24 June 2015. Burlington, ON. It’s barely seven a.m as I write this, and there is a Carolina Wren not far away singing loudly, “SHEEbu SHEEbuSHEEbu SHEEbu.” Well actually not just singing; shouting it. It’s moving away, now a hundred yards distant, beating the bounds of its urban territory. Soon, within the next hour, I’ll probably pick up faint notes of a Winter Wren as it starts its rounds beginning in the thick undergrowth around the creek, a block or so away. It too, belting out its the cascading and tangled song and doing the rounds of its proclaimed territory, just letting everyone know this is where it belongs, for the summer anyway.
The Carolina Wren comes with a story of expanding range. It’s a bird which thirty years ago, was a rarity in Ontario and found in just a few of the milder pockets of the province. But the climate has changed, it’s been warmer for decades and the Carolina Wren’s toehold has expanded. Two years ago you might have described the Carolina Wren as a modestly well-established species. But two very hard withers in a row have thinned their population. It may be that ten years from now, if tough winters prevail, the Carolina Wren will once again be a rarity. Who knows? The ebb and flow of bird population cycles can be very long, beyond the attention span of most of us. For now the Carolina Wren is a welcome relative newcomer, valued for its upliftingly positive song and decidedly assertive behaviour.
This Winter Wren’s appearance is something of a surprise to me. It is not a species I associate with this kind of urban backyard jigsaw of mine. They are birds that prefer cool dark woods, places with lots of thick undergrowth. If I want to find a Winter Wren I know of a couple of good areas to go, but I have to travel some distance. So when I first heard one singing in my neighbourhood one early morning about three weeks ago, I assumed it was a late north-bound migrant. I liked what I heard, I always do with Winter Wrens, and I was tempted to post a Bird of the Day entry in recognition of the fleeting visit; but time ran away and it just didn’t happen. Still, the next day I heard it again, and the next and so it has continued. In time I’ve come to believe that a Winter Wren has taken up residence and maybe, just maybe, found a mate who agrees that this is an okay place to raise a family.
My day’s plans do not include being anywhere particularly birdy, but with two species of wren patrolling my neighbourhood, I hardly need to.