Lunchtime Walk with Chestnut-backed Chickadees

I’ve really been enjoying my 30-45 minute lunchtime walks – it’s a great break from the office and gives me a chance to get out, stretch my legs, take in some fresh air and do a little birding.

There is plenty of good habitat to see some of the common thicket sparrows like Spotted Towhees, Golden-crowned Sparrows, Song Sparrows and Fox Sparrows but there’s always something different popping up. Sometimes it might be a bird of prey like the Northern Shrike that I saw a couple of weeks ago. On another walk it might be a flock of American Robins in a field.

I see Chestnut-backed Chickadees (Poecile rufescens) fairly regularly but usually they’ve been up high working through the red alder catkins. On my Monday walk this week I was fortunate to get a small flock that cooperated and descended a little lower into last year’s salmonberry canes. While chickadees are a little tricky to photograph because they seem to be always moving, they’re also quite curious and with a bit of “pishing” one came closer to check out what I was doing.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)
A Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens) perches on last year’s Salmonberry cane.

The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is distinctive and easy to identify. It has the same black cap and “bib” that it shares with the Black-capped Chickadee you find on the mainland of British Columbia but its back and flanks are a warm chestnut brown. No other chickadee in British Columbia looks quite like it.

On Vancouver Island, range makes it easy to separate chickadees (most of the time – there’s always exceptions) as the Black-capped isn’t commonly seen on the Island. The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is confined to the West Coast, the Pacific Northwest and the Columbia River Valley – so if you see a chickadee on Vancouver Island it is likely to be a Chestnut-backed.

On this otherwise quiet lunch walk, these beautiful little birds were a bonus. It’s great to take the time and just watch them do their thing!

If you blog about birds and are interested in participating in I and the Bird,  send me an email with a link to your post today or tomorrow. I’m hosting the next round of this bi-weekly birding blog carnival and will be posting edition #145 late PST on Thursday, March 3, 2011.