6:41 a.m. 21 degrees, wind NW 10 mph (an ominous blow, trees swaying). Sky:
murky, mostly a 6 on Ansel Adams' Zone System chart, a shade of gray leans
more toward white than black, Zone 1 and 2 highlights in the east, bright
enough for sunglasses. Permanent streams: soft dancing light, more waltz
than horah, ice on the ends of emergent sticks. Wetlands: flush by unabated
wind, loud enough to hijack the voice of nearby chickadees, everything one
else hunkered down. Pond: ice-sheet blooms in the south cove, shards and
panes a unite and spread north, sealing off a third of the pond, not *quite*
ready for hockey. Two blue jays overhead, one follows the other. Both
scream. A fracturing of the morning.
Red squirrels, slowed down by the wind and cold, apparently sleeping in.
Not brown creeper, which slowly, methodically wanders up the trunk of a
dead, pole-size pine. Checks crevices for spiders, cocoons, and insect
eggs. Slender, curved bill scrutinizes bark like water-witcher scrutinizes
the ground, probing, probing, probing. Tail, woodpecker-stiff, braced
against the tree. Around and around, always *up*, nuthatch in reverse, a
corkscrew search for food. Dainty, delicate bird. Looks like a piece of
loose bark. Colored like a dried leaf, brown and streaked, light
underneath; ochre band on wings. Sounds like an errant hearing aid, high
and thin, barely audible. Creeper in the vocal range of kinglets and
blackburnian warbler . . . louder than a thought, quieter than a twittering
beech leaf. Compared to blue jay and chickadee's social appetites, the
creeper is usually a loner, an unorthodox little bird that keeps to
Creeper flits from one tree to the next. Wanders up and around . . . now I
see him, now I don't. Now, I see him again. Nearby, four chickadees in
flux, dashing and calling, investigating everything that isn't a brown
creeper. Stonewall. Frozen leaf carpet. Branches. Pine needles. Twig tips.
I stick with the creeper . . . it may be months before I see him again.