In Europe, Wrens appear to stay
put during seasonal change. In winter they cluster together in old
nests for warmth. And die in their thousands when it gets very
cold. In North America, Winter Wrens come down from their breeding
grounds far to the north to spend the cold in more southerly places.
Always a mistake for me to even try to recognize birds from their
call. I find bird call difficult to maintain over periods unless I
can associate tune with words. Even then, I forget the birds name
when I hear a familiar call. I know the "Cheeseburger
Bird". His call is "Cheeseburger, cheeseburger,
cheeseburger" and he was out there today as I readied the vehicle for
one of those miserable events that require traveling for no good reason.
Sometimes I can remember who the "Cheeseburger Bird" is, but
mostly I associate him with the explosive nature of his call. He
seems to suddenly decide to sing, and often he does so when the sun is
shining. Usually he follows his call with a silence that is long
enough for me to search fruitlessly for an image of him. Then
the "Cheeseburger Bird" calls three times again, and the process
repeats. He's like a Latin teacher that way. And he is like a
Wren, which in the end finds his name for me.
As well there is the "We Chew
Bird". He is of a different sort. He is more of a hot
summer day bird, with a lazy drawl. And I find with the "We Chew
Bird" there is no great need in me to know his name. It is enough
to share heat and the buzz of insects with him.
But the European Wren is a bird I will
insist I do know from his call, and this I think is a rare benefit of time
spent amongst summer hedgerows whilst young and agile. This Wren is
tiny and very loud. I would lie there in morning dew, hear him rustle
toward me and when I moved he would yell and frighten both of us.
Here in Kentucky, from down in that part
of the woods where ancestors put to rest their car tires and exhaust
systems, I heard what I knew was a European Wren. Or perhaps two
Wrens, or maybe three. I was startled to hear the call, and I was
suspicious of my memory, because it has been so long since I last heard a
European Wren. Nor do I have words for the call of this Wren so it was
easier to dismiss my response to the sound as belonging to that retreat into
blissful confusion which travel tends to produce in me.
And too, when I heard the call a
second time I recognized an inconsistency. It was a clear tone,
beautiful in a peaceful way. The Wren I remembered was more irritable,
more down to earth, more "I'm bigger than you". So I
remained grumbling in that confused way until I saw little tails explore the
compost pile. Familiar faces, both of them.
A fat Winter Wren weighs less than half
an ounce which is useful to know in this season of oven temperatures and
cooking times and twenty minutes a pound if stuffed.