She was uttering a soft little cluck in her throat, a call to the little balls of mottled down that on their tiny pink legs came toddling after, and peeping softly and plaintively if left even a few inches behind, and seeming so fragile they made the very chicadees look big and coarse.
The Chicadees said that all the cousins were crazy, made some good jokes about the Gulf of Mexico, and then dashed away on their favourite game of tag and tumble through the woods, which, however, did seem rather quiet now, and bare of leaves; while the weather, too, was certainly turning uncomfortably cool. At length the frost and snow really did come, and the Chicadees were in a bad way.
But it was not repeated. Next morning they went on. There are many quaint sounds in the woods at all times, the rasping of trees, at least a dozen different calls by jays, twice as many by ravens, and occasional notes from chicadees, grouse, and owls. The quadrupeds in general are more silent, but the red squirrel is ever about and noisy, as well as busy.
A long time ago, when it was always summer in our woods, the Chicadees lived merrily with their cousins, and frolicked the whole year round. But one day Mother Carey sent the small birds a warning that they must move to the South, when the leaves fell from the trees, for hard frost and snow were coming, and maybe starvation too.
Their small cousins, the Chicadees, came, too, at breakfast time, and in our daily travelling, Ruffed Grouse, Ravens, Pine Grosbeaks, Bohemian Chatterers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Shrikes, Tree-sparrows, Linnets, and Snowbirds enlivened the radiant sunlit scene.
It is not surpassed in neatness and beauty by the nest of any other bird. I will leave the granivorous birds to speak of another class, equally hardy, but of habits more like those of the Woodpecker. I allude to the Chicadees, to whose lively notes we are indebted for a great part of the cheerfulness of a winter's walk.
The winter-birds, though they do not sing, are, on the same account, particularly interesting. The Chicadees and the little speckled Woodpeckers, that tarry with us in midwinter, and make the still cold days lively and cheerful by their merry voices, are, in animated nature, what flowers would be in inanimate nature, if they were found blooming under the snow.
So the Chicadees said it was all nonsense, and went off, singing and chasing one another through the woods, led by Tomtit singing a new song in which he made fun of the travellers. Tom Tom Tiddy-Mouse! Hid away in our house, Hid his brother in the cellar, Wasn't he a silly feller? But their cousins were quite serious. They picked out wise leaders and formed themselves into bands.
The chicadees are chattering merrily in the upland grove, the blue-jays scream in the hemlock glade, the snow-bird mates the snow with its whiteness, and the robin contrasts with it his still ruddy breast. The weird and impenetrable crows, most talkative of birds and most uncommunicative, their very food at this season a mystery, are almost as numerous now as in summer.
But to this day, when the chill wind blows through the deserted woods, the Chicadees seem to lose their wits for a few days, and dart into all sorts of queer places.