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Bird watching

Bird watching
Bird watching
Dr. Wayne Willis

I was not taught not to kill a mockingbird. However, when my parents gave me a Red Ryder BB gun, my great-aunt, Auntie, instructed me never to shoot a bluebird or a wren, after she discovered on her property my first kill, a dead bluebird.

I have respected and cherished bluebirds and wrens ever since. I resonate with ornithologist Drew Lanham’s words of introduction in “The Home Place”: “I am a man in love with nature. I am an eco-addict, consuming everything that the outdoors offers in its all-you-can-sense seasonal buffet.” Lanham singles out, for March, “that little brown bird that’s always so inquisitive, that sings reliably” as it builds its nest. He adds, “As the days get incrementally longer, their songs get stronger.”

Of wrens, in this particular year, 2021, he writes,” Sometime in March, when we’re marking a year from when backyards became our bastions of quarantine, those wrens will begin to build nests. And they’ll begin this cycle of making more of themselves. And in that, there’s some hope, there’s some joy, there is some inspiration for looking forward.” He asserts, “They are audacious birds.”

The wren is tiny compared to mockingbirds, blue jays, bluebirds and cardinals. As a boy, I enjoyed building birdhouses, especially for wrens. The diameter of the hole in the entrance is only 1-1/8 inches. If it were any larger, sparrows and the larger birds could get in. I never built a perch under the entrance. Wrens don’t need it, and predators love it.

Auntie taught me to love and protect wrens that nervously dart in and out of tight hiding places, singing their songs, twitching their tails and emitting a “chit” sound for other wrens when they sense danger.

Those little bitty guys epitomize the audacity of hope.

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