Two years ago, we stuck a birdhouse high up in our chestnut tree, hoping it would be occupied by one of the local chickadee couples.
One couple checked it out, but started chipping a hole into a dead butt in another part of the tree instead.
Apparently, like many people, chickadees want to feel that they’ve had a hand – or a beak – in personalizing their abode.
So the following spring I filled the birdhouse with wood chips.
A couple of chickadees (maybe the same couple?) checked it out, tossed a few chips out the door, and then recommenced the Dead Butt housing project started the previous year.
I had put too many chips in the birdhouse. So this year, I stocked it with fewer chips, leaving room to allow new homeowners a personal touch.
Again, prospective chickadees – appropriately chestnut-backed chickadees this time – expressed an interest… but opted for a knothole next to the still incomplete Dead Butt project.
There was a problem, however: scary neighbours. Us. The newlyweds couldn’t work on their home anytime we were near… which was most of the time.
And then the Stellar’s jays arrived – two brilliantly blue couples. They were interested in the knothole, too, but not to build. They obviously hoped to score some eggs, over easy, or better still, recently hatched.
I attempted to scare them away. I shouted at them. I shouted and clapped my hands. I shouted and clapped and waved my arms wildly. I even did jumping jacks. While shouting.
One of the jays cocked its head and looked at me like I was some kind of nut. I swear, its mate was laughing at me. The other couple paid no attention at all.
Donna had a better idea: spray them with a hose. They flew off in a flurry of harsh chatter, watched us from the big fir tree, and eventually gave up.
They’re still around, regularly feasting at our feeder. But they steer clear of the chestnut and its knothole home.
After a bit, the chickadees got back to chipping out their knot-home. They’re no longer concerned about Donna or me.
One of the newlyweds took a break from the construction work to sit in the tree near Donna and sing a few notes – phrases unlike any we’d heard chickadees produce before.
I’m pretty sure he was saying “thank you.”