I've taken a bit of a break from birding, as temperatures recently dipped to -27*F overnight, and not rising much above zero. That is a bit much for this birder, even despite being hardy enough to accompany J. on three major surveys in recent weekends.
This winter has brought me an ability to answer the confusing question non-birders love to ask: "What is your favorite bird?" I find this an odd question. How can one choose, when one loves all birds? As soon as you choose, the personalities and songs and memories of visual observation of another species often comes back to haunt you.
But there is one whimsical character I cannot seem to ever get enough of. And this is the Carolina wren. I don't know how I never spotted them last winter, as they were in the back of my mind, with memories of my first encounter with one being during summer banding. There are notes back to the early 20th century that show that they were first beginning to invade New England around that time, not more recently. And yet, they seem to be here in droves. I can't walk far without encountering a spot I have seen them (unless in very urban areas or very rural). They seem to enjoy thick brush with bare branches located near water.
Two have planted themselves in the backyard here for the winter, apparently a male and female pair. I spotted them again the other morning. Both were perched on bare stems of a lilac bush, fluffed into tiny balls to protect against the frigid air. They were of rich chestnut brown spotted with lighter hues, and broad, obvious off-white long eyebrows. The apparent male bobbed up and down in Oompa Loompa style, and making a chirping trill. The female, quiet and still, gazed up at him as if to mock him. They finally did not seem to mind my presence; earlier in the winter they would take off at first sight of me. They may have also been unwilling to leave the bit of food they can find during this awfully harsh winter - the post stocked full of their favorite suet right by said bush.
I've also enjoyed their skill at hide-and-seek. They will call from a conspicuous branch, loudly, with their rolling variations of the "tea-kettle" call. Then they will take off, as if to attempt to lure you into their game, and then easily blending right into the background, even if still in plain view, as they are often the same exact brown hue as the trees they hang around. J. and I once spent probably almost 20 minutes attempting to find one in a thick tree with absolutely no luck, despite the bright, clear, obnoxiously loud car alarm songs they're more apt to make during the warmer months. I usually make no effort to find them when birding alone, knowing full well that they are better at the child's game than myself.