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The Wren Eggs Hatch

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I've mentioned before how nervous this (perhaps first-time) mama Carolina wren was. She was off her eggs as much as she was on them in the days we were home. Luckily for her, she got to do the bulk of her incubation and early brooding of the young while we were safely away in North Dakota and Montana. She had two full weeks to finish incubating and hatch out the five young. I was so excited when we came home, to peek in the nest and see what had happened to those five speckled eggs while we were gone.

Oh, sweetness!

There followed many hundreds of photos of the humdrum daily activity of a family of Carolina wrens. None of them are fantastic, being taken with a hand-held 300 mm. telephoto from the dim inside of my kitchen, with hard, contrasting light and the nest in deep shadow.

There are other extenuating factors, the main one being that I'm STILL waiting for Apple to deliver the shipping box for my sick laptop. It's supposed to arrive July 6, and I'll pack it up and give it right back to my friendly Fed-ex deliveryman, who usually has not one but three bikkits in his pocky for Chet Baker. Last time he came here he had run out so I had to slip him a few to give to Chet, because Chet Baker don't take no for an answer where deliveryman bikkits are concerned.

What does all this have to do with wren photo quality? Well, it's taken me all day to transfer my photos from the external hard drive to the Old Slow Desk iMac. That's because each photo icon in the bunch takes around 30 seconds to appear on the screen, and I had 600 of them. Once the icon finally appears, I click it, and opening it in Preview on this computer takes oh, another 20 seconds, and then there's editing, which I completely lost patience with, because you don't want to know how long it takes to edit a photo on Old Faithful. So most of these images have been spared the kind of post-production caressing that I'm so used to doing for this blog. Life is too short.

All of which is to say, !@#!#@$#@$%#$^!! I hate it when my laptop dies. Preliminary word from the technicians I've spoken with is that it needs a new video card and probably a logic board, too. If you buy a Mac: Buy the Apple Care Protection Plan. I did. It runs out in mid-September, 2009. And I am real, real glad I'm not buying a new video card and logic board for my laptop. It's bad enough to be without it for a couple of weeks. That makes two Apple Care logic boards I've gotten--one for Old Slow iMac, and now one for the laptop. You don't want to be paying for those.

I thoroughly enjoyed cranking open the window and shooting wrens, though, and they didn't mind one bit having every aspect of their family life documented. I could get a decent enough shot of the incoming parent to identify the food items they brought. This was the only de-haired forest tent caterpillar I saw them bring, so I was really happy to document that.

By far the most frequently brought prey item (and you're going to have to steel yourself here) were daddy longlegs, with the longlegs taken off.
All together now: BLEEEECCCCHHH!

So much for the urban legend about the baby who popped one in his mouth and died. These babies were practically raised on the little brown oblong protein packets that are daddy longleg bodies.

I would love to have dropped everything and quantified the prey these birds were bringing, done nothing but watched them all day dawn to dusk and figured out exactly what they were eating, but that wasn't in the cards. I had my own kids to provision and care for.

The Bacon helped greatly with my project by lying for hours at a time on the front stoop, baking his liver and lights.
This was a help to me because the wrens would pause just long enough to chew him out--pip! pip! --before going to the nest. It gave me time to grab a snapshot of the insect in their bill before they gave it to their young.

Baker was happy to be of service.

He's the hardworking doggeh.


Thank you for verifying what I was just saying to hubby. I haven't been posting to my blog as much as I should because the images take so long to download from my little camera onto my overburdened computer. He is happy to spend lots of time in front of the computer screen, but I'm much too impatient. And he thanks you for saying get the Pro Care Protection Plan--I let mine run out and he's been after me about it.

Love that you are posting more Carolina Wren photos and information on birdie child care practices--can't get enough of those little guys! Ditto for Mr. Baker, but that goes without saying!

Clay Lady, when my protection plan runs out, I'll run the machine into the ground, then buy a new one at the next major crap-out. Three years, I'm afraid, is about the life of these things. We fill up their arteries with data fat and they just get arthritic and cranky and moribund.

When my kids complain about the perhaps ever-so-slightly unimaginative and repetitive summer lunches I sometimes come up with, I remind them that I could be giving them daddy longlegs.

Hee hee--your first paragraph made me think of my own physical impressions these days! Not complaining, as long as I can stave off the moribund part!

As far as the lunches--please promise you'll also pull off the legs.

ARRRGGGHHHH--nothing quite so frustrating as when computers break, freeze up, need news parts or just in general make life unlivable.
How did this happen? I distinctly remember life BC--before computers.
Oh well, hope all is healed soon.

We had the Apple care plan on the old iMac we gave my mom, and only months before it expired, it needed entirely new guts (OK, so not technical, but...) and would have cost us a fortune. Whew. I know your relief!

Sweet,sweet wrenlets!

I'm a Canadian living on ONE acre of beautiful Ontario farm land. I thoroughly love your blog and have it in my favorites under "Family Blogs" so it's easy to get to. Just wanted to tell you something that happend this past week. We caught (unhappily!) a downy woodpecker on a piece of sticky fly paper (we'll never hang that stuff up again!) He was caught by one wing and I managed to gently unstick him and put him into a nearby tree. I watched him (mad at myself for not having tried to wash the sticky stuff off) and then got the binoculars to see what he was doing. He was busily picking ants off the tree and stuffing them in the feathers under his wings! He worked at that for 10 minutes and then spent the next hour flattened out against the tree trunk. I felt terrible thinking that he wouldn't be able to fly anymore, but to my great relief he did fly off and is doing just fine. Do you think the ants ate the glue off his wings? martha

Dear Martha,

Thanks for the kind words! I doubt very much that the ants were able to help the downy with the stickum on his wings, but anting is a very interesting response to being handled. Many birds will bathe or at least preen vigorously after being handled by humans. Since woodpeckers don't bathe in water, anting may have been the closest thing he could find to cleanse his feathers.
Ants secrete formic acid that helps rid feathers of mites and other parasites.
I hope he had no further problems with the stickum. If it makes you feel better, think of red-cockaded woodpeckers, who hitch around on sticky pine sap and actually encourage the trees to produce more resin around their nest holes. A molt will make him like new again, and if he could fly he should be fine.
I like flypaper, but only in closed pantries for flour moths. I had a barn swallow fledgling in rehab who'd been tangled, and it isn't pretty. It shouldn't be used where birds can get to it. Thanks for writing.

Wrens and flowers and photos - oh my! Just back after a week's vacation spent driving to and from D.C. We saw the sights and had a great time, and the boys didn't manage to kill each other or their parents in the car either! On top of all that we watched the Red Sox beat the Orioles in person.
I've missed this blog, though! I'm enjoying catching up and finding inspiration to spruce up 'my new yard' and bird habitat at my Mom's house where we've officially moved in. First on the list is to build some squirrel baffles that really work. Never in all my life have I seen such fat, tenacious squirrel gangs!!!
Thanks as always for sharing.

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