What Those Chickadees Are Really Saying

Image result for two chickadees

Writing, for me, is like lucid dreaming. I can get so lost in my imaginary world that my realities become inverted: My desk and laptop drift into a kind of haze, while the world I’m writing about becomes vividly present. It’s kind of cool, really, and when I’m in a groove like that, I hate to be disturbed.

I was in this altered state the other morning when I became aware of an insistent tapping on the side of my house—a small sound, made, I was certain, by a small thing. Pissed off to have been roused from my work, I opened the front door and looked around. Nothing. I stepped off the porch and went down the walkway to look up at the front of the house.

Then I heard the sound again and spotted the culprit.

High up on our Dutch Colonial house where the white fascia meets the cedar shingles of the roof, some audacious bird was pecking away. I stepped closer to see what type it was—probably one of the downy woodpeckers who eat suet from our bird-feeder, or maybe a nuthatch. But it wasn’t.

Instead, what I saw was an innocent little chickadee, no bigger than a peach, fiercely hammering away on my beloved castle. To make matters worse, the little fucker had a friend standing lookout on a nearby maple branch.

Clearly this was premeditated vandalism. Indignant, I did what any homeowner would do. I picked up a pebble and tossed it at him. Of course I missed. Neither one of the birds paid any attention. The jackhammer continued his work on my fascia, and his friend looked down at me with this chickadee smirk, as if saying, you wanna piece of me?

Now, I like birds. I’ve blogged about them a few times and I take genuine delight in their chirps and twits. I love the cardinal couple that hangs out in our backyard every year. Cedar waxwings, with their outrageous mohawks, are great to look at. I even have patience for the bluejays, despite their obnoxious yaaaak. Normally, chickadees are one of my favorite birds, but these defiant little vandals had me hot under the collar. Determined to defend my home, I picked up a clump of freshly applied mulch and hurled it skyward. When the clump hit the clapboards, it exploded in a cloud of un-dyed, over-priced organic matter. That did the trick. The jackhammer fluttered to safety in the maple tree—only about six feet from where he’d been working. Then he just sat there with his lookout friend, content, apparently, to wait me out.

I glared up at them with my teeth grit, but I couldn’t think of anything more to do for the moment. I’d have to patch and paint that hole this summer, which really angered me. More importantly, I felt duped. Ever since the 1970s when my birder stepmother taught me to recognize black-capped chickadees, I’d had a special fondness for the tiny feather-balls and their musical call. Yet, here I was in a stare-down with two malevolent teenagers (I imagined) in black ski masks who had singled out my house for destruction. What the hell had I done?

Feeling like a sucker, I brushed the mulch off my hands and stomped back toward the house. As I did, the jackhammer chirped after me with his classic feeee-beeee sound. I swear I saw his buddy grinning. Before I even got back to my desk, I heard the pecking on my fascia resume.

Ruthless little bastards.

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