Return of the Winter Wren

| 4/30/2014 9:55:00 AM

tulips emerging in late april

Between the blustery days, the rainy afternoons, and the overnight temperature dips towards freezing, there have also been sunny days, clear skies, and a general thawing of the hills around us. While patches of snow and ice remain on northern slopes and in shaded thickets, there are also daffodils and tulips emerging, fruit buds swelling, and garlic tops growing through their winter mulch. Birds are returning, and the black flies have yet to arrive.  

It is on these warm days when we enjoy, with gusto, opening the cabin windows, sans screens, while the heat of the cookstove warms the cabin.  It is a sensory delight, watching the world regain its hues of greens as the roar of the river fills the background and the trill of birds float by the dinner table.  

One of the early returners, the winter wren, has an easily recognizable song.  What is often described as tinkling trills and overlapped melodies, the winter wren’s call is long, distinguished, eccentric and yet musical.  We first heard it early one morning just past daybreak.  Ryan made a note of it in his daily weather records; the date was April 8th.

Curious, he checked through last year’s notes: in 2013 the date we heard the first call was April 7th.  Isn’t that amazing?  Such a delicate bird, and the ground (this year) still well-covered in snow. It’s timing seems, well, like clock work.  How does it know?

It makes for interesting reflection, thinking about our own use of time and how we mark it.  Sure, we all feel that itch for Spring as temperatures begin to warm and the sugaring season arrives.  Then, as the ground appears, the smell of fresh dirt is invigorating; as long johns come off and jackets are traded t-shirts, gratitude for warm days and excitement for summer plans is palpable wherever you go.  Yet if we didn’t have our calendars and clocks, would we be as confident in our timeliness as the wren?

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