Jeepers. It’s the Creeper!

While we’re still on the subject of nemesis birds, I’d like to mention another: the Brown Creeper. Creepers winter here and they’re reasonably common, but until recently, I was without a halfway acceptable photo of one.

They’re not especially wary and will generally let you approach, but they never stop moving, the way they cling to a tree means they always have their back to you and they blend so well with tree bard that I believe the lack of contrast makes it difficult for a camera to autofocus. Those three factors are why I have a bushel basket of photos like this:


And of course, there’s the fact that I typically spend most of my winter looking for raptors, along with waterfowl and sparrows. Creepers will be in the trees, so I’m simply not spending much time in their habitat.

I had been thinking about the fact that I still needed a photo of a Creeper, so when a free lunch hour materialized the other day I decided to see if I couldn’t rustle one up. I headed to the Peavine pavilion at Big Spring (well, where it used to be; the flood last spring erased it from existence) which sits on a terrace 100 yards from the river in a stand of large, mature Burr Oaks. There always seem to be woodpeckers, titmice, and chickadees about and when you find Creepers, they’re almost always part of a mixed foraging flock, so having those other birds around is a big plus, practically a necessity.

Opening the truck door, I immediately heard the nasally “yank” of a White-breasted Nuthatch across the road and a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers calling to each other near the barricade (the campground is still closed, another casualty of the flood.) I got a couple of nice photos of the woodpeckers, this being my favorite.

From the corner of my eye, I caught movement on the trunk of a nearby tree. I had my first Creeper of the day, five minutes after I started looking. Before I could get closer and try for a photo, two additional birds revealed themselves, so now I have three to choose from. I love it when a plan comes together.

Picking the one in the most favorable position relative to the light, I started creeping slowly closer (see what I did there?). I nearly got bogged down crossing a recently excavated utility corridor, managing to escape with a heavy load of mud glommed onto my shoes. But the birds were still there, un-alarmed and working their way up and around a tree trunk, then flying to the base of another tree to repeat the process. 

I got within 15 feet of my target bird and started shooting. 


They’re adorable little buggers, aren’t they? Five inches from tip to tip, they make me think of a mouse, albeit one with a sharp bill and a woodpecker’s tail.

I followed them for 20 minutes as they moved from tree to tree, paying me little mind and allowing me to maneuver about as necessary. I even got a series of “on the edge of the tree profile shots” (or very nearly so) instead of just the monotonous top-down dorsal view. I ended up with twenty or so shots (out of a total of 80) that I wouldn’t be ashamed to post; the ones that I didn’t use here will go up on the Flickr page soon. 

By this point, my lunch hour was over and I had to scrape all that damned mud off my shoes before heading back to town. The stop was profitable though, a nice return on a small investment of time, with another nemesis bird off the list. I’ll keep shooting Creepers in hopes of a better shot (there’s always a better shot,) but for now, I’m satisfied.

Oh, and bonus points to anyone who got the Scooby Doo reference in the title. Rooby Rooby Roo!

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