Posted by: Ross Gardner | February 19, 2015

Mouse-bird

A mouse edging its way upwards from the base of a tree will invariably turn out to be a Treecreeper.  I have seen mice contend with a vertical surface of riven bark over a short length, but never to move along upside down on the lower surface of horizontal bough.  All of this I am quite sure you, dear reader, already realise, but I am merely indulging myself by drawing the comparison between the bird and mammal.  They always remind of little rodents clinging to the bole of a tree, often prompting in my mind an alternative monicker of ‘Mouse-bird’.

It doesn’t take long to see how superbly adapted they are to such a lifestyle as theirs.  A mottled brown plumage affords them excellent camouflage.  Long claws enable them to grip the rough surfaces, while a stiff tail props them forward so as to employ the long, slender, down-curved bill for probing the fissures of the bark for small insects.  They are very considered in their scouring of the trees for food and usually confiding enough to make them one of the more observable of birds, often comfortable with their observer as close as 10 metres away, maybe sometimes even less.  Ted Hughes likened the Treecreeper’s diligence in his eponymously entitled poem (from ‘Ted Hughes Collected Poems’, Faber and Faber) as that which a doctor would give to their patients, with the “Inchmeal medical examination / Of the tree’s skin” and all the while “Murmuring ‘Good, good! and ‘Good, good!’” as it goes about its work.  It is a most apt analogy, something which that poet found so very easy to identify with his subjects.

In the winter it always worth searching the mixed tit flocks for Treecreeper, as they often resort to the company of other small birds as they forage through the woods.  Come the spring and that little Mouse-bird can melt into the background, until you catch that slight movement among the trees from the corner of your eye……

Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris).  Ross Gardner 2015.

Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris). Ross Gardner 2015.

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