Keep in mind that I have only been living here a short while, so I definitely don’t know everything, but I have noticed a couple of curious things about my new residence. First of all, there are no chickadees! No chickadees at all!! By “chickadee” I’m referring to the black-capped species, which should be here in abundance, by my reckoning. Black-caps are the most widely distributed chickadee in North America, but with six other species on the continent, everyone will have at least one kind to enjoy. But not in my Postal Code! When I first arrived here from the Alberta foothills (where I had black-caps, boreals, and the cute little cranky-looking mountain chickadees) on the Summer Solstice of ’05, I assumed that as soon as I hung up a feeder, they would come. When the feeder didn’t bring them, I was sure they’d show up when the weather turned cold. Still no ‘dees – none at the seed feeder, none at the suet cage. And it has been that way the whole time. How odd, I thought, to be in such a famous birdwatching area, and have no chickadees; they're such a staple of the pasttime. Finally, I called the Ranger at the Point Pelee Visitor Centre. He said there were very few (like, 3 or 4!) in the Park, but in general, chickadees just hadn’t seemed to populate the area yet. But he assured me they were likely expanding their range, and would “get established eventually.” I certainly hope so!
Another thing I noticed is that there seems to be a real absence of scavengers. This totally surprises me. One of my favorite birds has always been the turkey vulture, ever since I saw my first one decades ago on a trip to Tampa. However, you don’t see them much in western Alberta. They tend to hang glide more on the eastern side, and on into Saskatchewan, so I was happy to see how plentiful they are here. Another plentiful thing here is roadkill: skunks, ‘possums, squirrels, and raccoons, plus a distressing number of free ranging cats (did see a small white-tail deer by the golf course once). All those critters, and still, in three years, I have yet to see a turkey vulture on the ground picking at anything. In fact, I don’t see anything hanging around the shoulders, trying to nab some lunch. In Alberta, roadkill comes in all sizes, from ground squirrels to moose, and nothing is ignored. Between the ravens, crows, magpies, eagles, and coyotes, a moose carcass can be half gone almost before the clean-up truck (the one with the winch!) can collect it. But here, a hapless raccoon can lie beside the yellow line until weather and passing cars reduce it from a fuzzy speed bump to a mere stain. I recently learned that opossums will sometimes scavenge, but upon reflection, I’ve never seen a dead ‘possum in the road lying next to an even deader squirrel… I don’t get it; a lot of valuable nutrition is going to waste. It just doesn’t seem in the nature of nature to do that. So – turkey vultures of Pelee, come to the buffet! Just watch out for the traffic, please.
Photo of black-capped chickadee and turkey vulture from Wikimedia Commons
Photo of mountain chickadee from Sshutterstock