Years of wildlife spotting have trained my eyes to dart skyward at the slightest motion and to study each dark form perched in any tree. Which means this leaf-fall time of year becomes a tad daunting for my senses. Falling leaves are not initially distinguished from birds and other flighty animals. I reflexively avert my gaze at the mildest flutter, expecting a chickadee, a nuthatch, even a sparrow, only to see yet another leave dropping to the ground.
And that dark speck sitting in the tree, it’s not a robin, it’s a golden pear. It and a few raindrops are all that remains in the hold of this tree. But, it drew and held my attention as I sorted out just what kind of bird it was, or was not.
On calmer days the eye-darting is occasional. A few leaves fall from the giant poplar by my window. One at a time they descend. One at a time they fool my reflexive gaze. On stormy days the deluge of leaves keeps me looking out the window constantly. My eyes skip from one leaf to another, and another as the foliage drops like snowflakes.
Then, there’s the bonus. In the midst of that leaf watching my eyes are drawn to the next leaf. It’s moving upwards…wait, that’s not a leaf. The motion on the bark of the tree IS actually a bird and an unusual urban bird at that. I know the Brown Creeper the instant I know it not to be a leaf. Slender and brown and creeping up the bark .(Aptly named.) It climbs then turns showing its white throat and breast and drops to the base of the tree only to resume climbing. Up it goes. Pausing. Climbing. Then to the base again.
It’s been over 15 years looking out these windows and today is the first time a Brown Creeper has graced our home. They’re not unusual birds in the woods. In fact, I think they’re fairly common, yet always delightful to watch. They’re especially charming when they’re in a group of two or three and peeping messages at each other. And it’s always delightful to be in Brown Creeper habitat; a place of mature trees and wild things. But it stopped by today, in the middle of the city, while my eyes were darting wildly around and surprised me by not being yet another leaf.