Having spent a great deal of time in central Missouri over the past 15 years, I have become accustomed to the arrival of house wrens in late April, their loud song and buzzy chatter echoing through the neighborhood. By early summer, the parents are usually escorting their brood through the trees and shrubs, appeasing them with a smorgasbord of insects.
But this year, despite actively searching for these tiny songsters, I have not encountered a single house wren on our property and cannot recall seeing any on my walks to and from the University. I initially blamed their absence on landscaping activity in our backyard but that ended long ago and, still, no house wrens to brighten my evenings; frankly, I feel a bit betrayed. A few visits to our Colorado farm have turned up the usual number of house wrens along the Front Range, adding to the mystery here in Missouri.
Perhaps I am becoming less perceptive with advancing age or have been too busy this spring to give sufficient attention to our wild neighbors. I have even thought to blame the unusually warm spring and early leafing of our shade trees, which might have encouraged the wrens to move farther north before settling down. Then again, the populations of most other summer residents seem to be unaffected. This apparent dearth of house wrens may be just an illusion but, in some 40 years of birding, I can't recall anything quite so mystifying.