Looking at wildlife in the garden, especially if you are putting out food, planting shrubs, putting up nest boxes and even a pond means that sooner or later you will see something unusual. For example it gives an insight into bird behaviour because you are effectively using the house as a hide and the birds do not realise you are there. One surprise in bird behaviour was in the last few weeks when I noticed that the two treecreepers that regularly feed in the garden have been feeding on the ground. Normally, as the name of the bird suggests, it stay in trees and they are delightful to watch as they go up tree trunks searching for insects which is their main food. They will reach the top of branches and then fly down to the bottom of the next tree and systematically work their way up again, seemingly forever searching. Interestingly, unlike the nuthatch that can search up trunks and branches and down, the treecreeper can only go upwards.
Then I suddenly noticed that the two treecreepers had adopted a different way of finding food as they were increasingly walking over the ground whether it be bare soil or, like in the photograph, on grass. The way they were feeding was just in the same way as on the bark as they would suddenly dart forward and snatch up an insect although most of them were too minute for me to see. Reference books also indicate that treecreepers will also take a small proportion of tiny seed so they could have been taking grass seeds which are quite small. Then last week there was an even more surprising piece of behaviour that was almost uncanny. I was out filling feeders hanging from the fruit trees and I had noticed one of the treecreepers was down feeding on the grass.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I realised the treecreeper was getting very close to my feet. Birds such as robins and blackbirds will be tame enough to be very close when you are dispensing food but not a treecreeper. I just carried on with the feeders as usual and the treecreeper was feeding on the grass only inches away from my feet. It was very moving to be so close to the bird and be able to see the details of their remarkable plumage and shape. It was so tiny, about 12 cms long and of that the tail is about half the length. I could see what makes it so adept at climbing bark as the tail feathers are so stiff at the end to give that strong support against the bark as it is climbing. The closeness of the bird also gave me the chance to see the remarkable beak as it is long, thin and curved, just right for searching in the deep crevices of bark for the insects. The two treecreepers in the garden this winter have appeared to be on their own but they will mix with other small birds such as titmice and search for food in large parties. Treecreepers are often secretive although their thin, high-pitched “tsee, tsee” call gives them away. Unfortunately this call is so high pitched I cannot hear it any more so many of the treecreepers passing the garden must go unheard for me. The Scots names include “Tree Sheeler” and “Tree Speiler” whilst I could find only one Gaelic name – “snaigear” meaning “One who creeps” which sounds very apt.
Tags: highland birds