Some of you might be wondering how Project New Chickadee came out.
I last saw my personal chickadee Studley Windowson on August 3, 2021. I remember the date because I made note of it the last three times he popped over to my hand for a mealworm (August 1, 2, and 3). Because I had a feeling. Couldn’t tell you now what I was picking up on; I did know he and Marge had been working on some new birds that spring and something went wrong, and maybe Studley was depressed. Also, he looked pretty shabby but that’s normal for August.
He was a hell of a bird.
I just read something about the difference between crows and chickadees. The writer was encouraging people to toss peanuts to local crows because you could get a personal relationship. She said chickadees might land on your hand, but “they’ll land on anyone; the crows know who you are, and the chickadees don’t.”
Anyway, we miss Studley terribly. And meanwhile, we have new chickadees. I was hoping a couple of them would check out our battered old birdhouse and I could entice them with my mealworms and keep this whole love train on the tracks. The nest box is right outside my window and I can slide my hand out there with a mealworm on it and when they get really desperate, they might take a chance on me. That set the hook the last time.
Sure enough, we got a nesting pair of new recruits in the rental. Everything was going great but then when it was the right time for eggs to hatch—it’s never off by more than a day or so—there was nothing. By mid-June I knew we didn’t have hatchlings and the mealworm express was not going to leave the station.
But there was at least one chickadee hanging out in our hibiscus that keeps an eye on me instead of flying away. He can’t quite bring himself to take a worm from my palm but he clearly knows what I have and, I think, who I am. I stand by the shrub with my hand out and say “I was friends with your Dad,” and he chikkits in a conversational tone. He says Hi when I walk by. The last of Studley’s fledglings, in 2020, hung out with him in that same shrub, and when Studs noticed the kid was trying to edge in on his worm franchise, he’d spank him. My stash, he said, Go find your own human.
Well, I think this is the same bird.
Last week I finally opened the nest box to see what was what. And sure enough, there was a completed nest, with fourteen speckled eggs inside. Abandoned. That’s two years in a row.
I happened to be by the window this spring wondering if I had birds or not when I saw a chickadee arrow into the nest box hole with a scrub jay right on his heinie. And the jay briefly hovered at the box, as best it could. That sucks, I thought. There’s no possibility a bird will successfully fledge if an assassin could pluck it right out of its box. I think New Chickadees had the same idea. Studley and Marge, too. It’s just too risky. We used to have a cascara tree there with lots of branches and leaves, but it came down on New Year’s Eve 2019 (THWUMP, it said). I worried that the June sun might cook the eggs but I hadn’t really thought about how exposed the box was to characters of ill intent. My new cascara isn’t big enough to be helpful yet.
I took the nest box down. I’m not putting it back until we get more leafage.
But I’ll be hanging out by the feeder with my palm out this winter when the pickin’s are slim. I have mealworms, I have a chickadee, and I have faith.
Happy birthday, Dave!