I was out cutting back masses of catmint that have overflowed the perennial beds when I heard a persistent beeping noise coming from beneath some of the blooming purple spires. This beeping continued as I parted the clumps of catmint all around me to discover the sweetest little 1-inch ball of fluff. A young black-capped chickadee had landed in the heap of perennials beneath a group of tall maples and evergreens and seemed trapped, very still, and shocked. It appeared to be between a nestling and a fledgling, not quite successfully fending for itself. I looked all around for its parents or a possible nest for about ten minutes, and not seeing any or hearing its parents, I gently cupped my gloved hands and scooped it up. The truth is, I was thinking that my beagle would eat this little bird, and that would be unnecessary. For those who are reading who think it’s wrong to touch a baby bird and that its parents will reject it afterwards — I knew that’s simply a myth. Read on!
The baby bird was too adorable not to share, so I walked toward the house and called Son outside from his World Cup haze. He couldn’t stop smiling, wanting to make the little bird a nest in a box and raise it until it could fly away. We’ve raised enough baby chicks to know how quickly birds grow and leave the nest. Instead I suggested we look again for its parents, so after he got the camera we walked back over to the perennials and began taking photos. The chickadee did not want to leave Son’s hand; it loved gripping on so much that it promptly pooped. Both the gripping and the pooping are signs of good health!
After a few minutes with this little sweetie we heard the the distinctive call of the chickadee, and soon two birds, presumably the parents, circled around us. One perched on the branch of a young dogwood right next to us and watched us, singing away. I think perhaps I’d met these two when I filled their thistle seed feeder in the morning. 😉 Honestly, we have dozens of chickadees here. The baby didn’t answer them but seemed alert. I suggested we put it down, and Son decided to reach out his hand to see if the baby would ease onto the dogwood branch. What happened next surprised us both, as one parent bird immediately flew in to feed the baby while my son held it. We were in awe.
Over the course of a few minutes, this intimacy happened again and again.
When the baby bird seemed to have gathered strength, Son lowered his hand and the baby hopped and fluttered its way onto a bush. We watched it for a while and felt secure in the fact it could survive and hopefully thrive at Coppertop. I find myself wishing that I could track it somehow, but perhaps it’s even more satisfying to imagine that every chickadee I see is connected to us as familiarly as this baby bird.