Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Chickadees of Reefer Creek

Lake Superior and, in particular, our little corner of it makes for some interesting bird behavior. Rafts of bluebills, one of the tastier diver ducks, are bobbing on Chequamagon Bay and Bark Bay Slough although the giant rafts of a thousand birds have not been seen for a few years now. Birds that can't land on the water tend to funnel down the north shore of the lake and cross when they are confident they can make it to the other side. Hawk Ridge in Duluth has a seasonal average of 94,000 raptors (hawks, eagles, falcons, etc) that soar past in the fall and its a spectacular sight. Many other birds cross before they get to Duluth and a lot of them cross squarely at our camp on Reefer Creek. The GurneyGranny, an avid birder as well as deer hunter, has identified countless species and entered them in the camp journal. I tend to aggravate her, sometimes on purpose, with my egregious bird misidentification but the one guy I can always identify is my old buddy the Black-capped Chickadee.

I had mentioned in an earlier post that I bring bird feed up in the deer stand because I enjoy chickadee company and also because they tend to distract the deer with their movement. Another reason I like them is because they hang around in the winter and don't head south like other birds and elderly snow-phobic retirees. We collect the fat and suet from our deer and hang it, and the carcasses, on the buck pole for the enjoyment and nourishment of the local bird population throughout the winter. This year there was a particularly social and friendly crop of chickadees in the area, and some truly bold birds paid me a visit up in the spruce tree. Most had no problem landing on my rifle and carrying off seeds. Apparently researchers have found that the chickadee brain can remember up to a thousand seed hiding places in various nooks and crannies of the forest.
They also seemed to have no problem landing on my head. I could feel them land but just barely. A number of times I had multiple landings but holding the camera out at arms length got tiring so the best shot was of these two, one on the brim and one on the crown.

Only the boldest chickadees would land on my hand. At first they wouldn't stay long but after they discovered my hand was more comfortable than some gnarly twig they would spend some time. My guess is they only weigh a couple ounces because their weight was barely discernible.

It was loads of fun photographing and playing with the chickadees. There were fat ones, skinny ones, big ones, and little ones. Ones that sat and looked me in the eye and others that bored in, grabbed their seed, and were outta there. Fellow members of the camp that read this may be thinking, 'what the hell was he doing playing with the chickadees when he should have been focused on hunting'? I guess all I can say to that is...check the buck pole. And my freezer.

1 comment:

Lynne said...

These are some neat pictures! I've never had the honor of having a chickadee land on me but my husband had a similar experience to yours while hunting a few years ago.