Magnificent Mendon Park

Sunday, December 2, was one of our organization’s best outings, concluded by a great “thanksgiving” dinner.

Do you find our winter to be cold?  Be glad you weren’t here 12,000 years ago.  Then, it was cold enough that water stayed frozen and our area was covered by a sheet of ice.  There were also rivers then, that flowed, as they do today, only much slower.  These glaciers created much of today’s landscape in our area, much of which was seen on our hike in Mendon Park.  The Finger Lake beds were also carved by these glaciers.  That’s why they are long and narrow, with the long end lying in the north-south direction.

Having developed the ability of flight, most birds, that breed around here, solve the winter season by flying to a warmer area.  However, chickadees, and a few other hardy souls, like nuthatches, titmice, cardinals, blue jays, etc. spend the winter here, with us.  When the outside temp goes below zero, bet you can’t wait to snuggle up in your cozy, warm house.  But, there’s the little chickadee, spending the night sitting out on a branch. Like us, birds also have the ability to convert part of the food they eat into internal body heat.  Even so, if you stood outside, without clothes, your body couldn’t generate heat fast enough to keep up and your internal temp would soon go below the amount needed to survive.  Chickadees, and these other birds, have the ability to fluff up their feathers to form a shield that keeps their body heat in.  So, inside, the chickadee on the branch is as warm as you, in your heated house.

Chickadees have learned that people are not a threat and, as wild animals go, are one of the friendliest to people.  At Mendon, in a thicket behind the nature center, if you put some sunflower seeds in the palm of your hand, stand still and extend your hand, they will perch on your hand and take a seed from you.  Sometimes, a titmouse or nuthatch will come down too.  In the summer, there are lots of bugs for them to eat (yum), which are not around in winter.  They need lots of food to generate their heat for cold winter nights so, our help is appreciated.  They make good use of our backyard feeders in winter, which they don’t need so much in summer, and they often attract bears.

Want to give your grandkids an experience to remember?  Bring them to Mendon, in winter, to feed the chickadees.  This positive tactile experience, with a wild animal, will make a lasting impression, and could be the beginning of creating a new generation of adults, like you, carrying on your mission of protecting wildlife

We’ve got some neat activities coming up, like helping to build our new hiking trail, next Sunday.  Next week, we can discuss what animals you can expect to see during the upcoming winter (besides Mac and Duff).

Thanks chickadee, for your com-pan-ee

Sing to me, sing to me, chickadee

Dan Berggren, Adirondack Green