Winter Wren and habitat © Lang Elliott Winter Wren, Wood Thrush, and stream. 6am, 9 May 2006, Shindagin Hollow near Brooktondale, New York. © Lang Elliott.

My favorite wren is without doubt the Winter Wren. It’s rambling, silvery song delights the ear and is quite unlike the song of any other wren. Yesterday, when I recorded the Wood Thrush in Shindagin Hollow with Beth Bannister, we reminisced about our experience ten years prior recording a Winter Wren, also in early May and almost at the same location. That recording is featured above, and there is a funny story that goes along with it.

When we heard the wren singing, I got very excited (as usual) and rushed off in front of Beth, half-running through the dense understory in the wren’s direction. To my delight, I soon located him, singing from the top of a balsam fir tree next to a small brook. I quickly decided that my best recording position was right in the middle of the water, but as I scurried toward the stream, I tripped on a root and fell face forward on to the muddy ground (I must admit this happens to me fairly often). The wren was unfazed … he kept right on singing throughout my ordeal, although he was probably wren-chuckling under his breath.

I righted myself and in short measure I was standing in the stream, blissfully recording the wren, along with the stream and two Wood Thrushes that had suddenly joined the chorus (one close and one distant). The mix sounded great through my headphones and I was absolutely thrilled to document what I considered to be a uniquely interesting sound event.

When I finished recording, Beth approached, gazing at my muddy clothing. Before she had a chance to say anything, I told her what had happened, unaware she had seen me take the fall:

The Winter Wren’s song cannot be fully appreciated without slowing it down. There is such a rapid delivery of notes (usually over a hundred) that we humans simply can’t hear all the intricacy. So here is an example of the song slowed down … you’ll hear a song at normal speed, followed by a slowed and pitch-lowered version, followed by the song once again at normal speed:

Wrensong Sonogram

Well, what’ya think of that? Quite a stunning and delicate performance for such an unassuming little brown wren, don’t you think?
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