Brown Creeper – A Feathered Wisp of Magic

On a cool afternoon of soft sunlight barely showing through high, layered clouds, a small, slender, dark-brown spot shivered up the trunk of a pecan tree at the edge of our front yard – a Brown Creeper. It’s the first Brown Creeper I’ve seen in many months, maybe a year or more.

A tiny sliver of a bird, with a mottled, dark-brown back patterned in a way that blends in with the bark, a Creeper is often almost invisible. But its distinctive way of moving can catch the eye. Close to the tree on very short legs, it scuttles up quickly, insect-like, turning slightly this way and that as it spirals around the trunk, probing into crevices and under the bark with a down-curved bill. This one was near the bottom of the trunk when I first saw it, and I watched as it moved up – the brown, mottled patterns of the back, long tail, the snow-white throat, and especially that swift, slightly jerky, creeping movement.

It went around the trunk and up as far as the first large branch, then flew back down to the bottom of the same tree and made its way back up once more before flying to another tree nearby.

There’s a magical feeling about a Brown Creeper, in part because it’s so seldom seen, but also because, even when seen, it appears so much a part of its surroundings. It’s like a trick of the light, a flake of the tree that turns into feathers and flies, but not far, a small shift in the scene as it blends back in, and disappears.

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