Golden-crowned Kinglets and a Mystery Tree

Walking on through the neighborhood, I heard the chatter of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, the kleer calls of Northern Flickers, and the calls of Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Eastern Phoebes, Northern Mockingbirds, and both White-breasted and Brown-headed Nuthatches. Several Mourning Doves flushed up in a flurry of whistling wings from a grassy yard, and there were Eastern Bluebirds, Chipping Sparrows, House Finches and Eastern Towhees.

A Pileated Woodpecker worked on the trunk of a pecan tree, the loud whacks of its bill standing out against the quiet, and its big red crest like a flare in the misty light. Then a second Pileated Woodpecker flew to another tree nearby, flashing the white patches in its wings.

As I came close to a large oak tree on one side of the road, I began to hear what seemed to be the high, sibilant ti-ti-ti calls of many Golden-crowned Kinglets. Though I’ve seen a number of Golden-crowned Kinglets here this Fall, they’ve been widely scattered, with only one or two at a time. This sounded like a whole congregation. The very high calls – usually so quiet you might not even know they’re around – mingled together so that they sounded almost shrill.

This was when I really wished very badly for binoculars. Up in this tree – which still held a lot of faded leaves – I could, indeed, see many small birds flitting around, though what they were, I could not be sure. In the gray, blurry light, there was no way I could see more than little dark winged shapes. I’m sure that at least one or two were Golden-crowned Kinglets, but doubt that all of them were. Some probably were Chickadees and Titmice.

I thought there might have been a Brown Creeper among them, because its calls are similar, and I searched the trunk for several moments, trying to spot one – but if there was a Creeper, I couldn’t find it. After a long time standing there and watching, feeling very frustrated and annoyed with myself, I finally walked on with a deep sigh of resignation. I’ll never know for sure what all those little birds were.

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