Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 37 – Black-capped Chickadee

Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE

 CHAPTER 37 – Farewells and Welcomes

All through the long summer Peter Rabbit watched his feathered friends and learned things in regard to their ways he never had suspected. As he saw them keeping the trees of the Old Orchard free of insect pests and working in Farmer Brown’s garden, and picking up the countless seeds of weeds everywhere, he began to understand something of the wonderful part these feathered folks have in keeping the Great World beautiful and in balance.

He had many a hearty laugh as he watched the bird babies learn to fly and to find their own food. All summer long they were going to school all about him, learning how to watch out for danger, to use their eyes and ears, and all the things a bird must know who would live to grow up.

As autumn drew near Peter discovered that his friends were gathering in flocks, roaming here and there. It was one of the first signs that summer was nearly over, and it gave him just a little feeling of sadness. He heard few songs now, for the singing season was over. Also he discovered that many of the most beautifully dressed of his feathered friends had changed their finery for traveling suits in preparation for the long journey to the far South where they would spend the winter. In fact he actually failed to recognize some of them at first.

September came, and as the days grew shorter, some of Peter’s friends bade him goodbye. They were starting on the long journey, planning to take it in easy stages for the most part. Each day saw some slip away. As Peter thought of the dangers of the long trip before them he wondered if he would ever see them again. Some who were there lingered even after Jack Frost’s first visit. Welcome and Mrs. Robin, Winsome and Mrs. Bluebird, Little Friend the Song Sparrow and his wife were among these. By and by even they were required to leave.

Sad indeed and lonely would these days have been for Peter had it not been that with the departure of the friends he had spent so many happy hours with came the arrival of certain other friends from the Far North where they had made their summer homes. Some of these stopped for a few days in passing. Others came to stay, and Peter was kept busy looking for and welcoming them.

There were a few old friends who would stay the year through. Sammy Jay, Downy and Hairy the Woodpeckers were a few amongst others. And there was one whom Peter loved dearly. It was DeeDee the Chickadee.

Blue sky highlighting a birch tree home similar to DeeDee the Chickadees.

Now DeeDee had not gone north in the spring. In fact, he had made his home not very far from the Old Orchard. It just happened that Peter hadn’t found that home, and had caught only one or two glimpses of DeeDee. Now, with household cares ended and his good size family properly started in life, DeeDee was no longer interested in the snug little home he had built in a hollow birch stub, and he and Mrs. Chickadee spent their time flitting about hither, thither, and yon, spreading good cheer. Every time Peter visited the Old Orchard he found him there, and as DeeDee was always ready for a bit of merry chatting, Peter soon had a winter friend to fill in for Jenny Wren’s spring and summer conversations.

“Don’t you dread the winter, DeeDee?” asked Peter one day, as he watched DeeDee clinging head down to a twig as he picked some tiny insect eggs from the under side.

“Not a bit,” replied DeeDee. “I like winter. I like cold weather. It makes a fellow feel good from the tips of his claws to the tip of his bill. I’m thankful I don’t have to take that long journey most of the birds have to. I discovered a secret a long time ago, Peter; shall I tell it to you?”

“Please do,” responded Peter. “You know how I love secrets.”

“Well,” replied DeeDee, “this is it: If a fellow keeps his stomach filled he will keep his toes warm.”

Peter looked a little puzzled. “I don’t just see what your stomach has to do with your toes,” he said.

DeeDee chuckled. It was a lovely throaty little chuckle. “Dee, dee, dee!” he said. “What I mean is, if a fellow has plenty to eat he will keep the cold out, and I’ve found that if a fellow uses his eyes and isn’t afraid of a little work, he can find plenty to eat. At least I can. The only time I ever get really worried is when the trees are covered with ice. If it were not that Farmer Brown’s boy is thoughtful enough to hang a piece of suet in a tree for me, I should dread those ice storms more than I do. As I said before, plenty of food keeps a fellow warm.”

“I thought it was your coat of feathers that kept you warm,” said Peter.

“Oh, the feathers help,” replied DeeDee. “Food makes heat and a warm coat keeps the heat in the body. And so the heat has got to be there first, or the feathers will do no good. It’s just the same way with your own self, Peter. You know you are never really warm in winter unless you have plenty to eat.”

“That is so,” replied Peter thoughtfully. “I never happened to think of it before. Just the same, I don’t see how you find food enough on the trees when they are all bare in winter.”

“Dee, Dee, Dee, Chickadee! Leave that matter just to me,” chuckled DeeDee. “You know that a lot of different kinds of bugs lay eggs on the twigs and trunks of trees. Those eggs would stay there all winter and in the spring hatch out into lice and worms if it were not for me. Why, sometimes in a single day I find and eat almost five hundred eggs of those little green plant lice that do so much damage in the spring and summer. Then there are little worms that bore in just under the bark, and there are other creatures who sleep the winter away in little cracks in the bark. Oh, there is plenty for me to do in the winter. I am one of the policemen of the trees. Downy and Hairy the Woodpeckers, Seep-Seep the Brown Creeper and Yank-Yank the Nuthatch are others. If we didn’t stay right here on the job all winter, I don’t know what would become of the Old Orchard.”

Black-capped Chickadee by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

DeeDee hung his head downward from a twig while he picked some tiny insect eggs from the under side of it. It didn’t seem to make the least difference to DeeDee whether he was right side up or upside down. He was a little animated bunch of black and white feathers, not much bigger than Jenny Wren. The top of his head, back of his neck and coat were shining black. The sides of his head and neck were white. His back was ashy. His sides were a soft cream-buff, and his wing and tail feathers were edged with white. His tiny bill was black, and his little black eyes snapped and twinkled in a way good to see. Not one among all Peter’s friends is such a merry hearted little fellow as DeeDee the Chickadee. Merriment and happiness bubble out of him all the time, no matter what the weather is.

“I’ve noticed,” said Peter, “that birds who do not sing at any other time of year sing in the spring. Do you have a spring song, DeeDee?”

“Well, I don’t know as you would call it a song, Peter,” chuckled Tommy. “No, I hardly think you would call it a song. I do have a little love call which goes like this: Phoe-be! Phoe-be!”

It was the softest, sweetest little whistle, and DeeDee had rightly called it a love call. “Why, I’ve often heard that in the spring and didn’t know it was your voice at all,” cried Peter. “You say Phoebe plainer than does the bird who is named Phoebe, and it is ever so much softer and sweeter. I guess that is because you whistle it.”

“I guess you guess right,” replied DeeDee. “Now I can’t stop to talk any longer. These trees need my attention. I want Farmer Brown’s boy to feel that I have earned that suet I am sure he will put out for me as soon as the snow and ice come. I’m not the least bit afraid of Farmer Brown’s boy. I had just as soon take food from his hand as from anywhere else. He knows I like chopped nuts, and last winter I used to feed from his hand every day.”

Autumn has arrived and the woodland creatures know it is time to prepare for the cold winter ahead.

Peter’s eyes opened very wide with surprise. “Do you mean to say,” he said, “that you and Farmer Brown’s boy are such friends that you dare sit on his hand?”

DeeDee nodded his little black-capped head vigorously. “Certainly,” said DeeDee. “Why not? What’s the good of having friends if you can’t trust them? The more you trust them the better friends they’ll be.”

“Just the same, I don’t see how you dare to do it,” Peter replied. “I know Farmer Brown’s boy is the friend of all the little people, and I’m not much afraid of him myself, however just the same I wouldn’t dare go near enough for him to touch me.”

“Pooh!” retorted DeeDee. “That’s no way of showing true friendship. You’ve no idea, Peter, what a comfortable feeling it is to know that you can trust a friend, and I feel that Farmer Brown’s boy is one of the best friends I’ve got.”

P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects

Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:

  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Black-capped Chickadee
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – PROJECT FEEDER WATCH –  Chickadee ID
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – NEST WATCH – Build a Chickadee Birdhouse
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE (page W41 Black-capped Chickadee).
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for Chickadee (p. 68-70) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.
  • Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte offers a page for the Black-capped Chickadee (3). Colored pencil use recommended.

*This is an inexpensive, easy to find, and excellent companion to this bird story series.

Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided a new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

Feathered Friend BONUS!

Black-capped Chickadee

“Bitterly cold and dreary though the day may be, that “little scrap of valour,” the Chickadee, keeps his spirits high until ours cannot but be cheered by the oft-repeated, clear, tinkling silvery notes that spell his name. Chicka-dee-dee: chicka-dee-dee: he introduces himself. How easy it would be for every child to know the birds if all would but sing out their names so clearly! Oh, don’t you wish they would?

None will respond more promptly to your whistle in imitation of his three very high, clear call notes, and come nearer and nearer to make quite sure you are only a harmless mimic than the Chickadee. He is very inquisitive. Although not a bird may be in sight when you first whistle his call, nine chances out of ten there will be a faint echo from some far distant throat before very long; and by repeating the notes at short intervals you will have, probably, not one but several echoes from as many different chickadees whose curiosity to see you soon gets the better of their appetites and brings them flying, by easy stages, to the tree above your head. Where there is one chickadee there are apt to be more in the neighborhood; for these sociable, active, cheerful little black-capped fellows in gray like to hunt for their living in loose scattered flocks throughout the fall and winter. When they come near enough, notice the pale rusty wash on the sides of their under parts which are more truly dirty white than gray.

Blessed with a thick coat of fat under his soft, fluffy gray feathers, a hardy constitution and a sunny disposition, what terrors has the winter for him? When the thermometer goes down, his spirits seem to go up the higher. Dangling like a circus acrobat on the cone of some tall pine tree; standing on an outstretched twig, then turning over and hanging with his black-capped head downward from the high trapeze; carefully inspecting the rough bark on the twigs for a fat grub or a nest of insect eggs, he is constantly hunting for food and singing grace between bites.” ~ Birds Every Child Should Know by Neltje Blanchan Copyright 1907

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