Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Blessings abound in June. There could be no more delighted host to a family of Carolina wrens in a hanging basket than the Science Chimp. First, let me dispel the notion that, should birds take up nesting in a hanging basket full of flowers, you have to creep around and stop watering the basket. If you stop watering it, the plants will die, and nobody wants that to happen, especially the birds who built the nest in their shelter in the first place. The Lord doesn't stop watering the forest floor just because a towhee is nesting there. He depends on the towhee to build a nest that repels water and drains quickly. So you water a little more gently, with a watering can, but you water it. Durn straight I water it; those are some nice plants in there and I grew them meself.
Neither do you have to creep around or stop using your front door. The wrens chose to nest there precisely because they wanted to be around human activity, because noisy everpresent humans are likely to be intolerant of the snakes and raccoons that might otherwise eat their eggs and young. If that sounds like a stretch for a bird's thought processes, well, you'll just have to believe me that it isn't. Following the wren's lead, I moved everything away from their basket that could possibly give a leg up to a coon or a six-foot black rat snake-pots and pedestals and trellises and the like. You have to stand back and think like a five-foot snake. And when you think like a snake, you realize there are very few truly safe nesting places for birds.
I first noticed the wren's work when I was watering the basket of geraniums and lobelias, when I noticed some pieces of arbor vitae and grass laid in a kind of fairy driveway across the surface of the soil. I thought what I always do when I find a Carolina wren nest. Now who put those there?
And then I break into a huge grin, because there's only one person who would put those there and that's a Carolina wren. These wrens are sneaky little things, and they can make a whole nest before you even wake up that it's going on. They're fast, too. Once they've picked a place they like, they don't mess around.
They haul great billfulls of moss and cocoa fiber, grasses and rootlets and skeletonized leaves and before you know it they have a little domed affair which may or may not have a fabulous porch that spills out and over the container. This was a very restrained pair, and they omitted the portico and went with a modest walkway of arbor vitae. This pair also skimped on the dome. Most Carolina wren nests are thickly roofed, with a hole in the side, but this pair relied on the geranium leaves for shelter, and it worked very well.
I delighted in standing at the sink, catching them at their nest building. I'd crank the window wide open, no screen, and shoot away from the darkness of my kitchen blind. Only one hummingbird came into the kitchen the whole couple of weeks I was at it and I caught her in my hand and sent her right back outside. Not so fast, Buzzy Marie.
If you've been reading this blog for awhile you know that I have a lot of favorite birds and you can't really take me too seriously because I love birds so much that the way it works out is that the one I'm studying or caring for at the moment is my favorite. Carolina wrens just happen to be a Real Favorite bird right up there with chipping sparrows, eastern phoebes, ruby-throated hummingbirds and eastern bluebirds. So ignore for a moment my tendency to sing the praises of brown thrashers and yellow-breasted chats and blue-gray gnatcatchers and red-bellied woodpeckers and believe me when I say that Carolina wrens are one of my top Favorite Birds. Srsly.
For what is not to love about a bird who helps herself to the moss on your bonsai trees and stuffs great wads of it into your hanging basket to make the most picturesque little domed nest; who sings a cheery duet with its mate that sounds like it's yelling JULIE JULIE JULIE; who never lets so much as a drip from a fecal sac touch your front porch; who brings a steady stream of more or less noxious insects to feed its adorable young right in front of your nose?
So in these next few installments, I invite you to elevate the Carolina wren to one of your Capitalized Favorite Birds, or if you don't want to do that, already having Favorite Birds of your own, then please just indulge me. Be kind. Gush about the birdies. Because Lord knows I have suffered for my art. See previous post.