Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 1 – House Wren

Chapter 1 – Jenny Wren Arrives

Lipperty-lipperty-lip scampered Peter Rabbit behind the tumble-down stone wall along one side of the Old Orchard. It was early in the morning, very early in the morning. In fact, jolly, bright Mr. Sun had hardly begun his daily climb up in the blue, blue sky. It was nothing unusual for Peter to see jolly Mr. Sun get up in the morning. It would be more unusual for Peter not to see him, for you know Peter is a great hand to stay out all night and not go back to the dear Old Briar-patch, where his home is, until the hour when most folks are just getting out of bed.

Peter had been out all night this time, however he wasn’t sleepy, not the least teeny, weeny bit. You see, sweet Mistress Spring had arrived, and there was so much happening on every side, and Peter was so afraid he would miss something, that he wouldn’t have slept at all if he could have helped it. Peter had come over to the Old Orchard so early this morning to see if there had been any new arrivals the day before.

“Birds are funny creatures,” said Peter, as he hopped over a low place in the old stone wall and was fairly in the Old Orchard.

“Tut, tut, tut!” said a voice. “Tut, tut, tut! They are not funny creatures at all. They are the most sensible folks in all the wide world.”

Peter cut a long hop short right in the middle, to sit up with shining eyes. “Oh, Jenny Wren, I’m so glad to see you! When did you arrive?” he cried.

“Mr. Wren and I have just arrived, and thank goodness we are here at
last,” replied Jenny Wren, fussing about, as only she can, in a branch above

Mr. Sun beginning his climb into the blue, blue sky in the Spring.

“I never was more thankful in my life to see a place than I am right this minute to see the Old Orchard once more. It seems ages and ages since we left it.”

“Well, if you are so fond of it why did you leave?” asked Peter. “It is just as I said before – you birds are funny creatures. So many of you do not stay put. Sammy Jay and DeeDee the Chickadee and Drummer the Woodpecker and a few others do not go off on long journeys. And yet the rest of you do,” declared Peter.

“Tut, tut, tut!” interrupted Jenny Wren. “You don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Well if you are as fond of the Old Orchard as you claim to be, why did you ever leave it?” asked Peter again.

Jenny Wren’s eyes brightened. “Well, why do you eat?” she asked.

“Because I’m hungry,” replied Peter promptly.

“What would you eat if there were nothing to eat?” responded Jenny.

“I don’t know how to answer that question,” said Peter.

“Well we birds can’t live without eating any more than you can,” replied Jenny, “and in winter there is no food at all here for most of us, so we go where there is food. Those who are lucky enough to eat the kinds of food that can be found here in winter stay here. They are lucky. That’s what they are–lucky. Still–” Jenny Wren paused.

“Still what?” prompted Peter.

House Wren by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“I wonder sometimes if you folks who are at home all the time know just what a blessed place home is,” replied Jenny. “It is only six months since we went south and it seems ages. The best part of going away is coming home. I don’t care if that does sound rather mixed; it is true just the same. It isn’t home down there in the sunny South, even if we do spend as much time there as we do here. This is home, and there’s no place like it! What’s that, Mr. Wren? I haven’t seen all the Great World? Perhaps I haven’t, however I’ve seen enough of it, let me tell you that! Anyone who travels a thousand miles twice a year as we do has a right to express an opinion, especially if they have used their eyes as I have mine. There is no place like home, and my dear, I know you; you are just as tickled to be back here as I am.”

“He sings as if he were,” said Peter, for all the time Mr. Wren was singing with all his might.

Jenny Wren looked over at Mr. Wren fondly. “Isn’t he a dear to sing to me like that? And isn’t it a perfectly beautiful spring song?” said she. Then, without waiting for Peter to reply, she continued on. “I do wish he would be careful. Sometimes I am afraid he will overdo. Just look at him now! He is singing so hard that he is shaking all over” said Jenny. “He always is that way. There is one thing true about us Wrens, and this is that when we do things we do them with all our might. When we work we work with all our might. When Mr. Wren sings he sings with all his might.”

“Did you have a pleasant journey up from the sunny South?” asked Peter.

“Fairly pleasant,” replied Jenny. “We took it rather easily. Some birds hurry right through without stopping, however I should think they would be tired to death when they arrive. We rest whenever we are tired, and just follow along behind Mistress Spring, keeping far enough behind so that if she has to turn back we will not get caught by Jack Frost. It gives us time to get our new suits on the way. How do you like my new suit, Peter?” Jenny bobbed and twisted and turned to show Peter.

“Very much,” replied Peter. “I am very fond of brown. Brown and gray are my favorite colors.” Peter’s own coat is also brown and gray.

“The more I see of bright colors the better I like brown,” said Jenny. “It goes well with almost everything. It is neat and it is useful. If there is need of getting out of sight in a hurry you can do it if you wear brown. However, if you wear bright colors it isn’t so easy. I never envy anybody who happens to have brighter clothes than mine. I’ve seen dreadful things happen all because of wearing bright colors.”

“What things?” asked Peter.

“I’d rather not talk about them,” declared Jenny in a very emphatic way.

“Way down where we spent the winter some of the feathered folks who live there all the year round wear the brightest and most beautiful suits I’ve ever seen. They are simply gorgeous. I’ve also noticed that in times of danger these are the folks dreadful things happen to. You see they simply can’t get out of sight. For my part I would far rather be simply and neatly dressed and feel safe than to wear wonderful clothes and never know a minute’s peace. Why, there are some families I know of which, because of their beautiful suits, have been so hunted by men that hardly any are left. Oh my gracious, Peter Rabbit, I can’t sit here all day talking to you! I must find out who else has arrived in the Old Orchard and must look my old house over to see if it is fit to live in.”

Blossoms in an Old Orchard Apple Tree

P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects

Try these fun activities to extend your bird story adventures:

  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS – HOUSE WREN
  • Visit Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  BIRD MIGRATION
  • Try sketching your own version of Jenny Wren, the Old Orchard, or Mr. Sun appearing in the blue, blue sky. Create a nature journal with a collection of your drawings. Write what you think may happen next to Jenny Wren or who Peter Rabbit may encounter next in the story.
  • Research and map the migration flight plan that Jenny Wren may have taken from down south up to New England. Trace it on a globe or in an atlas with your finger or print off a blank USA map and label the states and draw Jenny + Mr. Wren in flight!
  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and color the House Wren on page 24 (colored pencils recommended).

FYI -This coloring book is an excellent companion for this bird story series with most of the 50 birds represented as characters throughout the chapters.

Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided a new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

Feathered Friend BONUS!

House Wren

“If you want some jolly little neighbors for the summer, invite the wrens to live near you year after year by putting up small, one family box houses under the eaves of the barn, the cow shed, or the chicken house, on the grape arbor or in the orchard. Beware of a pair of nesting wrens in a box nailed against a piazza post: they beat any alarm clock for arousing the family at sunrise.

When you are sound asleep some April morning, a tiny brown bird, just returned from a long visit south of the Carolinas, will probably alight on the perch in front of one of your boxes, peep in the doorhole, enter—although his pert little cocked-up-tail has to be lowered to let him through—look about with approval, go out, spring to the roof and pour out of his wee throat a gushing torrent of music. The song seems to bubble up faster than he can sing. After the wren’s happy discovery of a place to live, his song will go off in a series of musical explosions all day long, now from the roof, now from the clothes posts, the fence, the barn, or the wood pile. There never was a more tireless, spirited, brilliant singer.” ~Birds Every Child Should Know by Neltje Blanchan Copyright 1907

P.L.A.Y. + Pass it on!