How A Chickadee Changed the Course of My Life Work

A long time ago, more than 20 years now, I was doing some very unfulfilling work, exchanging hours of my time for a paycheck, when a little Chickadee grabbed my attention and altered the course of my life’s work in a very positive way.

I had just bought a house and was surveying the backyard which had been sadly neglected for many years. I was dismayed at the fact that this garden was almost completely covered by a jungle of invasive plants that would need to be removed before I could create anything even remotely beautiful in this space.

This sad little space was filled with Norway Maple, Bishops Weed, Sweet Autumn Clematis, Lesser Celandine, Multiflora Rose, English Ivy and other garden thugs. I knew I had my work cut out for me in this space.

But soon the sadness of this place was filled with cheerful song. A tiny little black and white bird landed on a post and sang at the top of its lungs.

It would follow me around the garden, singing all the while, but then fly back to that post and sit there singing away. This went on for several hours. I wasn’t even sure what that bird was, so that evening I went on a mission for two things: a feeder for that bird and a book to help me figure out what it was.

I hung the feeder right away and then began paging through the field guide to birds. I had to do quite of bit of page turning before I finally found what I was looking for: a Carolina Chickadee!

The chickadee did seem to be grateful that I was trainable enough to hang that feeder for it, but I began to wonder what do Chickadees eat if no one is there to hang a feeder for them.

So I began to study any information about birds I could get my hands on. And it soon became apparent that the most important thing we could do to take care of Chickadees and other birds, as well as butterflies and other wildlife, was to stop taking their habitat away, but instead give some habitat back to them by making better choices in our gardens.

And from the very persistent voice of a tiny little Chickadee, a wildlife gardener was born. I’ve devoted my life’s work ever since to creating welcoming habitat for wildlife in gardens around the northeast as well as traveling around the country helping to teach others to do the same thing.

This is just the beginning of my story:

What are you doing to give a little back to wildlife?

Carole Sevilla Brown lives in Philadelphia, PA, and she travels the country speaking about Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife. Check out her new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week.

© 2011 – 2013, Carole Sevilla Brown. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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Comments

  1. says

    Carole, I have a lump in my throat after reading your story; nature speaks to us all but, not everyone listens. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people were moved by the song of a bird or the fragrance of a wildflower. I hope my garden is providing shelter and food for critters and a respite for humans; and, just maybe inspiration to a traditional gardener or two to plant for wildlife. gail
    Gail Eichelberger recently posted..Wildflower Wednesday- Yellowroot

    • says

      Gail, you certainly inspire me! I love reading the stories of your wildlife garden, and I’m sure you’ve inspired many a traditional gardener to give a little back to wildlife :) You and I and many others are on a mission to help others hear nature’s voice. Thanks for all you do!
      Carole Brown recently posted..BB Chickadees in the Wildlife Garden

  2. Donna B. says

    Chicka-dee-dee…. chicka-dee-dee-dee!
    No truer words have been spoken.
    I have a Grey Catbird that follows me around the garden… I think it knows I throw the grubs into the lawn for him.

    And I love how that’s all it took… I do know that my “plan for my shaded side-yard” that needs a feeder needs to happen THIS YEAR so I can enjoy birds from my kitchen window! Currently I get the “Awwwwwwnk, Awwwwwwwwwwwwnk” of a screaming Blue Jay scaring away some Mourning Doves… haa haaaa!

  3. Shelli Holland-Handy says

    Carol – what a wonderful post! We have several longtime resident birds (including a chickadee) that I look forward to seeing each day.

    I have recently started my wildlife habitat in my own back yard of house we bought 3 1/2 years ago. My space was also sadly neglected and after 3 years of working to get it to be a workable blank slate, we started our habitat garden in November with a mass planting of wildlife friendly trees and shrubs. This summer we are filling in with native and habitat friendly plants. I have garnered much inspiration from your blog and appreciate you sharing journey.

  4. says

    What a wonderful post! I now garden for wildlife. Each time I dig a new bed in my somewhat new garden of three years, I consciously choose natives to create habitat. I am excited that tomorrow night I will be discussing native landscaping at our local garden club. I hope to spark some interest in new and old gardeners. How did you manage to get rid of Bishops Weed? I smothered it with newspapers and plastic for almost a year and still it persists. I would however, rather live with it then to spray it with the evil “R” word. “My blue jays” line up in the morning for their peanuts. I so look forward to that each day.
    thevioletfern recently posted..First Bloom of Spring

    • Carole Brown says

      I haven’t yet managed to get rid of the Bishop’s Weed :( I keep pulling and pulling, and don’t ever let it go to flower! That makes the problem so much worse. I didn’t get to it in time one year and now I feel like I’m starting all over again. Oh well…..

  5. says

    Enjoyed this Carole! I bet if you asked most people with wildlife gardens, they all have a story of a small or large creature that inspired them on their path towards habitat gardening…which as we both know, can become all-consuming :-)

    • Carole Brown says

      You’re right Ellen! Once I was hooked, it certainly has been all-consuming. First I was compelled to learn about birds, then butterflies, then dragonflies, then bees, then……..

  6. says

    Carol, this is a really nice and inspiring post. Isn’t it amazing how something small like a Chickadee can change your whole thinking and even your daily life?
    I love watching the birds in my backyard and I have put up several bird feeders and birdhouses and I’m trying to make sure my backyard provides an as much of a natural habitat for the birds and butterflies as as possible.
    About a week ago, two Chickadees started building their nest in one of my birdhouses for the first time since I put this birdhouse up on a pole about 3 years ago. This birdhouse is located only a very few steps away from our seating area on our patio. Chickadees building a nest so close really surprised me but it also shows me the wild birds have gotten used to me being around in the garden a lot and trust me. Other birds being close around our patio area a lot, are Blue Jays and Cardinals but also Downy Woodpeckers and Wrens.
    My backyard would be only half as enjoyable to me if there were no birds and other critters, like e.g. my beloved Squirrels, being part of it.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Then I became a gardener. I don’t know exactly why all of a sudden it was something I wanted to do, but I dove in head first and it consumed my life. I could never have dreamed of all the ways growing a garden would change the way I did and thought about things. [...]

  2. [...] It’s been well over twenty years since a tiny Chickadee called to me, and I learned to listen to her sweet voice which put me on my path of learning how to create welcoming habitat for birds and other wildlife in our gardens. [...]

  3. [...] all started over 20 years ago when a very bossy and persistent Chickadee grabbed my attention, and ultimately changed the course of my life’s work. I knew that this bird needed far more than the bird feeder I obligingly hung for her, and I set [...]

  4. [...] After that Chickadee grabbed my attention, I was determined to know as much about birds as I could possible learn, so I registered to attend one of the premier birding festivals in the world, the Cape May Spring Weekend. [...]

  5. [...] has written here before on how a long-ago encounter with a black-capped chickadee was a defining moment for her…a moment that led her down a new and unfamiliar road to a less [...]

  6. [...] all started over 20 years ago when a very bossy and persistent Chickadee grabbed my attention, and ultimately changed the course of my life’s work. I knew that this bird needed far more than the bird feeder I obligingly hung for her, and I set [...]

  7. [...] 163. How A Chickadee Changed the Course of My Life Work: A long time ago, more than 20 years now, I was doing some very unfulfilling work, exchanging hours of my time for a paycheck, when a little Chickadee grabbed my attention and altered the course of my life’s work in a very positive way. I had just bought a house and was surveying the backyard…. ~Carole Sevilla Brown [...]

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