Brown Creeper

February 16th, 2020: Hiking on the north shore

My wife and I snuck off to North Vancouver for some hiking. We hit rain, snow, and sleet in the 10k we walked from Lynn Valley to Grouse Mountain along the Baden-Powell Trail.

Today's hike from Lynn Valley to Grouse along the Baden-Powell Trail, starting at the red marker
Today’s hike from Lynn Valley to Grouse along the Baden-Powell Trail, starting at the red marker

The full Baden-Powell Trail runs 48k along the foot of Vancouver’s three north-shore peaks: Cypress, Grouse, and Seymour. Today we walked only a quarter of the trail, sharing it with a surprising number of mountain bikers. (Much of the trail is now in better shape for biking safety.) The trail’s namesake, Lieutenant General Robert Baden-Powell (also a Baron), was another one of those British army gents who has a few things named after him. Perhaps most importantly though, he was the founder of the Boy Scout movement.

Just a little of that lush PNW rainforest
Just a little of that lush PNW rainforest

There are lots of pleasant little streams along this stretch of the trail, some scrambly bits, and plenty of that PNW lushness. Best of all, it’s easy to get to on transit. You even have an excuse to take the Seabus if you want. =)

A rushing stream and a little snow
A rushing stream and a little snow
"Look out! A giant frog!" A frog made by hikers out of rocks.
Look out! A giant frog!

Bird-wise, it was quiet. I mean, REALLY quiet. I heard 6 birds the whole time. Not 6 species: 6 birds. A Common Raven, a Pacific Wren, a Brown Creeper, and some distant twittering I chalked up to 3 Chestnut-backed Chickadees or Golden-crowned Kinglets (but couldn’t tell which at that distance).

We didn't see a Pileated Woodpecker today, but we found some of their handiwork
We didn’t see a Pileated Woodpecker today, but we found some of their handiwork

So I was left a little disappointed on the bird front. But I love to hear Brown Creepers. Today’s was the three-note call. It’s not unlike the Golden-crowned Kinglet’s, but the Brown Creeper’s is totally flat (i.e. doesn’t change in pitch) and each note tends to be conspicuously longer, with no trill/warble to it at all.

Golden-crowned Kinglet’s short, three-note, trilled call
Brown Creeper’s two- and three-note, flat calls (recorded by Ian Cruickshank in Tofino; from Xeno-Canto.org)

Even when you don’t see them, you can always picture them climbing slowly up a tree trunk, strafing from side to side as they go, and switching trees when they feel like it. My wife doesn’t much like these little guys. A bit to “creepy” for her, I think. And I do see where she’s coming from. They move rather like large insects as they scale the trees. They can also startle you by showing up on a trunk right next to your head in a rather daring and confiding fashion not shared by many small passerines. When you get up close though, they are exceedingly cool looking!

Brown Creeper
Brown Creeper

Their mottled brown backs help them blend in, while they nab small insects. They’re hardy birds too: you can find them all the way up to the treeline out west!

That’s it for today though. Time to take the Seabus home…

Looking south toward downtown Vancouver from the Seabus
Looking south toward downtown Vancouver from the Seabus

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