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Hawthorn Hill

February 7, 2013

Of Carolina wrens and crossbills


Carolina wrens have a beautiful repertoire of songs. They shut down during the winter, so my hope is this little guy will stick around and perform for us come spring and summer. I have seen him dart in and out of a brush pile not far from the house, so perhaps he will set up camp there. Carolina wrens have been known to nest not only in brush piles, but also occasionally in mailboxes and other choice spots close to human abodes. One observer has reported seeing one nest in the folds of hanging wash!

As if having the wren winter with us were not enough, over the course of several days last week a pair of white-winged crossbills breakfasted with us. Not only have we never been visited by a crossbill, their appearance in this neck of the woods is incredibly rare. I checked the recently published Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count for 2012, which also includes data from 1969 to 2012. Two white-winged crossbills! Who knows why they camped out here. I am just glad they did. Knowing full well such a claim might be met with skepticism in some quarters, I clicked off quite a few photographs, a short video, and sent a picture to a birder friend much respected in birder circles. The birder Gestapo has not arrived, but a man has to be sure of his claims! I am a lone birder — actually a lone everything. At any rate, crossbills are welcome here at any time. Ironically, I have often dried evergreen cones in hopes of coaxing out their seeds. My success rate is dismal. Now, if I were a crossbill, with my built in tool I could pry apart those scales with ease and easily pluck out the seeds. If one comes back perhaps we could agree to a mutually beneficial business arrangement.

One never knows what surprises nature has in store for us. We try to solve its mysteries, but the zingers just keep coming. The great nature writer Hal Borland referred to nature’s rhythms as an “enduring pattern,” a dance always the same and never the same at all. Nature’s productions eclipse anything Broadway could ever dream up.

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Hawthorn Hill
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