Carolina wrens do not mess around when they fledge. The parents call them and lead them as fast as they can to the nearest deep cover, and they keep going deeper. I’ve watched the fledging process for years, and I’m amazed afresh each time by the parents’ intuitive grasp of their chicks’ individuality. For strong fliers, an adult will fly to the nearest tree, and encourage the chick to make the flight across the lawn in one leg. For later-fledging, weaker chicks, the adult will fly a few yards, land on the ground, and encourage the chick to make the trip in short fluttering hops, leading them from shrub to lawn chair to flower bed in a zigzag path. The whole process of vacating the nest area is usually complete within minutes.
So I was alarmed to find this lone baby still moping on the downspout, long after I’d last heard the family moving into the woods the equivalent of a half-block away. He fluttered down to the base of the downspout, not up to flying like his siblings. You can see the cardboard tube that is my snake baffle in this shot. It closes the gap between downspout and house and keeps the snake from wrapping around the downspout to get up to the bucket.So tiny, and so very vulnerable. I had to help somehow.
I listened for the other birds. Nothing. Though it had been alone for two hours, the fifth baby continued to squeak, making the contact call that all new fledglings use to say, “I’m here! I’m here! Care for me!” It was extremely vulnerable as it fluttered on the ground and clambered up the side of the house. One sharp-eyed jay, one clued-in rat snake, one lightning-fast chipmunk, and it would be doomed.I grabbed my iPod and dialed up Carolina wren songs and calls. Played it on the west side of the garage, into the woods where I’d last seen the family. No response. Ran to the east side, and played a Carolina wren alarm call at full volume. An adult appeared, zooming up from deep in the woods. I paused the recording and watched. It flew right to the hostas where it had last seen the baby, and they made contact.
I smiled and sighed with happy relief as the adult perched on the crusty ol’ Pig of Good Fortune and lured the baby out of the flowerbed with insistent calls. S(he) led it to the shelter of the Japanese maple, then the forsythia bush. Baby #5: last seen headed deep into the woods, in the company of an adult.