Every December the “Friends of the Morgan Arboretum” hold what is loosely known as a Winter Solstice celebration, mostly intended for short people and their parents. There are games, seasonal films, craft workshops, hot chocolate and cookies and a guided walk (led by the good folk from the Sparroworks) to see if the Chickadees will eat from your hands. It’s a lot of fun, made all the more so this year as we have just enjoyed a large dump of snow, powdery stuff which makes the -15C temperatures worthwhile.

The Chickadee walk takes the kids (of all ages) down to the “big hedge” where they are given a handful of sunflower seeds and told to hold them and stay still. There are no fears of the effects of accustoming the birds to people as a food source – they worked that out for themselves generations ago and will scold you at this time of year if you walk past without paying their toll for passage and anyway, after a snow dump, a lot of their regular food is at least temporarily unavailable so this helps them out a bit.

The big gain, however, is that this simple activity brings people into a brief and intimate contact with wildlife and the feathery landing of a tiny bird on your hand while it grabs a seed does seem to have a magical effect on the participants. We can only hope that these kids will file the experience away and that it will help them to grow up aware of the magic of wild creatures. You have to start somewhere, we don’t want them all to turn into oil company executives or conservative politicians after all.


The arboretum looked suitably seasonal, as you would expect:

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The Ice Maiden of last week has changed shape

The Ice Maiden of last week has changed shape

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Meanwhile, back at Sparroworks HQ the feeders have been swarmed all day by birds with snowy squirrels on the ground below scarfing down the seeds that get dropped.

"Shelter and food - I'm staying put"

“Shelter and food – I’m staying put”

"Munch ... nice of those birds to throw a few seeds my way"

“Munch … nice of those birds to throw a few seeds my way”