As painting an upstairs bedroom at the farm, I kept glancing out of the window down at our newly installed backyard bird feeders. I was watching a tufted titmouse on the platform feeder, when (with the sun at just the right angle) I saw a flash of brilliant red, honestly like a diamond glinting in the light only red. Turning and expecting to see a male downy woodpecker with its little red spot on the back of its head having landed in the tree next to the feeder (and wondering how I missed something that big flying past me), instead I saw a teeny-tiny grayish bird fluttering through the branches of the tree that again clearly showed its small spot of ruby red feathers on the top of its head.
If I had seen this bird in the spring I would have confidently called it a ruby-crowned kinglet. I have seen one many times in the past. This small bird made the titmouse look like a giant by comparison. However, kinglets are insect-eating birds, and I have never seen one this late in the year. I ran around to the trees in the front of the house when it flew off in that direction, but of course, did not find it again today.
However, that did it. I always keep my eyes and ears open and "expectant" for life. It is perhaps why I just love being outside, whether walking or weeding. I am always on the look-out for birds (even without binoculars) and this unexpected bird was just what I needed to get my heart racing, my blood flowing, my brain clear again, essentially kick-started back into normal gear. :-)
I cannot guess about the likelihood of seeing that bird again tomorrow to really make a clear and confident ID, but I saw enough to be reasonably sure of what I saw, a bird mostly out of place for the time of year, which illustrates perfectly what I recently told one of my sons - "any bird can be seen anywhere at anytime"!
In addition, I ran to my library of bird books as soon as I got home from the farm to find my copy of The Birds of Washtenaw County, Michigan to see what it said about the latest dates recorded for sighting a ruby-crowned kinglet in our county. Ahhhhhh, on page 159 it says they have been found on 6 of the last 15 Ann Arbor Christmas Bird Counts (CBC), with a maximum of two birds. I know this is an older edition, but I'm happy to see mention of the distinct possibility that I saw this kinglet today.
I don't have a photo of this bird myself, but I will link you to a page that does have a good photo, a recording of its song, a map of where to see this bird, and a little description about the ruby-crowned kinglet. This bird is the size of a ping-pong ball with wings and never sits still. I hope you live somewhere you can see it now during the winter or better yet during the spring migration where it will often flit in shrubbery right before your eyes.
Seeing this bird during the spring migration is happiness enough, but seeing a kinglet in December is a tonic that will help me last until spring!
OK - back to being myself, with a sigh of relief and also a few tears of gratitude to my little Kinglet. Thank you, thank you for coming to our farm today and showing me your beautiful ruby feathers. I will remember that "flash" forever. It's not important that I see you again tomorrow. It was enough to see you today. I hope you stay safe and find enough insects to sustain yourself so you can fly south to a warmer winter. I'll look for you at our farm next April (surely we will finally be moved there completely by then!) as you stop to eat and rest on your way back north to your nesting area in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. :-)
"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"
Diana Dyer, MS, RD