Tuesday Tune

photograph, video, and text by Brian Willson

Golden-crowned kinglet, 24 Oct 2010 (©2010 Brian Willson)

I’ve written about the species before, but the appearance of a golden-crowned kinglet out back of my place at the height of the February 9th blizzard got me thinking again about this tiny year-round bird.

Midday Saturday, while doing a little emergency snow-shoveling on my back deck, I heard the kinglet’s distinctive three-note call—tsee-tsee-tsee! (or see-see-see!)—and stopped to see if I could spot the bird amid all the snow and wind and swaying branches. I couldn’t for a good while, but while I shoveled it called repeatedly, I suppose looking for others of its species.

Golden-crowned kinglets are, of course, designed for surviving northern winters: they’re equipped with plenty of feathery insulation; they’re small and active enough to avoid most predators; they’re good at finding where grubs wait out the cold. Still, I was surprised to meet one out in a historic winter storm.

At last I caught sight of it, an impossibly small bird bouncing around the south side of a big oak trunk. Like all kinglets, though, it couldn’t sit still, and before I could get a picture, it had bounded away.

Late that day, I took a snow-swept hike with my dog out to the Rockland Breakwater, just to see if we could prevail against a big ol’ storm. We encountered more than one moment of total white-out. Only plow-trucks traveled the roads. A group of young cross-country skiers slipped silently by.

But more than once during our hour-long walk, we heard the wee tsee-tsee-tsee! of golden-crowned kinglets.

Editor’s note: Brian shot this video out behind his place during Saturday’s storm. Listen for the voice of a kinglet in the beginning.