Wrens

This year we have a surplus of Wren families. Both types of Wren, Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) and House Wren (Troglodytes aedon), decided to raise their families in the garden. House Wren is the one who always raise their young here while the Carolina Wren stays with us during the winter then goes back to the wooded areas in late spring. But this year the Carolina Wren stayed and produced two broods with us so far.

The Carolina Wren started their first brood in early May and the chicks fledged some time in early June. They built a nest right in a slot under our patio roof. We let them; they are small enough not to make a mess.

Mom is keeping the eggs warm
Three chicks fledged in early June

Then to my surprise, they started the second brood right in the same nest. This time four chicks. They are still small and mom and dad are doing a daily feeding relay.

Cute little chicks. The fourth one is on the left, probably sleeping or couldn’t compete with the tree siblings

At the same time two pairs of House Wren settled on each end of the property. They built their nests with sticks and lined it with softer materials. Many times they built the nest all the way up to the opening of the box so I can’t get a glimpse of the chicks tucked in deep. I can only tell by the sound of the chicks and the parents flying in and out with food.

Feeding time
The second family
This nest has a little room I can put my iPhone in. It seems to have four chicks

In the middle of these two House Wren families raising their young, one of the Wrens started to build a nest in a new box. I don’t know if it’s from one of the pairs or a newcomer.

House Wren starting a new nest

It’s early in the season still, we may have a Wren symphony by August.

A Brutally Cold Week

Lending A Hand To Avian Friends

We have been hit by a brutally cold winter since Christmas that has become much worse in the last couple of days.  Yesterday and today the temperature hovering in the single digits, Fahrenheit, during the day and dropping down below 0°F at night.  This number does not take windchill into account which would drop it into negative double digits.  This extreme cold temperature, common for those who live in a much colder climate, is a concern for us in the mid-Northeastern part of the US.  Even the local birds have retreated.

Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) tucked in under the patio roof, away from high wind

We had a blizzard three days ago which dumped 5 inches of snow in our area.  Reservoirs around here iced over thick enough to make ice fishing a common site again.  At times like this we put up more bird boxes, lined with fluffy cotton at the bottom, so our avian friends can have a place to roost away from high winds and frigid temperatures.  We also put more feeders up along our patio and make sure that there is clean water in the heated birdbaths.

One of the heated birdbaths being hoarded by a flock of Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura). Not just drinking from it, they stay on the stones and around the rim to keep warm.  After a while we have to chase them off so other birds can have access too

As far as I know Downy woodpeckers and the bullying House sparrows roost in the boxes.  This winter, however, a few Bluebirds have been roosting in one of the boxes- the box that they may have been born in.  It’s very convenient for them to just look out of the box to see if we have put the feeders back up in the morning before they come out.

They enjoying our hospitality and we enjoy watching them in the comfort of our home.  All photos were taken through the patio door; it’s blow 10°F outside.

Four  Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) (4 on the feeder, 2 hidden behind) on their favorite feeder, one waits its turn below

A male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) cracking seeds in the snow

A male Downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) shares a feeder with a female House finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) waiting his turn

A pair of Red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) share a feeder, female on the left, male on the right

Even a ground feeder like the Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) left, learn to get on the feeder.

A pair of Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) share a feeder with a Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

These are just some of the birds that frequent our feeders in winter.  Most are welcome even the ones that come in a flock like the House finch and Pine siskin but bullies like House sparrows and European Starlings we chase off.  In spring and summer, the table is turned and they pay us back when they serenade us from dawn to dusk and patrol our garden for insects.  Symbiosis indeed!

 

Carolina Wren

A Tough Act To Follow

Carolina Wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus) come to stay in our garden every winter.  They mostly stay in one of the woodpiles and come to the feeders or search the woodpiles on the patio and all the nooks and crannies of the patio roof for food.  They have no fear of us and allowed us to get close enough.  Our relationship is a symbiotic one: we provide food and shelter and they get rid of the insects for us.  By mid-spring, when food is abundant, they go back into the nearby forest area and the House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon) will take over the territory.

A couple of  nights ago I found a Carolina Wren in a strange pose at one corner of the patio where the beam connected to the upright post.  Looking from afar, I thought it was a dry leave stuck there but I realized that it was a small bird when I looked closer.  An injured bird, maybe?  The feathers on the back were flattened out.  The tail was also flattened to the wooden beam.  The head buried between the body and the wood beam.  When I got up on a chair and looked closely, the bird turned around, looked at me and then flew off into the night garden.  We thought it was very strange.  We assumed that it had possibly just escaped from a predator.

But it came back almost every night, at the exact spot, and did the same flattened out with the back feathers act.  It was gone in the morning.  It’s a strange behavior that we haven’t seen before but maybe this is how the Carolina Wrens roost at night.

It’s up there tonight again.  The display with the feathers makes it look injured although it isn’t.  Perhaps that’s how they flatten themselves against tree trunks at night trying to look like just another chunk of tree bark.

A Carolina Wren in the garden last winter
A Carolina Wren in the garden last winter

This is what it's been doing night after night, at the samr exact spot
This is what it’s been doing night after night, at the same exact spot

Birds of Winter

When Nothing Blooms Outside

Winter.  I have a love-hate relationship with winter.  I love winter best when it’s snowing and its aftermath.  The snow wipes out the sad look of bare branches and turns the world picturesque with dull gray turning to glistening white.  The quietness, since the snow absorbs sound so effectively, renders the world peaceful too.

There is not much I can do in the garden aside from feeding the birds and checking up on the bees.  That’s when I want winter to go away as soon as possible.  In the meantime when there is frozen snow on the ground, marked by deer and rabbits tracks, I spend my time camera-stalking birds coming in for food and water.  Here are some of them…

American Goldfinch in its winter coat.
American Goldfinch in its winter coat.

Carolina Wren waits its turn for the feeder.
Carolina Wren waits its turn for the feeder.

Tufted Titmouse, one of the more friendly and daring residents
Tufted Titmouse, one of the more friendly and daring residents

Chickadees will eat from your hand when you gain their trust.
Chickadees will eat from your hand when you gain their trust.

Fresh clean water will draw the birds in when everything else is frozen.
Fresh clean water will draw the birds in when everything else is frozen.

A female cardinal waits her turn
A female cardinal waits her turn

My alarm clock

He wakes me each morning

On the Clematis entwined on the patio trellis

We have a pair of Carolina Wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus) in our garden.  I said “a pair” since they always arrive together at the suet or the seed feeders.  From what I have read, they are monogamous and stay together all year round.  The male sings lovely songs and very loudly for such a tiny bird.  I can hear him from the other side of the house when I’m in the garden.  They are fun to watch as well.  The white stripe over his eyebrows make him look like an elderly and wizened sage.

They roost in our woodpile on the patio which is good for us since they pick off any insects they can find.  They even wiggle into any small gap in between folds in the pool umbrella (when it’s closed) to look for insects.  We are grateful.

A wren in a rose bush.

Having him roost in the woodpile posts one problem.  He likes to sing very early in the morning as well,  just outside our bedroom window.  I can still hear him clearly even with two panes of window glass between us.  It’s nice to have him wake me up most of the time but when I want to sleep a little bit longer I’m ready to tear the woodpile apart.

I didn’t think too much of it until I mentioned it to one of my colleagues today.  She came from South Carolina.  As soon as I mentioned how cute and helpful the wrens are.  She promptly said she hates the birds.  “Their songs are very nice.” I told her.  “Yeah, wait until you have a whole bunch of them.” she snapped.

That made me think, if one male wren is this loud…..  having a whole bunch of them would be like being awakened by a fire alarm, wouldn’t it?

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