Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mother and Baby Chickadees

Last fall my mom turned 80 and I went back east to help her celebrate at a family get-together. Last month I turned 57 and found that I could hardly believe it. How did that happen? In my mind I'm still in my 30's. Anyway, my mom and I have been discussing this age thing lately and we both agree that it kinda sucks. But what's the alternative? So I'm working on aging gracefully. We'll see how that goes.

With Mother's Day coming up in less than two weeks, I've been thinking about the role of mothers a lot lately too. I never had kids myself but I really marvel at the energy it takes to parent. I've been remembering last year's chestnut-backed chickadee family that visited my feeders. The mother chickadee was one of many who would take a peanut from my hand. I could tell this particular chickadee from the others because she had a bad leg with a foot that was slightly shrivelled.

Let me tell you, that mother chickadee worked her tail feathers off supplying her babies with food. She was constantly on the job feeding them and they seemed to be hungry every minute of the day. Once in awhile she'd grab a peanut from me and I could almost feel her exasperation as she flew to a nearby branch to be alone for a quick moment while she hurriedly enjoyed her treat. I felt really sorry for her. The demands of motherhood seemed especially tough for her. O.K., I know I'm given to anthropomorphizing but really...she looked plumb worn-out after a couple of weeks of raising her babies with their always-open mouths demanding to be fed.

All of mom's time was taken up with her offspring for three or four weeks. The little ones ran her ragged and seemed ungrateful at best. And then it was over. Once the baby chickadees were raised, the mother chickadee disappeared, never to be seen again.

I couldn't help but wonder...did her babies do her in? Was the experience of motherhood so difficult that she didn't survive it? I don't know if it's possible but I think maybe it is. She'd been a constant visitor beforehand and now she was gone.

My experience with the mother chickadee was repeated shortly afterwards with a red-breasted nuthatch. Nuthatches aren't normally as brave as chickadees, but this one would take peanuts from my hand. But then she had a family and she also disappeared. Hmmm...

I still miss both of my feathered friends very much and remember them often. I wonder if the babies that were born from either of these broods will be raising their own young ones around our place this spring.

Anyway, the moral of the story is, of course, appreciate your mother while you still have time! The years go by so quickly...
chickadees art

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