Years ago when FD and I owned a little house in town, a pair of Bewick’s wrens set up a nest on our back porch. We were especially excited about this nesting since the bird house they chose for a nesting box was a small, wooden creation my dad had crafted as a young boy – a gift to his dad for Father’s Day one year. After having nothing but wasps take interest in Dad’s old bird house, FD drilled the entry hole a bit larger and, in no time, a pair of wrens began setting up housekeeping. But after a few weeks, we realized the location of the little bird box did not promote a compatible situation between birds and humans. The porch became virtually useless, as the hatchlings were quite noisy and their parents very protective. Every time we made a trip from the porch door to the garage in back, we were dive-bombed by the parents and sent on our way with some noisy chortling. The babies chirped loudly all day long, vying for food that both parents kept busy bringing from sunup to sunset. I was certainly glad to see that noisy bunch finally fledge and leave our back porch!
So a few weeks ago, I was not really very excited to find a pair of Bewick’s wrens setting up housekeeping on our back porch here at the ranch. Every year since we moved on the ten acres, I discouraged nest building on the back porch. For the most part though, the woodland wrens we have around here have not cared about my dad’s little bird house, but have been more interested in stuffing twigs and leaves behind the outdoor speakers that hang in two corners of the back porch. And, of course, the main area of interest has been in placing a nest in the speaker mounted just above the porch entry door. So each morning after I notice nest building activity going on, I grab the broom and knock out the nesting material that the wrens stuffed around the speaker when I was not watching. With both FD’s and my family visiting over the summer months, it was just not a good situation to have humans and birds trying to cohabitate in the back porch and pool area.
Unfortunately, my frequent nest wrecking did not completely deter the persistent Bewick’s wren couple. Not long after I managed to get the back porch nesting shut down, I noticed a wren on the front porch flying off to the north almost every time I left the house. But on looking around, I did not see a nest perched anywhere and chalked the wren’s frequent presence up to being a bird just snooping around for a place to put a nest, and I was quite sure the front porch had nothing to offer. It wasn’t until FD saw a wren fly away from a little decor box on the front porch that he got curious and found four eggs nestled in one of the six partitions in the metal decor box. This box was part of an old egg incubator that we found in the chicken barn when we first moved here. To make a front porch table decoration, I stuffed odd treasures and fake greenery in it, but there were a couple of square partitions on one end of the box with nothing in them. Unbeknownst to us, the wrens took over one of the empty partitions and built a fine nest within. Now, with the eggs already laid, my only option was to put a sign on the front porch warning visitors and guests to keep quiet and not sit in the front porch chairs. I dreaded the noise and the dive bombing that would ensue as soon as those eggs hatched.
But, soon my dread turned to pleasant surprise. The babies hatched and we never heard a peep from them. The parents were very careful about feeding. They waited nearby for us to exit the front porch, and even as they approached the little nest box, only a very tiny, high-pitched whistle could be heard from the little ones. As the babies grew, I was perplexed that there was little noise from them. The only thing I could think to explain this quietness was that, since the nest was low enough for predators like squirrels, foxes, snakes or raptors to easily snatch eggs or babies, the parents, and perhaps hatchlings too, just instinctively knew to keep quiet. There was no crying out for food and no dive-bombing humans. And because of the sign I had posted out front, visitors and guests kept quiet when entering the house. Some of our longer-stay guests simply went around to the back porch, avoiding the front entry altogether. And most surprising, was the fact that the UPS and FedEx delivery folks were respectful by gently putting packages as far from the nearest chair as possible.
Bright and early one Saturday morning as FD let Oscar and Mr. T out front to do their business, he noticed one of the babies had fledged. Three were still in the nest. Two hours later the nest was empty. Not even an eggshell crumble remained. And just as quietly as they had arrived, the Bewick’s wrens disappeared into the lush grasses and vegetation around the house. For a few days after, I saw the parents flitting and hopping around the yard in search of insects, likely helping to feed the fledglings as they gained strength and practiced flying. I removed the sign from the front porch, but I think I will keep it just in case I need to post it again next year. After this spring’s experience with them, these quiet, woodland Bewick’s wrens will be welcome guests on either of our porches.
Once again, Mother Nature has managed to surprise me. I expected the worst you know. What with a busy stream of family guests coming and going all summer long, I surely did not care to add a family of noisy, dive-bombing birds to the mix. But instead, we were all able to enjoy having a very polite little family to observe as they tended their nursery on our front porch. And when their kids flew the coop, so to speak, they exited just as quietly as they had arrived, and left no mess behind. And how appropriate for them to leave their exquisitely designed little nest neatly tucked away in the decor box where I put other treasures of nature. What a lovely, parting gift that was.
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