locked Bright red crest -- any thoughts?

Mike Hall

I'd enjoy hearing your comparable experiences and readings. Oh, and your ID?
Last Saturday, August 1, as I walked back to the car at Las Trampas. . . . well, I mulled forever, and finally added the following to my eBird entry:
After long thought, I’m adding this to the record. At 10:15 a.m. there perched, at the very crown of an isolated live oak, a small, plain tan-grey bird. In its plumage and stubby shape it made me think of an Oak Titmouse with its crest raised, except that the crest was bright scarlet. Viewing conditions were excellent, with the sun at about 4 o’clock as I faced 12 o’clock toward the bird; clear sky, no wind. GPS coordinates of the perch are: 37.815709, -122.047016. The bird was in profile facing east, motionless, and appeared to be sipping or nibbling, its bill in contact with something. I had it in my binocs for a few seconds, then fumbled for my camera. I missed with a single shot as the bird flew northwest in a straight line at the same elevation with a rapid, steady wingbeat. A tinge of the reddish color was still in evidence amid the pale greyish as it flew away. It was not a hummingbird nor an Orange-crowned Warbler nor a Purple or House Finch. Maybe an immature Cedar Waxwing picked up red pollen or juice on its head and the crest was raised, perhaps involuntarily, as a drying or self-cleaning measure. Location and pose were right – but the size, shape, and flight style were wrong for a Waxwing. So, despite its unlikely locale and behavior, my guess comes back to an accidentally colorful Titmouse.

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