Just in a moment’s idle speculation, it’s worth wondering about the behaviour of a wren I came across this morning while flighting duck. The estuary was patchily frozen with cling-film cow pats of ice where the fresh water swirled around the brine, and wigeon were coming in a steady stream around the bend where I like to hide in the blackthorns.
Wrens had been chinking and complaining about my intrusion for ten minutes as I sat comfortably in the frost, and they dared one another to come closer and closer until I could almost reach out and touch them. All at once, a wren flew out into the open estuary at a distance of perhaps forty feet, flopping down in the water and lying totally still. I could hardly believe what I was seeing, but for a few seconds it bobbed like a cork on the tide. Soon it was back in the air again and flying proudly home into cover like a dipper, leaving a tiny string of rippled droplets as it came.
If this was an attempt at a bath, I can think of many more appetising and secure locations. It made for such an extraordinary spectacle in a half-light filled with ducks and ice that it now seems like half a world away, particularly since the dust has settled on the day and I’m in my warm, comfortable office again. If anyone has any other theory as to why this little bird should behave in such a bizarre fashion, I would be pleased to hear it.