By Rebecca Phelps, Conservation Education Coordinator
Crystal clear cold winter days are best for adventures in Vermont State Parks. I plopped my 14 month old daughter in our backpack carrier and headed out on the trail at Gifford Woods State Park recently. We were greeted by the dark blue winter sky, pure white snow underfoot, and the greeters of winter forests in New England, a flock of black-capped chickadees.
Chickadees are friendly and curious birds. Because they check out everything in their home range, they are often the first birds that find new feeders. They seem very friendly because their curiosity extends to investigating human beings. Watching them has brightened many dull winter days.
When you think about bird watchers, your mind may conjure up the image of someone with binoculars around their neck, a notebook in one hand, a spotting scope in the other, and a well-worn Sibley Guide to Birds poking out of their back pocket. You may imagine an eccentric person who wakes up far too early to travel hundreds of miles to spot a new bird. If you take time to closely watch birds in their habitat, you will understand the enthusiasm for watching these avian animals.
Hiking through Gifford Woods that day, my daughter and I heard the distinctive calls of a flock of chickadees. We heard their call that sounds like "fee-bee" with the second note lower than the first. You can also commonly hear their distinctive "chickadee-dee-dee" call.
We heard those calls and decided to become bird watchers. This is what you need to do to take a close look at birds in their habitat. I looked for a low tree to stand under-we found a small spruce that provided some shelter. I began to make a "pssh....pssh...pssh..." noise with my mouth over and over, very quickly chickadees started flying in closer and closer.
Chickadees are our companions on winter days. They do not mind the cold, they stick around rather than migrate like some other birds. I love watching them fly closer and closer, calling back at me. The flock at Gifford Woods landed around us on the small spruce branches, calling back to me and to each other. There is nothing more thrilling for a young child than seeing wild animals close up. Actually, there is nothing more thrilling for an adult either!
Head out into the Vermont woods and look for these winter friends yourself. You will see chickadees in any habitat with woody shrubs and trees. Watch for them at your bird feeders or call them in close and get a really close up look at them. When you stop to watch them you will discover that they are mesmerizing to watch and delightful to listen to.
By: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Then piped a tiny voice hard by
Gay and polite, a cheerful cry
"Chicka-dee-dee!" saucy note
Out of a sound heart and merry throat
As if it said, "Good day, good sir!
Fine afternoon, old passenger!
Happy to meet you in these places
Where January brings few faces.