I'm preparation for the 2009 Christmas Bird Count at Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, I went out this foggy morning to practice some strategies. I went to the Avimor entry bridge which gives me a good above-view of Spring Valley Creek. By pishing and playing a Northern Pygmy Owl hoot I was able to see Song Sparrows, American Goldfinch, and even a Downy Woodpecker stopped by to investigate.
I know we have wintering Spotted Towhees here at Avimor that will lurk in the thick underbrush because I had them last winter. I played its call, but no response. Then I got to thinkin'...there's another little winter bird that I've never seen before that this habitat should be perfect for; shaded, damp, and fallen trees. I've been reading about it a lot recently as it may be a species split between the western and eastern varieties. I played its call five times and then just listened and watched for 15 minutes. Dark-eyed Juncos and a Northern Flicker whizzed by, but still no sign of the little bird I hoped to see.
I gave up and started walking back toward my office...when I heard a faint keep-keep that was just different enough that I knew it wasn't a Song Sparrow. I went back to the bridge slowly and tried to track down with my eyes what I was hearing with my ears. There before my eyes was a cute little brown ball of joy. It reminded me of a mouse as it snuck stealthfully around the low brush and fallen cottonwoods.
I wonder now if the Winter Wren call I have in my Zune BirdJam is an eastern bird or a pacific bird? Well, whatever it was, I suppose it worked!
I probably won't be able to call this a "Winter" Wren for long. To read more about the portending species split of the Winter and Pacific Wren, click here.