Let the Singing Begin

Written by Mike and Linda Dumbleton and Published by Little Book Press in hardback and paperback 2023.

AVAILABLE ONLINE NOW from Little Book Press and in all good book stores.

Fairy Wrens know exactly when to begin singing, and it’s sooner than you think!
In this beautifully illustrated story, a fairy wren lovingly builds a nest, lays her eggs and starts to sing a unique song. She sings the song over and over as she sits on her eggs. When the chicks hatch, their eyes are still closed and they have no feathers. But they can already sing for their food. The song that they sing is the song their mother has been singing to them before they were even born.

I feel I have been painting blue wrens my entire life, so to create this book was an absolute delight. I spent three months on a private property, photographing and observing four families of wrens as the females built the nests (all by themselves), kept the eggs safe and warm and then observed the little chicks and how the parents and previous years chicks of the same family, frantically fed them. They grew in no time and within a matter of weeks they left the nests. The chicks were hilarious. Keeping their parents extremely busy on the food run and then even undertaking what I termed 'baby yoga'. After weeks crammed in the nests, they would sit on branches and stretch their legs right out as the image on the back cover depicts. It's rather deceiving how long their little legs are. I'm happy to say that all chicks from all four families survived and are now thriving in their own little garden paradise.

Two of the families I observed built their nests in very dense Wormwood bushes (depicted in the book), one in a purple Daisy bush and another in a Curry bush. Needless to say, when I photographed this family, I came home smelling like Indian curry. I was always very respectful of the parent wrens, not to invade their personal bubble so to speak whilst they raised and cared for their chicks. It was fascinating to see how quickly though, they became quite trusting of me and just went about their jobs as if I wasn't even there. Thankfully I had a very long zoom lense and a camera I could set to photograph in bursts, as they are so quick.

The artwork for this book was created with much experimenting and ultimately was a combination of watercolour, acrylic, printmaking and digital. The song notes in the below image is an exact replica of the spectrogram recorded by Flinders University in their studies of fairy wrens. This research team made the discovery that the female wrens sing to the eggs before the chicks are born, much in the same way a human mother might speak to her unborn child. This is why the chicks are able to recognise their parent's call.

Thank you to Dr Diane Colombelli-Négrel, Flinders University College of Science & Engineering, for permission to use the spectrogram graphic for the fairy-wren incubation calls.