I can’t count the number of times I’ve chased Marsh wrens with the camera. These small birds are, like most small birds, frenetic. While they are not as hyperactive as a Kinglet, the Marsh wren can certainly hold its own in terms of bouncing movements as it moves through marsh vegetation. They are small birds that measure about 4.5-5 inches from beak tip to tail end. They tend to call abundantly. My friend Gerry complimented me on a picture of a Marsh wren years ago by saying “nice shot, you got it with its mouth closed”. Let’s just say that their calls let you know they are in the area; seeing one is another thing. Seeing one in the relative open of dense marsh vegetation so you can take a photo is an entirely different situation – rare and appreciated.
I visited the Cherry River Fishing Access area a couple of times during our recent visit to Bozeman, MT. This is a small wetland-pond-river complex with a few trails that wander through the habitats. Sitting on the edge of town I always expect to see more people than I’ve actually experienced. People like to come and walk their dogs. A few times I’ve run into people with binoculars and there are a few entries in eBird from birders who track and report sightings. My visits last week were relatively lonely with a few people walking through.
I recognized the call of the Marsh wren and quietly thought “here we go again” as I anticipated the pending frustration of hearing birds and having few sightings. It was nest building season and that worked to my advantage. There were several wrens in the area… again, an advantage for me. The birds were setting up territories and actively gathering nest material. It turns out that some wanted to climb the stems of the cattails, perch and call. Standing quietly beside the marsh I waited for a bird to come into view, gain some height on the vegetation and start singing. A few times the bird climbed into view and found a location with decent light for photography. I’d try to get in position to take advantage of clean backgrounds, manually focus and shoot. Before I knew it an hour was gone. Acalm, cool morning with a bunch of cooperative Marsh wrens. It’s not for everyone but it sure works well for me. I recommend it if you have the opportunity.