I was starting to shiver and, still, I had not found the bird twittering and singing in the tree no more than 20 feet away. It was one of those “mild” March days that tricks you into thinking that spring is just around the corner. Snow was melting, and the sun was shining. In fact, for the rest of the country, spring was already underway. I had spoken to my parents in Mississippi that morning, and they bragged about the jonquils and forsythia in their yard. Yet, here in Western Maine, we were still in winter’s grip with high snow banks and a cold wind blowing. I had stopped by Valentine Farm Conservation Center for a quick visit. I had dashed from the car to the offices without putting on a heavy coat. As I passed the bird feeders, I heard a twittering that I recognized but seldom heard until this time of year. It was a sound of spring, and it came from a small bird known as a Brown Creeper (photo Alan Vernon).
The Brown Creeper is a shy bird that lives in our area year-round. Finding this bird isn’t easy. It is usually solitary but, occasionally, will forage alongside chickadees and nuthatches. It is well camouflaged with shades of brown and speckles of cream white. And, like its name, it creeps around and up tree trunks and large limbs probing with its long, curved bill for spiders and insects. It blends in so well that it is easily mistaken for a loose piece of bark or a leaf fluttering in the wind, as it flies from one tree to another.
Its song is a high tinkling melody that I never expect to hear in late winter. But, that is what stopped me as I dashed past the bird feeders. I stopped and searched for the bird singing from a pine tree right in front of me. I’d been there 20 minutes and was on the verge of giving up. The bird kept up the musical twitter, and right as I was about to head inside, I caught a quick glimpse of the little Brown Creeper as it followed a couple of chickadees and a nuthatch over into the nearby hemlocks.
So, listen for this little songster this time of year. Your best bet for seeing it is before leaf-out in the early spring.
James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust which celebrates 30 years conserving the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME or at www.mahoosuc.org. To learn about upcoming events or to contact James, send your emails to email@example.com.