This time of year is difficult for those of us who are looking forward to the Kodachrome days of summer. The landscape right now is grey, and barren, and those famous Ottawa tulips are still a few weeks away. So what’s an outdoorsy family to do?
One of our favourite activities is going to feed the Black-capped Chickadees in the Stony Swamp area of Ottawa. They are comical, fearless little creatures, and it’s a great time to hit the trails (as long as you remember to strap on your wellies).
First, check the NCC map of the area. Jack Pine Trail is good peckin’ grounds (park at P9). It’s an easy walk and you won’t have to go too far in to find some hungry birds. Chickadees love small black sunflower seeds, so make sure you bring some with you. All you need to do is stretch out your hand (or place a small handful atop your hat) and wait for them to come.
It’ll start with one, and then another, and before you know it you’ll be surrounded by a small flock of chicka-dee-deeing little birdies. (But don’t worry, there’s nothing remotely Hitchcockian about this scene!)
We’ve introduced everyone we know to “our” chickadees; friends, family, neighbours, out-of-towners, and no one has ever been disappointed.
Feeding the birds is a wonderful test of patience for young children, who tend to be squirmy and lack focus (although I know a few adults like this too). Imagine a Weeble-sized ball of feathers with tiny prickly feet landing lightly in your hand, gently snatching a seed before returning into the protective safety of the evergreens. The whole exchange lasts only a moment. The bird will be gone by the time you remember to breathe.
There are lessons to be learned here for sure, about our delicate environment, survival of the fittest, and all of that. But I think the big lesson here is that it’s worth being patient and quiet, if only for a minute or two. And that’s a lesson worth learning.