Heat doesn't stop wrens from singing

Nature Notes
By Jim Gilbert

All through the hot spell during the first part of July the house wrens in our neighborhood kept right on singing. For many people, one of their favorite sounds of summer is the clear, loud, bubbling notes of the house wren.

The full-throated song is sort of like the syllables "tsi, tsi, tsi, tsi, oodle, oodle, oodle," the pitch rising at the beginning, falling at the end. Through our screen windows we listen to the gurgling song repeated over and over in our yards. These wrens also give out chattering, scolding notes.

At this time, some first broods may still be living in backyard nestboxes and the adult pairs very busy bringing in the insect and spider food. Two broods of five to eight young can be expected each summer. The second nestings typically occur between the first part of July and mid-August. After the nesting season we no longer hear the house wren music.

Despite its tiny size, about 4 to 5 inches, and its drab gray-brown plumage, the house wren is as well known as the American robin, for what it lacks in size and color is made up for with voice and energetic activity.

The house wren is a summer resident throughout the entire state, and true to its name, it is often found near human dwellings in suburban and rural communities. They are uncommon in areas of heavy urban development, intensive agriculture, or in dense forests. House wrens from the Upper Midwest winter in the Gulf states, eastern Texas, and down into Mexico. On winter territory they are silent as they search dense thickets for food. Both sexes look alike.

What’s happening outdoors now?

Clusters of red to dark purple choke cherries are now seen in southern Minnesota. I sampled this bitter fruit on July 4 along the shore of Lake Waconia. It is reported to be the most widespread tree species in North America, growing from Alaska and Canada, throughout the states and into Mexico.

The cherries are important wildlife food, eaten by dozens of bird species such as American robins and eastern bluebirds, and mammals such as black bears, gray foxes and chipmunks. The fruit makes one of the most tart, refreshing jellies.

Deer flies are at their peak as far as numbers, and they are very bothersome to us people as well as to dogs and other animals. No wonder deer head for lakes to get some relief from these pests.

Some early soybean plants started blooming June 27; last year it was July 14. This year I ate the first ripe fruit from wild blackcap raspberries on June 21; last year the first ripe fruit came on July 8.

The surface temperatures of area lakes hit 80 degrees by June 30, and by July 4 Lake Waconia was a warm 84 degrees F.

On July 12 a year ago

Common milkweeds were blooming nicely and very fragrant. We had a low temperature of 68 and a high of 78 degrees F. Deer flies and mosquitoes were bothersome. Last year the first field corn tassels were spotted on July 14; this year it was on July 1.

Jim Gilbert’s Nature Notes is a regular feature of the NYA Times.