Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula is a patchwork of cold clear lakes, golden fields, villages, National Parks, and First Nation Reservations. The Bruce’s east edge is defined by cliffs of the grand, rocky Niagara escarpment. The land tips down toward the west where the Bruce meets Lake Huron. Once valued for timber and fishing, today the Bruce draws outdoor enthusiasts.
Our cabin perches on ancient rocks at the northeast tip of the peninsula. We share our home with delicate orchids, fragrant blue green spruce and cedar, an occasional rattlesnake and bear, merganser families, and north woods songbirds. Life on the Bruce knows a few warm August days, long winters, and deep snow. The resident birds inspire me and draw me north each spring; unlike migratory birds and tourists, these residents make the Bruce their year-round home.
Spring mornings I’ll hear chickadees call, and with each note I marvel at how these birds came through another winter. I’ll watch a chickadee alight on a spruce branch, call chick-a-dee-dee-dee, and cock its head when a partner returns the call. Calling again, it hops about the spruce until its partner flits into view.
The chickadees pull through cold winter nights by foraging urgently during winter days. Before nightfall the birds settle into a tree cavity or other spot out of the wind. They further reduce heat loss by huddling with partners.
Each morning the birds spread out to forage and then find each other before the sun sets. Calling as they move about, they maintain contact through the afternoons and quickly assemble into a downy huddle by nightfall.
The chickadees on the Bruce remind me that nothing ordinary has ever evolved on this little planet.