Saturday, April 13, 2013

Oh Yes I Chickadid


I'm as surprised as anybody. Apparently I am going to write about my chickadees again, just as I have every spring since I started this Murrmurrs enterprise, in spite of the fact that I have been observing chickadees closely for all that time and have nothing new to report. There's never anything new. I still can't tell them apart. I don't know if Ricky and Lucy are back again or if it's their grandchildren. I don't know who's egging and who's fertilizing. I don't know if they know.

We (Dave) took the chickadee house down for the winter and hauled out the old mattress and swabbed the decks and a couple weeks ago Dave began to get antsy about getting it back out there in time for nesting season. I didn't think they really started nesting until later in April, but we (Dave) put it back out there and fifteen minutes later a couple stopped by to have a look. And they looked ready to make an offer.

The birdhouse in question is mounted on a pole eighteen inches from the window in my writing room. The writing room is a place where I sit down and things either come out or they don't, much like another room in this house. What the writing process looks like, to the casual spectator, is a nearly motionless woman sitting in front of a computer with her head cranked to the side to stare out the window. The charitable observer might assume that she is staring into the middle distance waiting for her muse to strike, but she is not. She is staring at chickadees and not writing at all.

This writer does not employ a muse. Perhaps the chickadees are your muse, I've heard, and that is an adorable possibility, but there are muses, and then there are muses. Mine would be the sort that says "lighten up, dude, you don't have to get that done today--what say we go out and get hammered," which is a fun, if not useful, muse. It's all fine with me. I'm not the kind of person who thinks watching birds is a waste of time. But for all intents and purposes, I do not have a muse, nor am I aware of any angels working on my behalf. If I do have angels, they are shootin' the angel breeze with each other and shrugging and saying you're on your own, kid. (As long as we're on the subject of spiritual squatters, I would like to take this opportunity to deny emphatically that I've got the devil in me, despite what you may have heard. Those noises are coming from a perfectly natural bacterial process.) I'm getting through life without any supernatural aid that I know of, but I do have a matched set of spring chickadees I can count on.

And I do mean matched. This is the year I am bound and determined to observe them so strenuously that I will be able to tell them apart. I've started researching on the internet, but I'm not sure I can count on everything I read. So far I've learned that chickadees eat seeds (check), insects (check), and skunk
fat (whuh?), which I think would annoy the skunk, and who does that more than once? But I will soldier on. We here at Murrmurrs are very concerned about the rights of women and gays, extinction,
poop, war, and the fate of the planet, and we assume you are too. But if you would rather hear about my chickadees, stay tuned.

Because it's nesting season, and there's a lot going on right now in a sky near you. There's singing and dancing and fluffing and puffing and casing and chasing and if you haven't noticed any of it, it's time to pull your head out. Up. I meant Up.

37 comments:

  1. The birds are all facinating.

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  2. W.C. Fields would be proud of you for choosing the chickadee.

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    1. Ah, thanks for invoking him! Actually, I think the chickadees chose me.

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  3. Well really, how DO you tell them apart? It's not like they have wear-and-tear marks on their tail fins like the whales do to set them apart from one another. Although, to them, I suppose there's an unrelenting sameness to US ... "those featherless nincompoops that are always staring at us all look alike".

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    1. There's got to be another way of telling whales apart. Got to be a big way.

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  4. I suppose that it is only important that they know how to tell the difference between them. Our curiosity is irrelevant to everything, although it does make for a fun blog post! Enjoy the birds, Murr.

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    1. I think my curiosity has a way of being even more irrelevant than most.

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  5. Chickadees probably can't tell us apart either.

    How do I get one of those "muse" jobs? I know they don't pay well, but all you have to do is sit there and be contemplated by people who then blame themselves if you fail to inspire them. I could handle that.

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    1. Hee! If there's anything better than a new Murr, it's a new batch of Murr-comments.

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    2. I am partial to Infidel753 comments myself. Plus, if there is anything I really don't feel like doing the research on, I can just heave in something half-assed and he'll explain it all in a comment.

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  6. Bring on the chickadee posts. Chickadees and crows are the two most visible of the birds that don't desert us in the far northern winters, and while I appreciate crows for their brains and chutzpah, I love little chickadees with their cheerful attitude and their tune that never grows old :)

    Those are some fine pictures.

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    1. Well, I'm eighteen inches away. Through a window. Should probably clean that window.

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  7. My big ambition is to someday be able to tell a sharp-shinned from a Cooper's. Individual chickadees are going to need name tags if they want me to tell them apart.

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    1. That's a birder joke. There IS no difference between a sharpie and a Cooper's. They tell you there is, and send you out after it, and they're all back there giggling like mad.

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  8. I am glad to hear that the common chickadee can capture a good writer such as you each spring.

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    1. Thanks. I'm easily captured. I don't move much.

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  9. You knew I would love this post......now that I am a fool for Finches I voraciously gobble up anything with "bird" implications.

    I love chickadees too....wish I could help you tell Ma from Pa....usually the female is much more drab,(unlike us) but with the chickadee there isn't much dramatic plumage to work with is there?

    Please keep us updated.

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    1. Oh I'm glad you said that. Because, yes, there is another chickadee post coming up.

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  10. Not a lot of nesting in these parts at this time...but the red-tailed black cockatoos (not a made-up bird)are hanging around, tip-pruning terminalias and hurling the leaves and nuts at anyone daft enough to stand within range.
    For comparison...I think a chickadee is about the size of a rtbc bill.

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    1. Not quite, but just a few hours from the famous dinosaur stampede tracks. :-)
      http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/places/national/dinosaur-stampede/lark-quarry/lark-quarry.html

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  11. You made me Google "skunk fat". No one's ever done that to me before. The things people think of ...

    http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/museum/artifacts/archives/003166.asp

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    1. Great article! I especially like the bit about the medicinal use of skunk fat to induce vomiting. I could induce vomiting just by THINKING about it. And now, for you, a quote from Animal Diversity Web:

      "Animal foods consist mainly of insects and spiders. Caterpillars are preferred in the breeding season. Chickadees have been observed eating deer or skunk fat and fish."

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  12. Skunk fat??? To each their own.

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  13. Time spent watching birds is NEVER wasted. Despite what some people think and say. They are WRONG. Completely.
    And chickadees look well worth watching too. I am glad that they seem to have closed on that offer.

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    1. Someone's been putting the mattress together in there for the last three days. Probably from IKEA.

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  14. the only birds I like to watch are yellow-headed double breasted bed thrashers.

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  15. Having chickadees for muses is no bad thing. I have pigeons which are no use at all in the creative endeavor department.

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    1. The nicest word I can come up with for pigeons is "delicious," but they do remind me of the New Yorker cartoon where a spurned male pigeon is menacing a female and saying "what? Not puffy enough for you?"

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  16. When incubating eggs, the female will sometimes beg for food like a nestling until the male comes to bring her a caterpillar. That's the best way I know of to differentiate the chickadee sexes, if only momentarily.

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    1. "Momentarily" is the key here. Like when the egg pops out.

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  17. Hey Murr! Yes, I am returned! But wait, what? Oh MY, what a superb rationale - may I please use your "perfectly natural bacterial process" excuse then next time I cut cheese in front of my girlfriend? Look, I can't get out of bed for all of them, I'd never sleep. And it's less expensive than getting a dog to blame. Roth

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    1. You're back! You reminded me that I once got in a seldom-used elevator and farted and then, to my horror, a guy got on the next floor. With his dog. Whom he apologized for, after another few seconds.

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