Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Late this morning a familiar, stuttering jidit-jidit call announced the arrival of the first of our winter birds to return – a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. A tiny little gray bird with a bright eye ring and white wing bars, it flitted in the branches of a small pecan tree growing in the middle of a ring of thick juniper out in the middle of our cul de sac.

It flew to the trees in our yard, disappearing into the leaves of some oaks, and from there – it sang, a rapid, lively song that begins with three very high, sharp whistles, then three or four tur-tur-turs and then a tumbling series of musical notes. This is one of the few times I’ve noticed a Ruby-crowned Kinglet singing in the fall, though we hear them often before they leave each spring. It seemed to sing a little more quietly than in the spring, not quite so exuberant, but spritely.

It’s been a sunny, warm, beautiful day, though even now, in mid October, there’s only the beginning of fall color in the foliage. Mostly the leaves are still green all around, though beginning to fade and change. Maples show patches and edges of coral or dark rose-red; our three river birches still hold an unusual number of leaves – faded to yellow and brown, they are thin and showering off a few at a time, but still enough to shimmer in a breeze. Pecan trees – never colorful – have begun to wither and shed a few leaves, but not many yet. Even the water oaks show only speckles of orange and brown among the faded green, and the white oaks still hang heavy with green, though acorns have begun to fall, small ones peppering down from the water oaks, and big heavy ones thumping down from the white oaks. Sweet gums – mostly yellow, yellow-brown and some wine-red – seem to be the most colorful trees so far, and their starry leaves are scattered on the ground.

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