.  Once the jay was done, the chickadee settled in for more of the peanut treats. 

Chickadees’ tiny beaks are better suited for gleaning spiders and other small insects from trees and shrubs, the birds protected by cover of foliage.  Their beaks are not as well designed to quickly dismantle a hard-coated seed or good-sized peanut, especially while acting as a sitting duck at a feeder.  A wise and experienced chickadee will snatch, fly, and eat under cover–and live to raise a clutch of his or her own.

A week or so ago, I watched as an adult Carolina Chickadee zoomed in from a neighbor’s property, grabbed a nosh–sometimes a peanut, sometimes a black-oiled sunflower.  It then zoomed back in the same direction, followed immediately by another adult, completing the same set of actions.  I realized that it was a couple, working in tandem, probably feeding hungry and growing chick(s).  I don’t know if this chickadee belonged to that clutch, but I’m confident that it is young, newly experiencing a dangerous world, finding its way to food and cover. 

Fledgling birds must learn many survival skills, including making high–speed trips to feeders and lightening retreats to safety.  As they perfect those skills, my ability to easily observe diminishes–as it should. 

My little chickadee’s life depends on well-learned lessons and well-executed skills. 

Just Like Dear Ole Dad

Fledgling season is here:  newby birds, feathers ready for some facet of flight, are out of the nest and onto branches, and sometimes, also on the ground.  This juvenile Northern CardinalCardinalis cardinalis, is, well, smack in his awkward teenage weeks.  Splotchy and skinny, he’s hanging out with dad, learning where the best feeders and bird baths are located and how to hide in trees and shrubs.  Dad is quite good looking, but his good looks only serve to emphasized junior’s lack thereof.

This isn’t a recent pic of dad;  he posed for this pic in late winter, plumage pulchritude on full display, brightening the dull landscape.  Dad Cardinal is a pretty bird, his cardinal colors pop in any garden spot.  His song, equally as beautiful.

Mom is pretty too, though not quite the head-turner as her mate. Her soft, creamy-like tan and grey feathers, accented with bits of blush at her crest and on her tail, plus her stylish orange-red beak, lend an elegance that appeals to her admirers.

 

Poor junior.  He’ll need to wait, just a bit longer, to tap into his gorgeous genes.

He will be a pretty guy some day, just like dear ole dad, 

…but today is not that day.

I’m joining with Anna at Flutter and Hum and her Wednesday Vignette.  Mosey on over for garden stories and pretty birds…or not.  

Bird Watcher?

As spring bird migration swings through Texas, I’ve spent a fair few evenings on my back patio, with cell phone, binoculars, and camera all at the ready.  The cell phone is my link to Merlin, Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s bird identification app for phones; the binoculars help me with those close-up views of tiny, flighty birds;  the camera is handy, utilized in the hope of a decent photo of something, preferably a something with feathers.

I was about to wrap the watching up one evening, not too long before sundown and after an evening’s birding bust, when this fella slinked out from the limestone rocks which are dry-stacked around the waterfall of my pond.  

This slivery thing is the neighborhood’s resident Texas Rat snake, Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri.  Yes, it’s still around and for this particular appearance, didn’t annoy the Blue Jays, as it did when I last saw it, which you can read about here

I was quite shocked at the snake’s arrival and bumbled as I grabbed my camera; I managed only one decent shot of this lovely creature.  After a sip near the waterfall, and a languid look-see, it lifted its head and with the rest of its long body following, gracefully moved up and over and into the cavern that the piled rocks have created.

Named after one of its prey, Rat snakes also eat bird eggs and birds, especially chicks still in their nests.  I imagine Rat snakes will eat anything smaller than themselves.  I haven’t seen the snake since, nor have I removed the rocks to check if he/she is curled up, hidden from others’ eyes. I doubt the snake is there, as I’m pretty sure it was just a stop-over resting spot, supplying water and maybe, a meal.  Also, if the snake was still there, the Blue Jays would have, by now and vociferously, announced its presence.  There are toads in and around the pond, so rather than snagging a warbler for a meal, I’ll bet it was hunting toad.  Funnily enough, I’ve always fretted, just a little, about a mouse or rat setting up housekeeping under those rocks.  I guess I can now scratch that concern off my list. 

As to warbler watching, that evening hobby has ended: the warblers are apparently winging through Texas on a different path, or set of paths, and avoiding my garden.  It’s been well over a week since my last warbler sighting.  I know migratory birds are still observed in Texas, evidenced by birders posting on Facebook’s Birds of Texas group, chronicling the birds’ northward travels to find their mates and create their families.  

Darn.  Oh well, I’ll always have the snake.

I’m joining in today with Anna and her Wednesday Vignette.  Sometimes the vignettes are about gardening, sometimes not, but they’re always fun.