My friend Susan is elated because their resident wren is just now courting a lady and hoping to produce a batch of little wrens before the end of summer. Where has he been? No matter. Hopefully they will move forward into marital bliss. My resident wren flew the coop, so to speak, and didn’t entice his mate to stick around for the second batch – which wrens do, by the way, often having two and sometimes three groups of progeny in a season. I could have told him why, had he asked. In fact, he participated in the nest building and then brought bugs galore on a round-the-clock basis – perching on the edge of the nest and quickly poking them into hungry mouths before flying away for more. But Mom you see, didn’t just come and feed her ravenous brood, she popped inside and scooped up the poop – every single time. It took me a while to figure out how it was that she arrived with the treat and every time left with something wet and yellow. Which she took I know not where. Susan explained that too. So now I suspect that our wrens did not make it to the second birthing because Dad was not exactly a deadbeat, but didn’t do diapers. Figures. And I don’t blame her.
The wren, it seems, is the primo vocalizer of the bird world. My Audubon Sibley Guide to Bird Behavior explains that the wren may have as many as 219 different songs! And – a male will “cycle from one song to the next, moving through his repertoire in a fairly predictable fashion. And it goes on to explain that neighboring males may engage in “counter-singing”. In other words, they may follow a song series, first offering back the song just given by the rival and then moving on through the litany – a sort of “back atcha” male posturing. But the amazing thing is that birders have speculated that beyond flexing their prowess and masculinity, the counter-singing allows the males to calculate the distance between their rivals. Because they “know how each song should sound, they can determine how far away their rival is by how degraded (by trees, brush, and incidental noise) his song sounds. I’m thinking “Oklahoma” and Curley flexing his tenor and his muscles while bidding for the lunch pail at the fair.
I have to tell you that T.M. (AKA Bob, Robert) sings to my mind as well as almost anyone. He was in the Choir at Claremont McKenna College (CMC, or Claremont Men’s in those days) and like the wren has a fabulous repertory and remembers all the words to some very obscure old popular tunes. And even knows the words since elementary school to the Ecuadorian National Anthem which he likes to sing with appropriate hand gestures. And, unlike Mr. Wren, his housekeeping talents are pretty good too. He now, for instance, does most of the cooking and he not only washes clothes – he SPOTS first and hangs whenever possible to dry in the fresh air. I fold and put away.
But, back on topic – this week we experienced two great singers right here in Fergus Falls. The first was at the weekly concert in the park. Mark Fogelson is first of all a storyteller supreme and he especially made me laugh with his rendition of “What if Jesus was Norweigian”. You can look him up on his web site/blog and listen to videos and see for yourself.
The second one was Mikko Cowdery who was the musician of the day at the Underwood Unitarian Church, with a voice as pure and good as it gets. With his baritone ukelele (who knew there was such an instrument?) his rendition of Pennies from Heaven was a priceless touch to the Offertory.
Since the wrens are gone for now with their prolific and lovely choruses, we may just need to hook up the stereo. Or T.M. can just keep singing.