Slogging through the swamp that is my backyard this afternoon, after almost three inches of rain over the weekend, I sensed movement on the trunk of my magnolia tree and looked to see a small brown bird with a slightly curved bill making its way up the tree, looking for insects. It has been a while since I've seen one of these birds in my yard, but I recognized it immediately. It was a Brown Creeper.
The creeper is a winter visitor here. I have sometimes seen them in my yard in the fall, but I've never recorded one at this time of year. That doesn't mean they haven't been here. This is a very cryptically-colored bird which can be totally inconspicuous against the bark of a tree where it is usually found. In its coloration and the shape of its beak, it might be mistaken for a wren, but on second look, you would never make that error. The posture of the two birds is entirely different. Wrens are very perky birds, quick in their movements, and they most often carry their tails pointed jauntily toward the sky. Creepers, on the other hand, carry their long tails on a plane with their bodies, very much as woodpeckers do, and, in fact, they use them the same way that woodpeckers do, to brace their bodies as they creep up the trunks of trees.
This little bird has a very thin and high-pitched song appropriate to its size. It reminds me a lot of another tiny bird that is visiting just now, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. It also sounds a bit like one of the kinglets and might be mistaken for them if you couldn't get a good look at the bird.
The Brown Creeper is normally a solitary bird, but like many of the other small birds, in winter it will sometimes travel in flocks with chickadees, kinglets, and titmice. The one that I saw today, though, was on its own.
It's likely that my visitor is just passing through on its way north. These birds nest along the far northern tier of states and up into Canada, as well as along the West Coast. Spring has come early this year and the migrants seem to be moving on quickly as they hurry to get to their breeding grounds, so I may not see this bird again. Still, I'm very glad that I got a glimpse of it. It brightened what had otherwise been a rather gloomy and soggy outlook around the old backyard today.