We also pondered why they were singing now. Drawing on our background of years of studying bird behavior, we knew the increasing day length stimulates bird's hormones to kick in and breeding behavior to start, where males sing and form a breeding territory and attract a mate. But this was a tad early. We also know than on warm, sunny, winter days, birds will sing a little, perhaps a small rehearsal for what's to come.
Chickadees are in a fixed flock hierarchy, on a territory, all winter, with the alpha pair mainly the ones who will breed in the territory in the spring. So who was singing we wondered? Two male chickadees (only male chickadees sing) in the same flock, or two from different flocks at a territorial boundary. The singing back and forth was intense for maybe 10 minutes then ceased. Then we could hear other chickadee calls as the birds moved off.
What a lovely moment where we stopped, tuned in, became absorbed in the lives of the chickadees, dreamed of spring, and were transported out of winter. What a gift. It's there for you too, the next times you hear chickadees.