A Winter Wren Atop Height of Land

maine, nature, height of land, birdingOne of my absolute favorite places in Maine is “Height of Land” in Roxbury. Every summer I drive by this spectacular view on my way to the Rangeley Lakes Region, and though I’ve taken in the layered-mountain landscape hundreds of times it never fails to take my breath away.

In early June, I was driving past the spot on my own, so I stopped at the observation parking lot and pulled out my camera. The blue of the sky reflected perfectly on the waters of the lake below, deep green forests rimming the shoreline and covering the retreating mountains like a colorful blanket. It had been hot in southern Maine, but here the air was crisp and cool, a constant breeze swirling the tendrils of hair around my face. I loved it.

Though I had stopped at Height of Land many times, I had never actually birded there. Taking an extra minute, I listened carefully for any avian life.

One beautiful song echoed through the air, its delicate notes reaching me where I leaned against my car. There was no mistaking it: a Winter Wren.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the song of Winter Wrens as a “rich cascade of bubbly notes,” and the birds themselves as “tiny ball[s] of energy.” In fact, if you take into account relative weights, Winter Wrens sing with ten times the power of a typical crowing rooster.

nature, landscape, maine, birding

These wrens spend the summer in the northern United States and Canada, retreated to the Southeast during winter months. They prefer to breed in evergreen forests, foraging on the ground for a wide variety of insects, including “beetles, ants, flies, mites, caterpillars, millipedes, and spiders.” If pressed, I would describe them as “cute,” despite their rather dull brown plumage.

To me, the Winter Wren’s song perfectly encapsulated what I felt standing there at Height of Land on a beautiful summer day: bright, happy, and energetic. Though weeks have gone by, in my mind the tiny bird is forever entwined with the landscape.


Erika Zambello

About Erika Zambello

Erika Zambello is a writer, birder, and photographer, born and raised in Maine. She has a bachelor’s degree in Government and Anthropology from Cornell University, and a master’s degree in Environmental Management from Duke University, specializing in ecosystem science and conservation. Her love of the outdoors was inspired by her childhood in Maine, and she returned for her National Geographic Young Explorer grant in 2015-2016.