Tuesday, November 13, 2007

'Celata' means hidden

Often, what appears to be hidden is actually right before you. You simply need to look.

Sometimes it's right there, on the ground below your feet. Like this tiny greygreen bird foraging on clumps of weeds, that surprised me the other morning. I almost walked right by her, and perhaps I have many a morning. But the other day, with a dusting of snow on the ground, her ittybittyness called out.

She was darting about the weeds, nipping under leaves, hopping onto dried up stalks, dashing under cover. She was lively and quick.

She's dull and plain--so they say. Her cap is grey, her coat dusky olive green, her underside yellow. Nondescript--so they say. She was so tiny and all alone. It was the day the snow and the north wind howled into town.

When I saw her, I thought, Oh my God! a warbler! what is this fall warbler still doing here? Has she been left behind by her flock? forgotten about? Was she too busy having fun and forgot to leave? then having missed the time to migrate, she's now left alone. How will she manage with old Boreas, the north wind? with Keewatin, the northwesterly wind? with our wicked winter?

She'll never survive.

I already had her dead. I imagined coming across her frozen little corpse one morning. I wondered if I should try to catch her...what should I do? ...maybe I could bring her home and put her in a cage and then release her in spring.

Maybe you could use a fishing net, offered Pentti, who had come up the overpass. I don't know, I think I need some expert help; I'll email the bird expert.

Turns out she's an orange-crowned warbler. "Vermivora celata". Her orange crown hides underneath and isn't visible unless the feathers are raised.

Turns out she's one of the last to migrate in fall, sometimes leaving as late as Sept....or October....or November.

Turns out she's a solitary bird. Used to being alone. Sometimes she joins a flock of mixed migrants--chickadees, kinglets, vireos, juncos. She's not discriminating, any other small bird will do for companionship--that is, when companionship she craves.

But she's ok on her own. Like her orange crown, her strength lies hidden. Her resilience hidden in her small delicate appearance.

She builds a nest on the ground, often on a steep slope (that's where I saw her, on the ridge of the overpass). Perhaps she was born there on the slope, in a cup of a nest made of leaves and fine twigs, bark and rootlets. Lined with fluff and down, and a tuck of fur. Maybe snagged from the sheddings of Bleusie or Felix as they walked by.

The boreal nesting type leave the latest. So, I don't need to forage my fishing net out of the garage. I don't need to put her in a cage and worry about keeping her wildness alive 'til spring. What was I thinking, anyway? She won't freeze. She's not abandoned.

She's just different.

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