In certain parts of England, I am told, the wren is a very shy and timid bird, and naturalists in those places attribute it to the age-long persecution those birds have been subjected to there. To avenge some legendary sin of a wren, men and boys, until quite recent years, would hunt the poor little birds and bear strings of their tiny bodies in triumph upon St Stephen’s Day. A strange way of celebrating the feast of a saint who himself was hunted and persecuted.
In Hampshire the wren has been more fortunate. From remotest times it has shared with the robin the distinction of being regarded as a sacred bird and such doggerel rhymes as:
‘The robins and the wrens
Be the Almighty’s special friends.
Who kills them shall thrive never,
But all his luck shall sever,’
or, more tersely:
‘Who slays a robin or a wren
Shall never prosper, boys nor men,’
have helped to protect them from the ignorant and to endear them to the more enlightened. In consequence, the wren, although a much rarer bird, is almost as trustingly unafraid of man in the south as the robin is; and both are equally beloved.
From January: A Country Calendar, Flora Thompson. Originally published in The Catholic Fireside magazine, 1919-1927.
In Filey’s ravines, the wrens haven’t yet found their full voices, and are rather skittish. Next month, when needs must, they will belt out their songs and perform on a perch of choice long enough to be captured. This one was still making music in mid-April. When I was a child my father used to call me a troglodyte, so maybe I should, rather late in the day, adopt this bird as my mascot.