Down in the deepest part of the valley where gigantic trunks of Douglas-fir lay moss-covered on ferny slopes, time and again I heard what may be the most complex and beautiful song of any North American bird. It was the Winter Wren, which back East I've seen only during the cold months. Unlike the East's abundant Carolina Wrens, which bear striking, white stripes right above their eyes and possess fair-sized tails, Winter Wrens have no white eye-stripe and their tails are practically just nubs. To see this bird and to click on an audio box to hear it, and read more about the species, go to http://www.birds.cornell.edu/BOW/WINWRE/.
Often you hear Winter Wrens but don't see them, and that was the case the other day. I passed by several and never saw one. Surely they were singing from beneath cascading fern fronds or from behind those big trunks. This did not diminish, however, the effect of the song, a rapid succession of very high, clear notes and trills lasting about five seconds, with the song being repeated four to six times each minute.
To see the Winter Wren's summer distribution map -- its BBS (Breeding Bird Survey map) -- go to http://www.nenature.com/WinterWrenBreedingMap.htm.