From my research the seed balls of the Sweet Gum (or Sweetgum, depending on where you read) tree should be empty of seeds by mid fall.
Clearly this tree didn’t follow the program and several Carolina Chickadees were feeding in its upper branches on this mid-January day.
The dried pod stems are still quite sturdy, although this little bird doesn’t weigh much at 0.3-0.4 ounces (8-12 g) per All About Birds.
If you’ve ever touched one of these balls you’ll likely remember; those spikes are quite sharp.
Fellow blogger Mike Powell has captured similar scenes in Virginia where there is overlap in both the tree and the bird, including his post Acrobatic Chickadee
A few days after seeing a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker investigate a tree cavity I saw a Chickadee do it.
It wasn’t as nice a day with a grey sky for a background, but the bird’s behavior was interesting.
The Chickadee went back and forth between this tree, which is dead, and an overhanging branch across the path. I’m not sure if he was looking for food or a potential nest site.
After the Chickadee flew off I went around the tree to see the cavity. I’ll be watching this spot when I pass by as spring progresses.