A golden-crowned kinglet bows as if to show off the bright stripe for which it is named.
IT’S BEEN A BIT OF A SAGA, my effort to photograph the golden-crowned kinglet.
Last winter we first noticed small groupings of these tiny, round gray and olive-green birds with an orange mohawk-like stripe on their heads. Oddly, they liked to hop about and peck in the gravel roads on Center Island. John the Mad Birder, my next-door neighbor who has officially declared these his favorite island avian, informs me they are pecking for mites.
Neighbor John’s affection for them is understandable (considering, of course, that we already had dibs on the nuthatch). Kinglets are delightful balls of fluff, though perhaps not overly bright; we had to watch our step at times so as not to actually tread on one. They seemed oblivious to pedestrians on our cowpath-ic byways.
So I expected it would be a cinch to get a good kinglet photo.
For months I’ve been in pursuit. But when I’d walk around the island and encounter kinglets I wouldn’t have my camera. I would resolve to carry it next time I ventured out. But of course then no kinglets were to be seen.
This went on for weeks. No camera? An island infested. Camera in hand? A peaceful, kinglet-free walk.
I came to learn their “tells,” however. Kinglets hang out in the understory in small groups and are rarely silent. Their cheeping call, while distinctive, isn’t loud. When six or eight are hopping among roadside cedars, a sound like the faint tinkling of a fine crystal wind chime will gradually work into my consciousness. It’s my kinglet alarm!
Yesterday, finally, I caught some with my camera. But, of course, they turned shy and wouldn’t allow me near. Perhaps because it was a cold day of pelting rain mixed with snow, they hopped quickly and actively, so catching a focused photo with my zoom lens was a challenge.
I’ve not caught my perfect kinglet image in this round. But here are a couple of soft-focus first efforts that give a clue to their colorful adorability.
I’m not finished with you yet, my pretties.
Kinglets like to peck on the ground, or even on a gravel road, in search of mites. The fir cone in the photo’s center is a tip-off to the bird’s compact size.