A chickadee spotted in Salem on May 4, 2022 (Harry Fuller/Special to Salem Reporter)

I have an unwritten rule connected with my bird obsession. Never leave the house without a camera in my pocket. Now I have finally written it down. Here’s why:

(All photos by Harry Fuller/Special to Salem Reporter)

I was down on my knee pad fighting with the ivy that tries to strangle all other plants in our garden. As I dug and tugged, I felt a presence. I looked up to see a chestnut-backed chickadee on the lowest cross bar on a trellis just at my arm’s length. She was picking small bits of sunflower seed from the ground and then pecking tinier bits off each chip in sequence. She surely recognized me as the seed man. I think “she” because it is egg-laying season and the female needs much more nutrition to generate the eggs. The pair of chickadees are in our garden daily, often several times.

I began taking her picture, as she pecked, flew down for another chip, stared at me. Was she saying “Love your chips, bud?” Or simply, ”You are too slow to be a worry. Sunflower, yum.”

The chestnut-backed chickadee is small. Even smaller than other North American chickadees. It would take eight of these guys to weigh as much as one robin. Each is about a third of an ounce.

They live here year-round and prefer habitat with conifers and dampness as cavity-nesters.

The Chickadee Principle: Always carry a camera.

For information about upcoming Salem Audubon programs and activities, see www.salemaudubon.org, or Salem Audubon’s Facebook page.

Harry Fuller is an Oregon birder and natural history author of "Freeway Birding." He is a member of the Salem Audubon Society. Contact him at [email protected] or atowhee.blog. His "Some Fascinating Things About Birds" column appears regularly in Salem Reporter.

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