An English In Kentucky



















November 25th 2009

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    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.

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tim candler

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