Ruby-crowned kinglets have got to be one of the hardest birds to photograph! The little stinkers never stay still. They flit, bounce, twist, and pop off to the next spot. Dale and I call them ‘Flitter.’
Today, March 7, Dale and I have found a busy winter flock of little birds – more ruby-crowned kinglets than we’ve ever seen together (6? 12?). They flit about too much to really count. They just seemed to be everywhere. At least two chestnut-backed chickadees, and some black-capped chickadees bounce about too, but in a more sedate manner, if one can call a chickadee sedate. Spring warmth has opened the pussy willows and spring showers have watered all gardens of mosses and lichens. This stretch of the Umpqua River flows through dark forest, but along the river edges are patches of alder, willow and maple. The willows are a-buzz with bees and a few flies. The flock of birds pick about in all the trees, sometimes pounding away on something hard; three times I saw one with a little caterpillar about an inch long; mostly he is busy, busy, busy moving from one spot to another.
Dale and I each spent about two hours doing our darndest to get sharp photos of Flitter. The biggest challenge is to get a peek of the male’s red crown. He can hide it entirely – which he usually does. When aggravated he raises a bit of red and he can flare it into a glorious patch of red.
Finally I had Flitter close and a little peak of red was showing ….. click! I was sure I’d gotten that little feller until I looked at the image on the back of my camera – tail feathers! Click! More tail feathers! Three times in a row all I got was tail feathers. I began to think of a few other names to call Flitter.
Sometimes being an artist is really handy. I went back to the car and loaded up with my stool, sketchbook and paint. By now I had been watching kinglets for about two hours and had them pretty well sketched in my brain. I sat down and drew what I couldn’t get with the camera. Dale had more picture patience and kept on photographing.
This photo of Flitter was taken in Yellowstone, one of the places ruby-crowned kinglets breed. I well remember the day we heard something blasting forth from the top of a Douglas Fir and about broke our necks trying to figure out who had such a big voice -- a ruby-crowned kinglet. They don't breed near home and so we weren't familiar with their song. Fortunately sometimes they come down to lower levels to sing too. This little guy was tucked in bushes near a pond.