Monday, 23 December 2019

Jonah Feeds a Chickadee

22 December 2019

     On a fine winter's day we met up with Kayla and Jonah to do a little birding along the Mill Race Trail in St. Jacobs.
     Kayla is originally from the Toronto area and Jonah from Ottawa, and neither one had ever seen the assembly of Mennonite horses and buggies at a church, so we took them first to the meeting house on Three Bridges Road in order that they might witness this remarkable sight.

     The horses waited patiently at the hitching rails while the service continued inside. And we waited too until a few of the conveyances left so that Kayla and Jonah could take in the whole scene, following which we returned to the start of the Mill Race Trail to begin our walk.
     I have to tell you that Jonah is a beer chemist, a fellow engaged in fermenting, brewing, fusing molecules, alchemy almost, a sophisticated creator of the unique tastes associated with micro breweries - but he has never fed a Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) from the hand. Ergo, his education was clearly incomplete.  Furthermore, when Kayla raised the possibility he scoffed at the very idea. Scoffed, mind you, dismissed the notion as a foolish flight of fancy. Obviously this grave misapprehension had to be rectified and we had brought bird seed along with exactly that aim in mind.
     Chickadees on the Mill Race Trail have been habituated to friendly humans for years and recognize every two-legged creature as a potential source of food.
     It did not take long for Jonah to experience the unique joy of contact with a wild creature. The sheer elation on his face speaks volumes as he follows a bird that had just left his hand with a seed in its bill.

          Once is never enough, of course.

     Kayla was in on the secret all along and knew with certainty what Jonah's reaction would be.

     Some days happiness is a little bird on your hand.
     It was unlikely that this American Crow (Corvus brachyrynchos) would be following the lead of the chickadee!

     The Mill Race looked quite splendid clad in its winter coat.

     At one point a train went over the old trestle bridge, slowly, and almost elegantly it seemed.

     Kayla and Jonah were happy to watch it go by.

     I am sure that this female Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) had other activities to occupy her daylight hours, not the least of which was securing food.

          It was very seldom that several chickadees did not travel with us on the trail, joined by others along the way. Each one represented sheer delight for us.

     The sun was shining, the temperature was mild, there was snow on the ground, the green of conifers all around - it was good to be out and about.

     No stroll along the Mill Race Trail would be complete without a visit to the Eco Café at the St. Jacobs end of the walk. I think that for Jonah it was almost in the nature of a victory celebration. He even got a cookie with his coffee!

     Every year a few Belted Kingfishers (Megacerlye alcyon) tough out the winter and remain on territory rather than migrate. It has always been my theory that males remain behind, accepting the trade-off of cold weather versus migration in order to have a territory established for when the females return in the spring. The birds I have seen in the winter have always been males. Today there were two Belted Kingfishers on the Conestogo River and as the picture below clearly shows one is a female.

     I am inclined to believe that this has something to do with climate change. The temperature was around 4.5° C, whereas the expected value for this period in December is minus 4.1° C. It now appears that mated pairs will, at least sometimes, remain to face the winter together.
     There were expanses of open water on the river, and Kayla had mentioned that she had only ever seen kingfishers in flight and had never seen them perched. Our obliging female dived into the river, caught a fish, went to a perch and swallowed it. The whole performance was staged for Kayla, I have no doubt.
     Chickadees were our companions on the return journey as they had been on the outward leg, and Kayla and I could not resist feeding them again.

     We saw numerous species, but Black-capped Chickadee was the unchallenged star of the day.

     I suspect that Jonah learned a brand new formula today, and it looks like this.....


     ..... where SC = Scoffer Jonah, BCCH = Black-capped Chickadee, resulting in Happiness squared.

     You many not be able to brew beer with it but it is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face on a snowy winter's day.



  1. So amazingly beautiful!

    First time I saw a kingfisher, I was amazed.

  2. Oh c'est super de pouvoir nourrir les oiseaux ainsi.
    Le martin pécheur est très joli.
    Bonne soirée

  3. Wonderful post. I have never seen so many horses and waggons together. Jonah evidently enjoyed the bird contact, great way to make friends with birds. Valerie

  4. I loved the smile on Jonah's face - what a thrill it must have been for him.

  5. Oh yes. Each and every time I am privileged to hand feed birds my smile threatens to split my face.
    And how I love seeing your wintry wonderland.
    Many, many thanks (as always).

  6. How exciting, if just one of our birds would even think about feeding from my hand I would be over the moon. As always great photos. Love the shots of the wagons and horses. Have a great week, Diane

    1. Gotta come to Canada, Diane and we can arrange it.

  7. Hello David,
    Jonah was very lucky! The American crow is very pretty, and the black color is so beautiful. The Crow we have here is grey and black (Corvus cornix).

    1. Jonah was lucky indeed - especially when he met Kayla!

  8. I’ve never seen the Kingfisher fishing so that would be a real treat. The chickadees along the boardwalk are feeding from humans again too.

  9. Such a wondrous, joyous morning!

  10. The nearest I've ever come to that is having my fish and chips dive-bombed by gulls ay Wells harbour and it wasn't a grin that played across my lips as my large cod tumbled into the water to feed the gulls - as nature had intended all along. I do, though, remember that there used to be an old man who would stand in St James's Park in London feeding the sparrows and chaffinches from the hand.

  11. I have experienced chickadees like that and consider myself blessed.

  12. Hello David, A great walk and so nice the Chickadees came to them to feed from their hands. Loveley winter landscape and that Kingfisher is most wonderful to see. The same here with Kingfishers. The male at were I see them stays over winter to make sure of his territorium when the female comes back in Spring. The horses and carages in front of the church makes a loveley photo.

  13. "Some days happiness is a little bird on your hand"
    That's a lovely quote and so true.

    best regards, Corrie

  14. Me encantaría que por aquí también comieran en mis manos, pero se acercan. Un abrazo y felices fiestas.

  15. David - a fabulous post! We have both mountain and black-capped chickadees here, and they are so accustomed to seeing me at the feeders that they will flock around while I am refilling. The key is to put seed in my hand BEFORE I refill! Last week, when our son arrived for Christmas, I had him put the seed in his hand. The SMILE on his face as the birds took turns visiting him! No one can help but grin at these adorable birds! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    1. You are right, Angie, they are quick to recognize the bearer of food. When I refill my feeders I line them up, and before I have had a chance to put the caps back on they are already feeding from them. What a treat! All the best for the holidays and the New Year.

  16. What a wonderful smile on Jonah's face …

    All the best Jan

  17. Querido amigo David, después de unos días de pequeño descanso de nuevo me encuentro por estos lares y me encuentro con esta maravillosa entrada. Estoy seguro que esa bonita y encantadora pareja no olvidaran ese tan emotivo momento de posarse en su mano esa belleza de pájaro para comer unas semillas. Encantadora estampa!!
    Os deseo un Feliz fin de Año y una entrada magistral del nuevo 2020.
    Un cariñoso abrazo amigo y compadre David y un beso para Miriam de vuestro siempre amigo Juan.

  18. I fear my education is lacking in the same way as Jonah's. What an awe inspiring moment that had to have been. And seeing the buggies. I've never seen that either -- not so many, just one or two individually. It looks like a perfect day!

  19. I've never had the experience of hand-feeding a wild bird apart from mallards, and I'm not sure our mallards qualify as wild any longer. The smiles on Jonah and Kayla's faces tell the tale. I have bird feeders up at my new place now, and I hear chickadees from time to time, so perhaps I'll at least have a sighting one of these days.

    1. You'll have to come up here for a visit, Linda, and we will make sure you have the pleasure.

  20. Hello David,
    I have never seen so many horses and wagons together! Wonderful to be able to see that through your eyes now. I also love the snow in your photos. I wish that in the Netherlands we would get a little snoeus. Beautiful birds and also friendly and happy people ;-)
    Dear greetings, Helma

  21. Wonderful to see the Mennonite gathering and look around a little at their way of life. Yes their faces lit up with the little chickadees happily feeding from their hands, and lovely shots of the Mill Race, as too the woodpeckers ... birds are amazing - thank you - cheers Hilary and a very happy 2020