A Small Brown Creeper

Following up on my newly-found interest in birds, last week I ended up at the Seattle Audubon’s society home page and from there at Birdnote, the home page of short podcasts on various bird species.

One of the first podcasts I listened to was Hazel Brown and the brown creeper, the story of a Seattle activist who was converted to a bird lover after observing the small, brown creeper on her first outing.

For me, the most remarkable part of the story was simply that there was a bird called the brown creeper that I could not remember ever seeing despite many years walking the Northwest woods. Even more remarkably, I spotted one of them on my very next walk, a walk I’ve taken nearly five times a week for the last two years.

I wasn’t more than two hundred yards into my Nisqually walk when I ran into another brown creeper climbing a large, moss-covered tree:

After these kinds of experiences, it’s hard not to begin to wonder exactly how much in life I’ve been missing. I’ve begun to notice just how many small birds there are that I have taken very little notice of before, and, even more remarkable, apparently they all have names, not that it’s always easy to match a name to a particular photo.

For instance, here’s a Warbling Vireo who seemed to spend most of his time flying a foot or two off the ground:

Here’s what I think is a Hammond’s Flycatcher:

Though he doesn’t look very different from what I’m guessing is a Western Wood-Pewee:

Just knowing names doesn’t seem too important. For instance, learning today that what I’ve been calling an Oregon Junko for several years is really a Black-Capped Chickadee didn’t change my love of these small birds. Being aware of the large number of tiny birds inhabiting the woods, listening for their songs and watching for their quick flitting as I walk the trail is important, though. This increased awareness transforms walking into an even richer experience.

6 thoughts on “A Small Brown Creeper”

  1. The first time I had read “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” was on your blog (if I’m not mistaken). Perhaps you would have written it today.


  2. Jeeez, Jon, you might have a better memory and understanding of what I’ve written than I do. Of course, I’ve gone back before and read something I’ve written and said to myself, “I wrote that?”

    That poem does seem to beautifully convey what I was trying to say here through the photographs.

    Hopefully, what I’m still writing is more like Yeats’ spiral than like some foolish old man merely repeating himself endlessly.

  3. Being somewhat of a fool myself on more occasions than I’d like to admit I’m in no position to make that judgment. I’m not familiar with Yeats’ spiral but it sounds like correcting that issue would be helpful. I’ll do some searching around but I’m not too proud to be pointed in the right direction if you’ve a specific reference.

  4. After taking a quick run through the net, I’m no longer sure that I understand the metaphor. Here’s the clearest definition to the gyre that I found:http://www.yeatsvision.com/Geometry.html.

    It’s most famous use is in the Second Coming where the “center cannot hold” and civilization is falling apart. I found the comparison to yin-yang there rather interesting.

    The metaphor that we focused on in class was the “spiral staircase” form of the spiral where progress upward is is never straightforward, but, rather, circular and where any upward movement is hidden by the circular motion, the feelings that “I’ve been here before. I’ve made the same mistakes before” keep us from realizing that we are, indeed, making some kind of “progress.”

    Looking at some of the ideas on the net, I’m not sure that interpretation wasn’t an oversimplification of Yeats’ original idea.

  5. Thanks for that Loren. I get what you meant now even if the metaphor might be more involved than intended.

    I was thinking, in my ‘contrarian’ sort of way that perhaps we really descend the steps rather than ascend them. In that way we descend from a distant and separated view of the earth and over time become closer to earth, first figuratively and then literally.

  6. Actually, Jon, my own view of the world might be closer to your interpretation than to Yeats’. I tend to have a Taoist or shamanistic view of the world.

    But I suspect that Yeats was using an extended Christian metaphor, or perhaps even an archetypal view that going up puts us on a “higher plane.” There’s a reason why birds are so often used to symbolize the soul.

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