12 November 2008

The birds of winter

In a climate like we have here on Manitoulin Island, the movements of migratory birds are among the pleasures of the changing seasons. But i must confess a special affection for the birds who don't migrate at all, but stay here through the winter — the blue jays, woodpeckers, nuthatches, and above all, the chickadees. Unlike the raucous and greedy jays, they rarely fight at the feeder; they wait their turn, zoom in and grab a seed, and zip off to a nearby perch to eat or stash it. I like the way they fly, too — in aphoristic bursts of wingflapping, allowing themselves to fall a bit between bursts. Bloggers and journal keepers write the way chickadees fly.

The way they move, call and occasionally sing, it's hard not to see them as cheerful, friendly little tykes. And fearless, too. They'll eat out of your hand if you can manage to hold still for a minute or two. If the feeder's empty, they let me know by calling when they see me, or landing on a branch inches away from my head and staring at me pointedly. A few days ago, one of them flew right up to me and hovered fluttering about a foot in front of my face for a second or two. I got the message, and refreshed the supply of sunflower seeds. But i also tried to say a few cheerful words of my own, and i trust that they understand my clumsy language as well as i understand theirs.

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