Our little chickadees: Birds flocking to N.B. trail a delight to visitors

The chickadees on the trails have become friends to the humans who use them.  (Submitted by Andrew Holland - image credit)
The chickadees on the trails have become friends to the humans who use them. (Submitted by Andrew Holland - image credit)

There's a place in Oromocto where you can get up close to New Brunswick's official bird and have it eating out of your hand.

Gateway Wetland Nature Trails is conservation area in the town, around 22 kilometres southeast of Fredericton.

One of the thrills of walking down the boardwalks and in between the tall trees is having chickadees nibble out of your palm, said Robin Hanson, president of the Oromocto River Watershed.

"I think it's incredible that these little birds have become friends to humans," he said.

Aniekan Etuhube/CBC
Aniekan Etuhube/CBC

The friendship started when someone from the community began putting out bird seed on the boardwalks, said Robert Powell, the town's mayor.

"The next thing you know, the birds start flying in and [people] put their hands out and they land in their hands and eat out of their hands," Powell said.

It's like the birds expect people to be there when they walk through the trails, Hanson said.

WATCH | A bird in the hand brings great joy to these trail walkers: 

The idea for the trail system began with Hanson, said Powell.

"He brought that dream to me and then I brought the dream to council, and now the dream is here," Powell said

"This is an urban town, and right in the centre of this urban town is a super natural place to come and visit. So it's an example to other communities."

Aniekan Etuhube/CBC
Aniekan Etuhube/CBC

Powell said it took a few years to get the project started and it turned into a community effort.

The local Rotary Club donated money for the covered bridge and a group of seniors, the Friends of the Gateway Marsh, take care of the area.

"They kind of police it and they pick up garbage and things, and make sure it's all tidy and they welcome people," Powell said.

According to Hanson, 25,000 people visit and walk through the trails each year.

The area isn't just home to the provincial bird, it's also home to a number of other species, including a family of beavers, which students at Hubbard Elementary School have named the Timber family.

Aniekan Etuhube/CBC
Aniekan Etuhube/CBC

"That's why we call it the nature trail, because there's so much, so many things here to look for and find," Powell said.

"This is a habitat where we as humans are guests," said Hanson."We come in, we walk through and we enjoy it. We're living in nature's world."

The key to keeping the habitat intact is allowing nature to be nature, Hanson said.