Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

January 8, 2012

A Creeper Tale: L.B.B. Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 11:52 am

CONTENT WARNING: This blog contains little if any real content. Please do not read it if you have anything else to do (such as clipping toenails or removing ear hairs) or while awake.

I was forced by the blinking prompter on the computer screen to type the following words, so for God’s sake don’t judge me too harshly. You see, I encountered a Brown Creeper the other day and felt compelled to write about it. Actually I should say that I encountered yet another Brown Creeper because the little birds are all over the place this winter.  Unfortunately the subject didn’t seem big enough to warrant much space given recent events. If you are a regular nature blog reader you might have seen all the recent accounts of flocks (4 or 5) of Snowy Owls around the Lake St. Clair shore or the majestic looking Great Gray Owl staying just over the Detroit River in Ontario. Neither of these accounts will be found in my nature blog because I didn’t see any of these magnificent northern visitors. No, I saw another Brown Creeper.

The sight of a Creeper is hardly inspiring. Every time I see one, however, I am challenged (by myself) to get a decent picture of one. You could say I am inspired to act beyond reason when in the presence of a Creeper. I’m not sure what a good Creeper picture will achieve (“look at my Brown Creeper shot everyone- it isn’t it magnificent. It’s so much more interesting than joe smoe’s perfectly detailed Great Gray Owl portrait!”). Yet, because these tiny creepy birds are hard to “shoot” by a minor photographer such as myself, I am strangely drawn to the attempt.  Not only are they in constant motion, but they blend completely into their backgrounds. They also have bad postures. Their hunchbacked manner gives them the appearance of a clot of dirt stuck onto the bark. All of this is feeds the fires of inadequacy on my part.

I have taken so many bad creeper shots over the years that I considered declaring them worthless turd-shaped birds unworthy of any effort.  I would both swear off them and swear at them. I could invest in one of those thermos sized lenses (the kind that require a back brace and a six foot clearance )and get a shot worthy of the cover of L.B.B. Digest, but that will not happen due to my religious convictions. Still, they tempt me like small satanic contra-angels.

When this latest Creeper popped into view, I held back for at least 30 seconds. It was a beautiful sunny morning and the bird was close, but I would not be lured. I would just observe it. Defying the normal Creeper pattern, this creature lingered and actually remained still for a few seconds at a time as it picked unseen delicacies from the walnut tree bark. Like a dam giving way to a flood, I instantly decided to “unsheathe” my camera and shoot away. The result? Several more mediocre shots and a commitment to post something about them.

Enter factual sequence: Brown Creepers, mousy birds only 5 inches in length, are the only members of their tribe in North America. Equipped with long sickle-shaped bills, Creepers slink (aka “creep”) up tree trunks from bottom to top and probe for insects, spiders, and spider egg cases. Like woodpeckers they use their stiff tail feathers as props, but a Creeper’s tail is much longer in proportion to the body than those of the ‘pecker clan.  Their call, a nearly inaudible series of high-pitched “see see see” notes, defies the hearing abilities of people of a certain age.

Enter dream sequence:  For some reason I experienced a flashing day-dream sequence while watching the Creeper.  In it I became the Creeper.  I was still a full sized human in this vision. So, after an uncomfortable panting accent up the trunk I decided to pause and search for insects.

Not being equipped with a pair of forceps for a bill, I resorted to the using my fingers to pry away at a loose piece of bark. I made the mistake of looking down as I followed the path of the detached bark to the ground and experienced an uncontrollable episode of sphincter tightening. My hands were no longer engaged in hanging on and, lacking any tail support, I began a rapid wingless descent to the ground. I followed the same general direction as the bark, but due to my mass, my route was much more direct. Lying still and hump-backed on the ground I uttered a string nearly inaudible of notes. “Help me,” I droned like a helium balloon leaking air. End of dream sequence.

If this posting had been about a Great Gray Owl or a Snowy Owl, I would never have needed to share my vision with you. It is about a Brown Creeper, however, and it is what it is.

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