Friday, May 3, 2013

Of Nesting Chickadees and Serendipity

I believe that when I am exploring nature, if I get a whim or if something catches my eye then I should follow that whim or object and see where it leads.  I may not always see what I want to see, but I believe that I see what I was meant to see.  Sometimes I end up wandering into the right place, other times those moments where I follow whims delays me until the right time.  Some of my most fortunate discoveries and favorite photographs have come about this way.  Serendipity has a way of putting us in the right place at the time we meant to be there.

Today I went to Mission Creek Park in Mt. Pleasant with the hopes of photographing Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) in the Northern Hardwood - Conifer Swamp that borders Mission Creek.  I did not find any Marsh Marigold in bloom until I had walked most of the length of the trail, when I saw a patch of bright yellow in the cedars off the the Northeast.

Walking toward the patch of what could only be Marsh Marigolds, I came upon something even more fortunate.  Serendipity - an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident; fortune, luck.

A pair of Black-Capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) was excavating a nest site in a punky half-rotten tree.  Chickadees will use a previously existing hole, but prefer to excavate their own.  If you want to attract them to a nest box, try filling it completely with wood shaving- they will remove the amount they want.

Below are some of the photos of the pair as they excavated the hole.  Each bird would bob in and out of the hole a few times, removing soft wood and then fly off to drop it.  The other Chickadee would then take its place.

After a while, one of the Chickadees came up and perched on a branch about six feet away from me.  How do I know it was six feet?  Six foot is the minimum focusing distance on the lens I was using.  I kept having to lean back slightly to keep the bird in focus.

A short time later, the second bird decided to come and investigate me too.  This one stayed slightly further away, maybe eight foot.

Having decided that a.) I was not a threat and b.) that I was not food, the pair went back to excavating their hole.  I moved around the tree to get a more direct angle.

All in all, I spent about ten minutes watching this pair.  They kept working away as I left them to their business.  With hard work they probably finished their nesting cavity by the end of the day.  For more on these remarkable little birds visit this page.

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