Tag Archives: brown creeper (Certhia americana)

Farewells – Part 1

The mockingbirds sing and display, their aerial ballets worthy of the finest stages across the globe and their diverse songs reminiscent of the finest works of Mozart.  The first purple martin arrived yesterday, a vanguard leading the way for many others to follow, and soon they will fill the days with profound beauty.  The merlin waded into the crystal river and began its long swim northward, putting behind it this cold season in the south and setting its eyes on love to be found in another place and at another time.  The mourning doves pour upon the sunrise their woeful dirge until my eyes water at the sadness of the sound, yet to them it is not sad but joyous, a plaintive call that seeks to warm the heart of another.

Even as more snow is forecast next week, nature prepares her children for the season that is to come.  An eclectic celebration of dance and music.  The building of nests and the starting of families.  The putting on of fine colors and patterns, the best dress available, the finest suit.  And her migrating offspring begin their journeys.  While many will leave, many more will arrive.  Yet it is the farewells which cut us deeply, not the hellos.

So in honor of the endings that now beset us and the beginnings they foretell, I offer this brief series in celebration of the lives with whom I’ve shared a brief moment this winter, the faces that will now pass into memory as new faces take their place.  And because I believe no life is complete without reading it, I will include the divine words of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet alongside the beauty of that which even now passes into history.

Farewell to you and the youth I have spent with you.

Yellow-rumped warbler (a.k.a. myrtle warbler or Audubon’s warbler; Dendroica coronata) perched in a bush (2010_02_06_049418)

It was but yesterday we met in a dream.

Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) perched on a branch (2010_02_06_049331)

You have sung to me in my aloneness, and I of your longings have built a tower in the sky.

Brown creeper (Certhia americana) climbing the side of a tree (2010_02_07_049537)

But now our sleep has fled and our dream is over, and it is no longer dawn.

A mated pair of northern pintails (Anas acuta) swimming in the bay (2010_01_24_048844)

The noontide is upon us and our half waking has turned to fuller day, and we must part.

Song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) perched in winter reeds (2010_01_12_048009)

If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more, we shall speak again together and you shall sing to me a deeper song.

Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) standing on a submerged log (2009_12_20_045591)

And if our hands should meet in another dream we shall build another tower in the sky.

— — — — — — — — — —

For those looking to fill your weekend not with farewells but with hellos, I turn your attention to these delectable blog carnivals.

Friday Ark #283: Steve ushers critters aboard the ark throughout the weekend, so visit now and visit often.  Through Sunday you will find a growing collection of marvels both great and small.

I and the Birds #119: The Cult of Birds: I cannot recommend enough that you visit Laura’s edition of this bird carnival.  She is someone I look up to as a writer, a naturalist, a feeler of emotions.  Her edition of this celebration of all things winged is the preeminent presentation that should not be missed.

An Inordinate Fondness #1 – Inaugural Issue: A man for whom I have developed a sincere admiration and great fondness, Ted MacRae offers up the inaugural edition of a carnival celebrating the largest group of animals on the planet: beetles.  His passion manifests clearly in this festival, and he sets the bar high for future versions that no doubt will struggle to meet this standard.


[1] Juvenile yellow-rumped warbler (a.k.a. myrtle warbler or Audubon’s warbler; Dendroica coronata)

[2] Subadult cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

[3] Brown creeper (Certhia americana)

[4] Mated pair of northern pintails (Anas acuta)

[5] Song sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

[6] Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis)

Winter visitors – Part 4

They arrive as individuals and they arrive as flocks so large that they darken the sky.  Some move in silence and some shake the ground with thunderous flight.  They fill niches left empty by the southward flow of our summer residents.  They join year-round inhabitants and elbow their way up to the table.

They are winter visitors, guests in our city, migrants who arrive at White Rock Lake to spend the cold season in Dallas, a place where the word ‘cold’ only applies as an exception—and rarely in a way that compares to where they came from.

Northern shovelers (Anas clypeata) swimming in a lagoon (2009_12_20_045667)

Northern shovelers (Anas clypeata), a male in the foreground and a female in the background.  Unique ducks, what with that spatulate bill that looks like…well, it looks like a shovel.

A juvenile yellow-rumped warbler (a.k.a. myrtle warbler or Audubon’s warbler; Dendroica coronata) perched on a limb (2009_12_19_045040)

A juvenile yellow-rumped warbler (a.k.a. myrtle warbler or Audubon’s warbler; Dendroica coronata).  By spring these birds will put on a showy dress of mating plumage that can leave a man breathless.  Abundant in winter to the point of excess, their voices fill the air with sweet melodies that seem hardly comparable to their small size.

A golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satrapa) perched in some branches holding a tiny insect in its beak (2009_12_20_046039)

A golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satrapa) who grabbed a quick bite to eat before realizing I stood watching it.  Unlike their cousins the ruby-crowned kinglets (Regulus calendula), golden-crowned kinglets do not arrive in vast numbers and do not act so blatant in their foraging, so fearless in their encounters, so devil-may-care in their activities.  Finding them is more of a challenge.

A white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) hanging upside-down on a tree (2009_12_26_047202)

A white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis).  Yes, it hung upside-down on the side of a tree.  And yes, that’s a typical foraging position for them.  This individual left our photography session to go argue with a titmouse.  Amazingly, the titmouse lost.

A male ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) floating in the water (2009_12_26_047090)

A male ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis).  Rarely seen on land because their legs are so far back on their bodies that it makes them awkward and uncomfortable, they sleep in the water, feed in the water, relax in the water…  Let’s just say this: I’ve never seen one on land.

A brown creeper (Certhia americana) looking for food (2009_12_26_047404)

My winter nemesis: the brown creeper (Certhia americana).  The size of a wren, silent, perfectly camouflaged for lurking about tree bark, and as the name implies, always creeping, always moving.  These birds catch my attention only with movement.  Unless they’re on the side of a tree where I get a profile view, they can be difficult to find and difficult to photograph.

A brown creeper (Certhia americana) hanging on the side of a tree (2009_12_20_046060)

And when I find one on the side of a tree like this, they don’t stay that way for long.  They pause only to investigate possible food, then they move on to the next crevice, the next shadow, the next limb.

Bad birds – Part 1

Rummaging through my entire photo collection so I could restore my laptop following the drive failure has offered me two things: discovery and fatigue.  The latter kept me from completing it sooner mainly because I kept feeling burned out having to reprocess thousands of images.  About halfway through the collection I realized I never wanted to look at another image again.  But like a trooper, I marched on.  A good reason to keep going was the sense of discovery—or more precisely, rediscovery.

A golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satrapa) perched on a branch (2009_01_17_004303)

Like this golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satrapa), I found a lot of photos that won’t win any prizes or accolades.  Yet these are pictures I keep for ID purposes when I’m not sure what I’ve seen, or because I don’t yet have a better picture of that species.  Heck, sometimes I keep them because I once thought they were usable.

In the case of this kinglet, it was a dark, cloudy day and the bird flitted along the edge of the woodlands.  Too far away to see any detail and visible only for a few seconds, I snapped some photos anyway just in case it was of interest.

Having to look at each and every one of these photos over the past weeks has taught me it’s time to dump them.  Rather than delete them outright, however, I figured I could at least show you what’s been lurking in the pile all this time.

A winter wren (a.k.a. northern wren; Troglodytes troglodytes) standing on a rock in the middle of a shallow stream (2009_01_17_004472)

Keep in mind I’m not a photo snob; I don’t think every photo has to be technically perfect, though I do try for something less haphazard than what’s in these scenes.  After all, it wasn’t sloppy photographic standards that made me a published nature photographer.

Yet in truth, I’d forgotten about a lot of these.  Remanded to the back burners of memory, they eventually became lost in that place where forgotten things go.

This poor winter wren (a.k.a. northern wren; Troglodytes troglodytes) is a good example.  The bird caught me completely unaware: wrong lens on the camera, my attention focused elsewhere.  It kept returning to this shallow stream in the middle of the woods.  But I wasn’t photographing birds that day and didn’t have the lens for it.

I kept the photo as a reminder that you can never be too prepared for nature photography, but you can always be unprepared.

A Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) opening a sunflower seed (2009_01_17_004606)

Then there’s the time when I found this Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) beating the tarnation out of a black sunflower seed.  Chickadees are notorious for this stance: pinning a seed down with both feet while pounding it to death until it spills its innards.

Unfortunately for me, I discovered this scene at the end of a long walk.  I was dripping with sweat, miserable and tired and ready to go home.  Mosquitoes had munched on me all day, so I itched from head to toe.

As I walked along the trail leading to air conditioning and cold water, I heard something in the trees above me, but my overall malaise kept me from paying attention until I had already made enough noise to wake the dead.  I paused, lifted the camera and snapped this image—and then the chickadee flew away with its prize.

I had totally stepped on its dining buzz with my clumsy approach.  To eat in peace, it had to find another table.

Hey, don’t think it’s always my fault when a photo doesn’t turn out.  Well, okay, mostly it is, but sometimes it’s not.

A brown creeper (Certhia americana) clinging to the side of a tree (2009_03_07_012364)

Take this brown creeper (Certhia americana) as an example.  These birds are perfectly camouflaged for what they do: creep along the trunks and branches of trees.  Most people never see them even when the birds are abundant.

I usually find them by movement.  And I almost never find them if I’m looking for them, but instead they show up in my peripheral vision as a shadowy specter, something there yet not there.

And so it was with this critter.  I walked right by the tree, probably within a few steps of the bird, yet I never saw it until it moved.  I responded stupidly: by stopping and turning to look.

It responded in precisely the way I would expect: it flew to another tree some distance away.  I lost sight of it until it moved around the side of the tree where its profile stood out.  By then, though, it was too far away for a good photo.

OK, so that bad image is my fault as well.

I can at least say I’ve since grown much better at finding this species and getting close without disturbing them.  We learn from our mistakes…

A Lincoln's sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) standing in a pile of brush (2009_03_21_013906)

Fine, here’s a better example of an opportunity lost not because of my ineptness but because of circumstances well outside my control.

This Lincoln’s sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii), like all its kind, is perfectly patterned and colored to make it invisible within the brush it inhabits.

Sure, these birds are numerous here and it’s rather easy to find them.  Photographing them is another story.

I had been looking for a clear view of a barred owl sleeping in the canopy when something caught my eye.  Movement, perhaps, or maybe just the dance of a shadow.

Once I found the sparrow, it had realized I was looking for it and had taken a stance of rapt attention.  And when my eyes fell upon it?  Yep!  Off it went.

A Bonaparte's gull (Larus philadelphia) floating on the lake's surface (2009_02_22_010858)

Not gregarious and not interested in people, finding a Bonaparte’s gull (Larus philadelphia) floating in the middle of the lake with several of its brethren made for a nice winter discovery.  And a bad photo.

A large group of these small gulls could be seen lazing in the warmth of a sunny February day.  That I found myself on the shore furthest from their location was like spittle in the face.

The much larger ring-billed gulls could be seen clearly.  But the Bonaparte’s gulls aren’t ring-billed gulls, and they looked like tiny white specs floating on a vast sea of reflection.

I took the picture anyway, even knowing it would lack quality.  At least it showed the birds were here, as they are every winter.

And after all this blathering ad nauseam, I’ve come full circle without making a point.

What I started with was the idea of bad birds.  Or more precisely, bad bird photos.  That’s the intent of this brief series: to expel the avian images still in my working set that aren’t of great quality but nevertheless deserve honorable mention.