Christie’s Chronicles: A window’s-eye view

DSC_7543 A black-capped chickadee is photographed on a sunny morning in Marquette County.

Seeing the world from my kitchen window this time of year is limiting, yet full of wonder. First of all, frost in a variety of patterns often covers the window, which in itself is really aesthetic. In the vein of no two snowflakes being alike, no two frost patterns seem to be alike either. They can resemble either a drawing of Old Man Winter, Upper Peninsula-style with a Stormy Kromer hat; TV screen static; or something in between — but always different.

This sort of gives you something to look forward to when you wake up, but that tells you how much excitement I sometimes have in my life.

When the frost leaves a hole big enough to see part of my side yard, my eyes move back and forth to see what is making its way through my little part of Michigan.

Having bird feeders helps.

Birds usually are adept enough to find their own food, but people like me simply like to watch birds, and chumming them with sunflower seed, shelled peanuts and the like is an easy way to attract them.

So, in my beady-eyed, early-morning, pre-caffeine, mascara-free perusals from the window, I have noticed that birds have personalities, and sometimes within their own species.

Black-capped chickadees, upon their demises, should have smiley faces etched onto their grave markers in case they ever have them (and I think that’s an idea worth considering). Happy little fellows, they dart in and out of our white pine trees, spending a second or two getting a seed and then darting back to the tree.

In between the feedings, I hear their cheery calls.

I read that this is a typical feeding pattern of the chickadee. The National Wildlife Federation says chickadees have a penchant for storing food and eating it later. This means they typically don’t hang around a feeder very long.

They also don’t seem to mind me getting fairly close. This is fine by me. I used to write and edit a children’s nature magazine, and one young reader cleverly called them “orca birds” because of their black-and-white color patterns.

They also have a pleasant, two-note song. Anyone who doesn’t feel better after hearing it has something wrong with them, although I have another story related to my past nature job.

I was told an employee at another agency, whose full name I did not learn, came back from a hike, complaining of the chickadee’s supposedly incessant, tormenting song.

He reportedly interpreted it as, “I hate you. I hate you.”

This is pretty warped stuff. I don’t look at my yard-chickadees and think of them as feathered marauders wanting to peck out my eyes. They just want to peck at my black oil sunflower seed.

Some people are less-than-enamored of blue jays. They believe they are obnoxious bullies, oblivious to the fact that as members of the corvid — not COVID — family that includes ravens and crows, they are intelligent, at least compared with my pug, Susie Q.

A few years ago I had put out fresh bird seed, and a blue jay showed up. It then looked around and called as if it were ringing the dinner bell for its mates.

Blue jays also have blue — my favorite color, by the way — in their monikers and plumage. So, two points for them.

During the polar vortex season of 2013-14, our yard had an irruption — an ornithological term for the migration of northern-wintering birds migrating to the south. Yes, in this case, the U.P. was the south. Common redpolls, pine siskins and red crossbills descended on our property in numbers not seen since at our house.

It was the highlight of an otherwise soul-crushing season.

Anyway, back to present-day observations.

We have a semi-dead maple tree that doesn’t look too bad this time of year. The leaves fell off in the fall, so now it resembles just a typical deciduous tree missing most of its leaves in the winter instead of the more obvious summertime demise-in-the-making.

The tree, though, is woodpecker heaven. I love to watch giant pileated woodpeckers pound on the bark. This woodpecker species isn’t that uncommon in these parts, but they always fascinate me. And they too don’t seem to mind my presence.

When and if the time comes to have the tree cut down, I will feel a bit sad. Will the local pileateds mount an attack on us in retaliation? I doubt it. This isn’t “The Birds,” but the Woody Woodpecker lookalikes do like their dead trees.

Before I leave you, let me tell you about our Baltimore oriole visits in 2020. We had an oriole feeder up for years. We’d spear orange halves on it, waiting in vain for the brightly colored neotropical migrants to stop by.

Finally, an oriole discovered the feeder last year and even made return trips. I didn’t mind that it let loose a little oriole puddle on our lawn.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Christie Mastric is a staff writer at The Mining Journal. Contact her at cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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