Birders know better than anyone the truth behind the statement “I was just in the right place at the right time.” No matter what we do at home or in the field – research the right seasons and times of day for the best birding, track rare bird sightings and hotspots, visit the proper habitats, plant bird-friendly landscaping, provide all the best foods, keep the bird baths clean, have bird houses of the proper dimensions, etc. – birds have wings and they use them often, and sometimes a great sighting, new lifer or perfect photo just comes from being in the right place at the right time. Such was the case in my yard this week.
Four months after Hurricane Irma, we finally have contractors on sight to complete the “storm-assisted” projects we are having done, and at one random point during their work, I stepped out into the yard to check the progress and be sure all was well. It was going beautifully, but that wasn’t what caught my attention – instead, I noticed a very high pitched, insistent twittering. It was reminiscent of the clear, high notes of a cedar waxwing, but shorter in tempo and coming from the midpoint of the tree’s foliage whereas waxwings prefer to stay much higher. Furthermore, this seemed to be just one bird, rather than the flock waxwings travel in. But what was it? The laurel oak leaves are thick, I was standing 20 feet away and I didn’t have my binoculars.
Fortunately, the bird didn’t mind my presence, and after a fluttering hop or two hidden in the foliage, it darted out to my hanging feeder and helped itself to a bite or two of seed, picked up a large in-shell peanut, decided the peanut was too large, and flitted away to make a new plan. But in that brief moment, the jaunty crest, gray upperparts, white underparts, rusty smudge on the flanks and black square on the face were all apparent – a tufted titmouse had honored me with its presence. Luckily I was in the right place at the right time to see it!
I’ve had only the briefest glimpse of this species in the neighborhood – a bit more than a block away, and only for a moment too short to be absolutely certain. But now that it has found my feeder and the very special treat of peanuts I offer (just a few every other day or so), I am hoping it will become a regular guest. I think I’ll be finding a way to put more peanuts out but keep them out of reach of squirrels (they get their own supply, they don’t need to raid what I mean to give the birds), and maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get more views and interesting encounters. I just need to be in the right place at the right time!