Return of the Winter Wren

Reader Contribution by Bethann Weick

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?

It’s a bit of a moot point, I know.  But for me, it brings me to seasonality and the seasonal clues writ across the landscape that we call home – for these are the very things I love so much about our life at Coösauke.  Though we, too, have our date books and wind-up clock, we also have our serviceberry flowers and fiddleheads, our rhubarb and robins.  The seasonal calendar of the plants, trees, animals, river, and weather around us are a humble reminder of Mother Nature’s own timepiece.  Humility and awe in the presence of so many little moments of wonder is, perhaps a requirement for enjoying this simple life of ours.  

Spring is here! Time to prune your fruit trees, berry bushes, and ornamental shrubs! Time to design your garden! Time to purchase new nursery stock! Contact Beth via for your garden and orchard needs.