Friday, December 27, 2013

Hanging On for Dear Life

A wonderful day of woodland birding doesn’t always promise great photographs.  The wooded ones rarely sit still for the camera.  Photographing these beauties is kind of like photographing a toddler that’s just started crawling, and at Superman-fast speed.  There’s just no stopping them!
But photos or not, a wooded walk is just about perfect when the leaves are mostly down, and the Gulf-Coast mosquitoes are chased away by the December cold.

Yesterday’s three hour walk made for a relaxing afternoon.  The recent dry conditions created a thick carpet of leaves that were unusually dry, crunching loudly underneath each booted step.  This loud crunch delighted the kid in me.  But the birder in me was finding it just about impossible to sneak up on the shyest of the feathered ones:


I photographed vireos and warblers; sapsuckers and woodpeckers.  I listened to Carolina and House Wrens fuss at me, sticking out their heads from cover and scolding my leaf crunching (as if I were eating cereal with my mouth partly open).  Large groups of Robins moved about me, staggering about as if my crunching awakened them from an afternoon nap.  The wooded walk was delightful; the photographs, not so much.
But every birder loves to catch a photo of a Brown Creeper, good quality picture or not.  This perfectly named bird can be hard to spot; and harder to photograph. They are expert tree-huggers, silently creeping up and around mature tree trunks. Their wood-bark camouflaged feathering makes them difficult to spot.  Their non-stop upward motion makes them more difficult to photograph. 
I love to watch Brown Creepers because their tree-hugging movement reminds me of watching my grandmother’s knitting:  upward stitch, upward stitch, upward stitch, and on up the tree they go; and then a quick flight down to the base of a nearby tree (as quickly as an expert knitter will pick up the next row of stitches); and upward stitch, upward stitch, upward stitch, and on up this tree they go. 
A side-view of the Brown Creeper, exposing her bright-white belly as contrasted to her tree-bark backside:


And another:

And then my camera caught this pose that made me burst out laughing; a creeper appearing to hang on for dear life:

I wasn’t the only one watching this quietly busy tree-hugger.  I turned toward the hoarse barking sound of a Red-bellied Woodpecker. I think these loud ones sound just like a dog that has barked so long that their bark has gone hoarse. 
This Red-bellied seemed to want to give the creeper a few tips for elegant tree walking:




  1. Your walks in the woods are far more poetic than mine. I would never think to equate a brown creeper to a grandmother knitting. But then, my grandmother never did knit. :)

  2. It's a joy to hear and see your adventures!

  3. She should write a book shouldn't she??? I keep telling her that... Susan.


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