The Bird Meme: Day 18

Day 18: A bird that disappointed you

House Wren

I've written about my feelings of shame concerning putting the Kirtland's Warbler on my life list--you can find it in the "History's Greatest Monster" chapter of Along Those Lines if you like--but I think we're talking about something a little different here. When I cornered the KiWa in Michigan, I was disappointed in myself, but the bird was completely blameless. This is another matter altogether: a situation in which I was disappointed by a bird.

Even then, however, I think we're in a strange place, because on most occasions when I've been disappointed about seeing a bird, I've been disappointed that I didn't get a better look at it. Again, it's hard to blame the bird for the circumstances of my sighting it--crappy light, great distance, thick undergrowth, distracting activity, all of these things can affect the quality of a sighting, but the bird's not the one causing them. And in those cases where I didn't quite know what I was doing in the field yet, I am once again the one responsible; if I didn't get a good look, it was because I didn't know what to look for or how to look for it. When I scoured the countryside near Iowa City back in 1995, I didn't get a good look at my Bell's Vireo or Warbling Vireo because I had no idea how to find a bird in a leafy tree. All I could do was hear the song and catch a brief glimpse of the vireo as it hid in the foliage.

Basically, then, I have to find something really petty to complain about, but luckily, I can usually find something of that sort without expending much effort, and here it is:

How is it that I have logged House Wrens so seldom? This is in no way a rare bird--it can be found in every one of the Lower 48 at some time of year--or a particularly challenging one to identify. It's perfectly willing to live near humans, and its habits aren't terribly secretive, so it ought to be a bird I set eyes on pretty regularly. But I don't.

I didn't see my first House Wren until my 1995 trip to Iowa, and my guide, Jim Fuller, was all but shocked that I didn't already have such a common bird on my life list. 

I saw my next House Wren in 2010.

That sighting was in Georgia, and though it did not make up for the long wrenless years between, it did seem to kick off a bit of a surge in House Wren observations for me. Since then I've spotted them roughly once a year, with one turning up near Cape May in 2011 (followed by a second at the CLO a week or two later--the only one where I got a photo), a western bird appearing at the US 26 Snake River overlook in Idaho back in 2013, a fourth appearing on the Rapidan Fire Road in Shenandoah NP in 2014, a fifth flying out of the birdhouse behind my colleague Jay's house in 2016, and a final pair appearing on the cyclone fence behind a house in our neighborhood this past August.

But that's it. Eight House Wren sightings, all-time. Nine birds. Eight life records. 

I'll grant you that I live in the southeast, where the ubiquitous Carolina Wren certainly hogs an awful lot of the wren-friendly ecological niches, but really, eight?  

By comparison, my year lists show that I've logged records for the Hooded Merganser for 14 years in a row. In that same span, I've got nine Blue Grosbeak sightings, nine for Forster's Tern, nine for PEREGRINE FALCON, for god's sake. And that's not counting any sightings before 2004. But on only eight occasions in my entire life has a House Wren seen fit to come in my sight.

That, my friends, is disappointing.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on October 2, 2017 6:19 PM.

The Bird Meme: Day 17 was the previous entry in this blog.

The Bird Meme: Day 19 is the next entry in this blog.

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