Monday, January 11, 2010

January 11: A Bird in the Hand

My husband Paul recently sent an email to his co-workers delighting in the fact that he was hearing a chickadee singing its two-note "fee-bee" courting song. He saw it as an early sign of spring, something to give us hope as we shiver through the next few months. (I personally think it was just a typically over-eager male.)

While I haven't heard any chickadee love songs at my work feeder, I was pleasantly surprised this morning to observe a flurry of feeding activity there. The little guys can be quite fickle about their feeding stations. They can also be picky about their seeds, sometimes picking up and discarding several in succession until they find just the right one to carry away.

One of Paul's co-workers shared a story with him today about how after reading the chickadee email, he was encouraged to go out and buy a 50-pound bag of black sunflower seed. This past weekend before he filled the feeders, he sat on his deck with an open handful of seed. Here's how he describes what happened: "For five minutes nothing happened. Then three chickadees came investigating, doing reconnaissance swoops through the nearby trees... After ten long minutes, one jumped on my finger, glared at me angrily, grabbed a seed and took off... I was amazed and pleased. Never had that happen before. Felt like St. Francis." Saint Francis is, of course, the patron saint of birds, often depicted with outstretched arms bedecked with his feathered friends. According to legend, his "sister birds" would flock to him while he preached of the god who gave them the gift of feathers and flight.

My husband was of course thrilled that his email had indirectly contributed to such a memorable experience. There's something special about having a wild creature perch on you, as if you've been chosen somehow: the blur of wingbeat, something very light but very alive clinging to your finger with tiny feet for just an instant, then a cheeky glance from a beady black eye before the bird grabs a seed and flits away...

From your patient palm,
it takes the seed offering--
a form of blessing.

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