This week I was checking my bird migration journal and found that in 2010, the first Winter Wren flew in to my forest on April 3rd. Last year, April was a marvelous month here on my Cedar Ridge. Not only was it a record early arrival of the Winter Wren, but the Ruffed Grouse started their "drumming" on April 10th... which was also quite early.
This year the snow is still deep in the forest. Today when I was out investigating a massive flock of screaming crows... I was sinking in snow almost knee deep. It seems many migrating birds that arrived early last year, are on hold. The juncos arrived April 1st and yesterday the first Purple Finch flew into my front yard... five days later than last year.
There are many sounds of spring that uplift the birders spirit. I always enjoy the Black-capped Chickadee's "pee-wee" song, a chorus that grows as the days pass into spring. Many think of spring as they first hear the American Robin's roosting melody, as it drones into early evening. However, my favorite spring bird song is that of the Winter Wren. The little wren's song is arguably the longest and most beautiful, as it that echos through the forest. When I hear it the first time, it erases many of winter's cold memories.
Through the years, I have attempted to follow this little bird from nesting to fledging. In 2008 I found a wren nest under a tangled deadfall. I watched the adults zip into the underbrush with bills full of insects, never able to see the chicks. I was fortunate to capture the fledgings and have included some past shots I took with a super zoom camera. Wood warblers and the various sparrow species, I think are difficult to capture. These birds are my principle photo targets during the spring, summer and fall months... but for me, the Winter Wren remains the most difficult bird to capture in the forest. The "tangled deadfalls" and in my forest they are a photographers nightmare. Great for photographing a "working woodpecker", but for following a bouncing, feathered "ping pong ball"... not so much.
One thing I have learned, the mother will sing constantly and fly in a large circle to distract you from the fledglings. When this happens you know the fledglings are close at hand and it is best to stay in one spot and wait... she will eventually fly in with insects and you can find the family. The fledged wrens usually gather or bunch up on a deadfall log... trying to photograph them without an explosion of tiny feathers is difficult.
The little wren is not back yet, but I hope to hear her beautiful song soon... and begin the new season's merry chase.
"He who shall hurt the little wren/Shall never be beloved by men." ... William Blake