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Saturday, January 2, 2016




Saturday, 10:00 AM.  26 degrees F at the ferry dock, the same on the back porch. Wind westerly, very windy.  The humidity has dropped to 69% and the barometer has bottomed out at 29.84" and has begun to rise.  It was nippy earlier but is going to be a nice winter day.
   I have been familiar with and closely watching the common black capped chickadees for almost as long as I can remember, as it is one of the most common and familiar of forest birds.  They are very bold; they are so quick and agile that they are practically fearless, particularly concerning us slow, clumsy humans.  I have even had them perch on the bill of my cap when deer hunting.  So I didn't think there was much I could learn about chickadees, except that I have very often seen a chickadee at our Bayfield feeders that looks different from the black capped chickadee.  I never thought much about it, considering it a variation on the black capped chickadee theme.  
   As I have said before in the Almanac, I am not that much of a birder, but I am learning.  And, one thing I have now learned is: if you see a bird that looks different, it is probably a different bird; a different species from the ordinary one you relate it to.  
   I should have known that the chickadees with the rufus side feathers (I had not noticed the brown cap) were not the usual black capped chickadee, as the two do not come to the feeder at the same time.  I finally decided to look into the matter yesterday and discovered that the rufus-sided chickadee is actually a boreal chickadee, a different species from the black capped entirely.  Its normal habitat is the black spruce and fir trees of the boreal forests of Canada.  There is only an outlier population in a few counties of northern Wisconsin that have suitable habitat.  
   I have actually been seeing pretty rare birds, quite far a out of their normal range across the big lake and beyond.

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