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Lending a hand in feeding the chickadees

Riverside PS staff hope to hand-train the chickadees at their new feeder on the Kissing Bridge Trail near the Elmira school. [Stock Photo]

Next time you’re taking a stroll along the Kissing Bridge Trail, you can get the chance to feed a bird by hand.

Riverside PS have set up a chickadee feeding area along the trail, using funding from the Elmira Lions Club and support from The Miller’s Stone in Heidelberg.

Another local chickadee feeder along Mill Race Trail in St. Jacobs inspired Riverside PS kindergarten teacher Connie Lepp to create one in Elmira.

“I take my students for nature walks regularly, so the two of us were talking about how nice it would be to have a feeding area that we could access with our students easily from the school,” said Jenny Soehner, a kindergarten teacher at Riverside.

“So we wrote a proposal to the Lions Club, and they have funded the project. So they’ve given us money for a feeder and seeds and whatever else we needed to get the station set up.”

The feeding area features a squirrel-proof feeder, three platform feeders, and a green bin filled with black oil sunflower seeds (a favourite of chickadees) along with instructions for refilling.

Anyone who visits the station can try their hand at feeding a chickadee, as well as replenish the seeds when needed. Soehner said the goal is to get the birds comfortable enough around humans so that they land in the palm of your hand.

“It’s pretty awesome when a tiny feathered creature trusts you enough to land on your hand, even just for a moment,” said Soehner. “They are definitely not hand-trained yet. Connie did have one land on her hand one morning when she went to check on them.”

Unfortunately given the current weather conditions, the Riverside PS students have not got the chance to visit the chickadee feeder. Soehner said a big motivation behind the feeder project is to give children an opportunity to connect with nature.

“I feel it’s really important to give children opportunities to connect with other living things,” she said. “I think it’s important for them to develop empathy for other living things, and a sense of giving back to other living things and not just using the earth for our own purposes, but helping out other living creatures and caring about their welfare.”

As it is a seed feeder, any bird can visit for a meal. However, the food and location were chosen explicitly with chickadees in mind.

“Chickadees are pretty bold out of all the little birds,” said Soehner. “Chickadees are the most likely to become familiar and come to your hand to eat. They’ll get comfortable with you more easily than most other birds will.”

The feeder can be accessed along the Kissing Bridge trail using Snyder Avenue or Kissing Bridge Drive to get there. At the north end of Snyder Avenue, there is a parking lot down a laneway. The feeding area is located about half a kilometre west of this parking lot.

Alternatively, it can be accessed through the new subdivision of Kissing Bridge Drive, following the path near the stormwater pond, then meets up with the main trail past the memorial shelter. It is located near an outhouse and cedar hedge area that shelters the chickadees.

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