The Orcadian name for the Wren is the Wirran or Wrannock

Wren - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The Orcadian name for the Wren is the Wirran or Wrannock. What brilliant names. I’ve just had a small Wrannock in my garden. It’s been nesting and I’ve loved seeing the scenes as the young exploded from their nest in my outbuilding:

Here’s what Reverend George Low had to say about the Wren in the Fauna Orcadensis in 1813:

Fauna Orcadensis
The least of our birds; does not migrate; …comes near the habitations of men in the winter season; breeds in the holes of walls, making a very large nest of moss, lined with softer materials, with a door for entrance; lays a great number of eggs; I have counted sixteen in one nest, which well may be called a miracle, how it can rear such a number of young without missing one; but this is done by the power and providence of that Being, who implanted the first seeds of knowledge into the minds of all animals, and who takes care not only of the greatest, but of the most minute parts of the creation.

The wren is a little neat bird, carries its tail almost erect, seems not to be able for long flights, as I have heard of them run down and caught. The whole upper part of the body is a dark-brown, the wings and tail neatly barred with darker colours.

I’m fascinated that as soon as there’s anything unexplained or unknown, the power of a divine being has to be invoked. The BTO says they lay either 5 and 6 eggs, not up to 16. Wren’s lives are short and their winter mortality high. They wouldn’t exist if they didn’t have large numbers of young. It’s maths, not mystery. If there really were 16 eggs in one Wren nest it’s likely to have been the work of two females and not God. After all, it’s women who work miracles, isn’t it?

Two hundred years of the advancement of science and people are still doing invoking the power and providence of some being or other. Humans truly are hard-wired for nonsense. Whereas Wrens are hard-wired for many eggs.

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