Saturday, February 28, 2009

JEEPERS…CREEPERS!

For weeks now the brown creepers and I have been playing games—part hide-and-seek, part tag—wherein I attempt to take a good photo of these little birds clambering about on my dooryard box elder tree, and the resultant photos keep turning out, at best, mediocre, and more usually, plain awful. I am, to put it mildly, a tad frustrated. The blame, however, can be solidly laid on two main factors—subject uncooperativeness and photographer impatience. Brown creepers are small, goldfinch-sized tree-climbers, slim in profile, sport a stiff tail for better balance and propping, with a long, slightly down-curved beak they use to probe the nooks and crevices in a tree’s bark. Those of you familiar with creepers know their habit of starting near a tree’s base and spiraling upward as they search for grubs and insects. If you’re not so well acquainted you might assume—wrongly—that this upward namesake creeping is slow and orderly. Nothing, I assure you, could be further from the truth! Creepers work a tree in a spastic, herky-jerky manner—up, stop, sideways, stop, twitch, up-no-down, stop, up, sideways, sideways, up. Never stopping in place for more than a second—and even then their head is twisting, turning, bobbing, up, down, this way and that—a continuing kinetic series of sudden shifts that makes it nearly impossible to track them through a viewfinder, and is guaranteed to have you grinding your teeth after half an hour. It doesn’t help, of course, that brown creepers look like brown tree bark (except for their whitish undersides) and so, should they actually pause for longer than the usual millisecond, chances are at least 50-50 you’ll overtrack through the viewfinder and miss the only photo opt you’re likely to get during the session. Which, I suppose, brings us to impatience. Given time I’m sure I could eventually manage a few decent portraits. Had I known this now obvious necessity, I would have begun my creeper photography career soon after graduation. As it stands now, however, I doubt I have sufficient lifespan remaining to accomplish the task. I’m not giving up, mind you; just putting these interim images out there for anyone to see. I’ll keep taking my daily 150 or so brown creeper shots, downloading, trash-canning 149, putting the remaining one in a folder, shooting another 150, and another, and so on until I have a dozen possibles to scrutinize closer, at which point I’ll throw all but one of those in the trash can. Now, if you’ll excuse me…I must go and take my blood pressure medication. I’ve again been trying to photograph brown creepers.

22 comments:

Lynne said...

LOL!! Those little guys really are twitchy aren't they? I've never been able to catch even ONE photo. I think yours are great!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lynne…

Twitchy is an understatement! Between these and my spooky pileated who flaps off at any hint of movement, I can't wait for wildflower season.

Thanks for liking my shots, though. God knows even these have been hard enough to get!

JMS said...

I think they're quite nice shots!

I've not seen them here this winter. I don't know if I haven't paid close enough attention or if they're declining here.

Val said...

: )


I took the kids to North Carolina Musuem of Natural Sciences today and I couldn't help but think of you as I looked at all the different species of birds... warblers... robins...woodpeckers... cardinals... I've never EVER considered myself to be very interested in birds but, thanks to you, I've seen the light!

Jenn Jilks said...

I love the post and can certainly commiserate. I sit outdoors with a book and wait until the birds come around. It's our nuthatches that begin at the top of a tree, upside down, and work their way around.

I've been trying to capture the sitting ducks that risk reducing our gene pool!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

JMS…

You know, the funny thing is, I have a creeper or two in one of my trees almost every minute of the day. They're not as common a nuthatches (two to four of those visible at all times) but I look at them and think, hey, I can get a good shot of that one. I shoot 20, 50, 75 captures…every one has a blurred head, bad position, I move, the bird moves—always something.

Anyway, thank you for your kind words.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Val…

I'd have never called myself a birder, either, though I've watched and been interested in birds all my life. I don't keep a "life list" or anything, and I've never actually gone somewhere to look specifically at birds. I look at everything, from plants to bugs to birds, and all manner of critters that slither or croak.
But birds grow on you—their songs, and colors, and variety. More than once a certain bird experience has furnished the defining moment of a day afield.

So, if I've turned you to birds even a little bit—I'm glad…and I don't ever think you'll be sorry for the experiences ahead.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

My dooryard nuthatches could care less about me coming out. I sit on the front deck in my rocker (I'm starting my training for geezerhood) and they give me their goofy stare as they come down the tree before flying over to the seed feeder, which hangs about 5 feet away from me.

I think nuthatches and creepers are terrific birds.

Anyway, thank you. I'm pleased you liked the post.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I love those photographs - what do you mean you can't take a good photograph of that little bird - they show it to perfection - they show just how good its camouflage is for starters.

Gail said...

Your amazing photos and words to create beauty are so inspiring for me. Because if you I see 'my-world-view' more intimately detailed-magical and wondrous. I always appreciated and reveled in my surroundings but through your vantage point I am ever more engaged. So, thanks. :-)

I hope your cold of the decade is over soon.

Love Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

Maybe it's a case of me moving my own carrot-on-the-stick ever ahead, but I have this idea of the creeper photo I want and none of these fill the bill. Perfectionism can be a terrible waste of energy sometimes—but I know I can do a better…if only that twitchy little bird would cooperate.

Their camouflage is amazing, isn't it? On the right tree, it can actually be difficult to follow them with the eye as they're moving‚and they all but disappear the instant they pause.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

I appreciate your kind words and I really do hope they add something to your days—a bit of entertainment if nothing else.

Re. my rare and currently near-devastating cold, I'm alive…I think…not thriving, but surviving. My brain is turning to mush. Thank you for asking and your well wishes.

giggles said...

You've done a beautiful job! (Aaaaaahhhhh, the magic of digital photography, yes? No wastage....well, except for time, I guess...but that's not really wasted...if spent constructively....)

Only this winter have I seen my first brown creeper IRL....and I betcha they've been here all along!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

I do love digital. More than the "shoot as much as you want and erase the bad ones" mentality, however, is the instant feedback. I do miss the darkroom, though. I really loved the printmaking process.

Actually, brown creepers are declining rather a lot in some parts of the country (including here in much of Ohio) so maybe you didn't miss them.

Gail said...

Hi Grizzled-

Big storm here in CT - I put up some photos, not bad. And there is a photo of "Hope-the tree", her story is on another post.
I hope your cold is getting better.

Love Gail
peace.....

Carolyn H said...

I love the little creepers--so well camoflauged, so intent on their "rounds." congratulations on getting good photos of those little devils. That's one that's still eluded me!

Carolyn h.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

I figured the storm got you good. Haven't been online much today, though, as I'm just miserably sick—not quite the flu, but way worse than a cold. After my dawn breakfast of a glass of tomato juice, I fed the birds (it was 9 degrees out but I was too achy and numb and chilled to notice) I've retreated back to the bedroom where I've been dozing and listening to a mystery on CD. I made a half-hearted foraging attempt about four hours ago to the kitchen for a cup of tea and a slice of toast. This time I just got tea and came into the great room for a brief online look.

Hope the snow isn't causing you too many problems.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

I really enjoy watching the little creepers, too—so busy and thorough, and I like the way when, upon reaching the upper part of the tree in their investigations, they sort of flutter/fall back to the base of the trunk and start over.

Thank you for your nice comment. BTW, did you get any snow on your mountain top?

Gail said...

Hi again-

It is still snowing pretty heavily....I am warm and cozy inside.

I am not going out until tomorrow so by then we should be shoveled out and have clear skies.

Keep up those fluids, rest.........
and when you get a moment I would like your opinion of my photos on my last post. Thanks a bunch! :-)

Love Gail
peace.....

Val said...

Get well, dear Grizzled. I'm thinking about you!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

I'll will take a look at you snow pix a bit later on and tell you what I think. Hope you're shoved out.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Val…

I've made it up from my death bed for 10 minutes now, which is the best I've managed since Sunday. Thank you for your concerns…I may, in fact, survive.