Monday, March 21, 2005

Wren Love

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz,
I wonder where the robin is.

I have had reports for weeks from gardeners in several parts of the State talking about robins arriving. Someone from Cresco, clear up north by the Minnesota border tells of robin flocks so large they scare small children and dogs. Meanwhile, we've sat here seemingly totally robinless. I was lying slug-a-bed this morning, staring out the window, thinking about this strange bird anomaly, when a fat robin landed flop-a-mop in the boxelder tree right outside the window, and hopped along the branch. Now I wonder if I just wasn't picking up on the robins, though it's hard to miss a bird the size of a loaf of bread, hopping across the lawn looking for worms. Still, I reflected that now that I thought about it, I didn't recall anyone EVER calling me a keen observer, which seems kind of strange, since there would seem to have been ample opportunity over the years. I must also mention that there was that thing about the Carolina wren. I had vaguely seen pictures of this southern song bird, but never expected to see a live one, until one January day three years ago, a male showed up at our feeder, nonchalantly pecking at the suet block. I got out my bird book and read that they occasionally get this far north, but often die off when winters get very cold. I read of his distinctive "tea-kettle" song; he was said to be one of the most persistent, and noticeable singers around. I only saw him a few more times that winter, but the next spring, I listened carefully for his call, in vain, and sadly concluded he probably had died in the cold of winter. Yet the next winter, a Carolina wren showed up at the feeder again... the same wren, a new wren... I didn't know. Well, last spring, again I heard no tea-kettle call, but in January the Carolina wren once again showed up at the feeder, acting like nothing was wrong. WELL! Then two weeks ago I was out in the garden watching the sun sparkle on the pond, enjoying the warm day, and right over my head I heard "tea-kettle tea-kettle tea-kettle". I then realized I actually had been hearing this call every single spring, but had been thinking it was an ovenbird, in the back of my mind thinking all along it was odd that sometimes there seemed to be an extra syllable in the ovenbird's "teacher teacher teacher" call. Also, I knew the ovenbird seems to sing in the late summer and fall. In my defense, I wouldn't call this wren a singing fool, which makes me wonder if he ever finds a mate up here in the north? Maybe he's just about given up, and is tired of singing "tea-kettle" and getting no tea???

He's a persistent little bugger, all right. I am just now getting into identifying our various birds, having always been a bug person... We had two pairs of indigo buntings at our feeders on Sunday, and that was a red-letter day, I'll tell you.

I can get the obvious stuff (red-shouldered hawks, cardinals, jays, etc.) but I am still running for my Stokes' bok every week or so!

I am overjoyed to have all of these "new" birds coming around. I'm about to take a BB gun to the squirrels, though, the little gluttons.

(I wouldn't really do that - but I can fantasize)
I will say that our Carolina is starting to call more frequently, but I'm certainly not overwhelmed yet... but it's early.
Squirrels are fair game. Cute rats with fluffy tails! Don't bother the flying squirrels though, Brian.

Intermediate climate-wise between Don and Brian, we've had robins all winter, and it has seemed odd to me because I don't recall that, but maybe I hadn't been paying much attention before. It's weird to watch them gulp down the chinaberries (a horrible tree).

Carolina wrens are a permanent and entertaining fixture - they get into everything building nests in little corners under the second floor deck and last year, in the outlet to our no-longer-used clothes dryer. Years and years ago we bought a "quadruplex for wrens" at an auction for Habitat for Humanity, a cute little birdhouse designed and constructed by the University Architect, Dave Lunde. For years it was scorned, no one even looked at it. Now it's falling apart, dilapidated, and the wrens love it.
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