Watching a Kinglet Watching Me

For a few minutes this morning, the front yard was quiet. Not a bird to be seen or heard anywhere near. The air was cold. The bare branches of the pecans and water oaks made gray patterns against a blue sky, with big rafts of gleaming white clouds drifting from west to east. Sharp, chilly breezes shook and rattled the dark-red, dry leaves on the white oaks, and each breeze sent a few more of them tumbling down. One silent Black Vulture flew low over the tops of the trees at the edge of the woods across the street.

Then all at once, there seemed to be birds everywhere. Several Chickadees and two Red-breasted Nuthatches flew to the feeders and up into the branches above them. A pair of Cardinals peeped in the low branches. A Mockingbird came to one of the birdbaths for a drink. A Towhee called, and a Carolina Wren trilled cheer-cheer-cheer.

About a dozen Dark-eyed Juncos flew in and settled in the grass only a few feet away from me and began to hunt around in the grass at the edge of the sidewalk. (We saw our first Junco of the season here over the weekend.) Two Yellow-rumped Warblers flew from a branch down to the Savannah holly. Three or four White-throated Sparrows began to kick up leaves beside the porch.

One tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet flew into the Savannah holly tree whose branches are the usual stopping point for one of the birdbaths, made its way down the limbs of the holly, paused and looked my way for a few seconds, then moved into the large tea olive bush right beside me. I could hear the rustling as it moved through the thick dark-green leaves of the bush until it emerged on the edge nearest me, close enough so that I could have reached out and touched it. It looked directly at me, turning its head and seeming to be checking me out. Meanwhile, I sat as still as I could, delighted at the close view. I could see its greenish-gray head, bright white eye-ring, and neat white bars on each wing. No sign of its ruby crest – but the main thing that impressed me was simply how very, very small it was. Then it flew to a low limb of a pecan, where it turned to look back at me one more time and make a bold, gossipy comment before it moved on.

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