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Bookend wrens

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

These birds eluded me for years.

Last month Kate and I visited the West Rutland marsh in search of Canada warblers. After that we made a short detour to the marsh boardwalk in hopes of seeing a marsh wren and maybe a Virginia rail.

We heard them as soon as we got out of the car. It was a sharp twittering song, surprisingly loud for such a small bird. They were like popcorn, randomly popping up out of the reeds, then dropping back into the marsh.

I returned the next morning with my camera hoping for a repeat display, and to my delight one wren surfaced out of the sea of cattails not 30 feet from the boardwalk. Clearly he was nest building, gathering the downy strands of the cattails. All the while he was singing his breeding song, advertising for a mate. There were two cattail reeds spaced just close enough for him to grab one in each anisodactyl (three toes in front, one in back) talon and then broadcast his song over the marsh. He would pop up, sing, gather some fluff, sing again, and then drop down deep in the reeds to build one of several nests. This went on for half an hour, just enough time for me to get a few shots in focus for my paintings.

The two paintings I finished yesterday are of the same bird, in two different spread-eagle poses. Painted simultaneously on two 8-inch wood panels, they make a playful side by side diptych, or bookends to any gallery space or mantlepiece.

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