Front Porch Nursery

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.

The decorative metal box on the table between the front porch chairs was the location of the secret nest.
The wren parents were very secretive and careful when approaching the nest on the table.
The partition behind the left, front square with the broken sugar bowl and skull, is where the Bewick’s wren nest was located. Fake greenery kept the nest nicely hidden.
Four tiny eggs lay nestled in the cavity. The female was often off of the eggs in the heat of the day so we were able to check on the eggs daily without upsetting the parents.

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.

The front porch sign that alerted even the UPS and FedEx delivery people to take care to respect the wrens.
All of the babies hatched in a day. With such hot temperatures we noticed the naked babies did not seem to need warmth from the female.
In just a few days the hatchlings had feathers and were growing rapidly!
I took this photo the day before fledging. Fully feathered and very good at “freezing” when I approached the nest, I marveled at how wild and alert they already were.

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.

The parent’s were up early checking out the front porch and front yard the morning of the fledge. They did chatter at us a bit as if to say, “Give us a little space today – it’s liftoff time for the kids!”.

This was the first youngster to fledge the nest. It was very good at flying. It finally landed down in the giant leaves of my spaghetti squash!

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.

© 2017 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


65 thoughts on “Front Porch Nursery

  1. We experienced that too a few years ago finding blue green eggs of yellow vented bulbul at the sturdy branch of our Gardenia, When they hatched, they left the nest for good.

    This is such an amazing story. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. It is such a gift to be able to observe from close up, and yet be respectful of everyone’s comings and goings. Thanks for sharing about your bulbul nest experience! I had to look that bird up. I’d never heard of it!

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  2. Oh, you KNOW how much I love this, Lori! How great to have a nest in an accessible spot like that so you could watch them so closely. Love the pics of the fledgling wrens, with their little stubby tail feathers. So sweet.

    I’ve been watching three nestling robins in a crabapple tree in my yard, but I can’t see them well. I can only get photos when they raise those gaping mouths above the edge of the nest to be fed, lol.

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    1. I knew you would appreciate this post, Kim. We have had a pair of cardinals to observe this summer too, but like your experience, the nest was too high to get photos. Gaping mouths was all we saw too. One day I will be more diligent about locating hummingbird nests which I know we must have several in the area. My front porch flowers and shrubs are all hummingbird, bee, and butterfly friendly, and we see hummingbirds all day long.

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    1. Wildlife seems to be very clever at hiding and being alert and watchful when tending young. In the pecan orchard I find fox and other mammal holes in the most unnoticeable places! If I wasn’t busy looking for wood to pick up I would sure miss a lot of cool dugout homes! Birds are very thoughtful about nests.

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  3. Lori, these look a bit larger than the Carolina Wrens we have here, but in markings they are almost identical. Loving how the little fellow in the last photograph is channeling Elvis Costello! 😉

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    1. I think the Carolina Wrens have been more aggressive around these parts and have driven many of the Bewick’s wrens away. That last photo was my favorite. I kept following that little fledgling around and it kept giving me the look. I finally left it be… it probably needed to rest!

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      1. I never knew they were aggressive. Who knew that a mighty spirit was in such wee little birds? My only experience has been with Mockingbirds. Now those I knew to be aggressive! 😀

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  4. Oh Lori you are so lucky to have the Bewick’s wren. I have not had any for over 25 years or maybe more. Possibly too much vegetation in the my yard and the general area or maybe the Carolina has driven them out. I think also that the population has dwindled in some parts of Texas. I’ll need to research that. I have Carolina wrens that nest in the shop but I want to get someone to build some proper houses for them next year.

    Your photos are marvelous. Really nice captures that are so clear. Loved seeing these tiny treasures.

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    1. Yvonne, I think you are right, the Carolina wren is more aggressive and have driven out a large population of the Bewick’s wren. I hope since we’ve seen them each year, that maybe they’ve found safety here on our place. I won’t be knocking down any back porch nests from here on out. Sharing is a good thing! 😀

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        1. Yvonne, it wasn’t until I did a little research that I learned the Bewick’s has been pushed out of the area by the Carolina Wren. Thankfully, I have seen a couple of different Bewick’s parents this year. They seem to do well here.

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          1. I’m glad that you have researched the wren problem. I always loved the little bid with its perky tail. So cute. I miss them a lot. However, there is nothing that I know to do. I can’t drive out the Carolina wren but maybe someday they might return but I highly doubt that happening. Once a bird is displaced by another species it is extremely rare for the ousted bird to return unless there is some dramatic change is the over all population of other birds and wildlife. I don’t have Inca doves anymore either , The white wing dove has driven the Inca and the mourning dove out. I hear a morning dove now and then but they are not nesting in my area. The same thing happened with the screech owls. Barred owls and red shoulder hawks have driven them from my area. I loved hearing the screech owls but that is a thing of the past.

            I’m sure habibtat loss is also a factor. My area now has houses all around even though it’s still somewhat wooded to semi-wooded area with deep ravines not far from where I live.

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          2. Well, you just managed to explain something I’d noticed but hadn’t questioned. We used to have Inca doves here and now we have White-winged doves in big numbers. Rats. Those little Inca’s were cute and so beautiful. We still see a lot of mourning doves though, and for that I’m thankful. I love them too. And we have a large number of Collared doves, mostly seen in winter. In fact, some years back I raised a pair of them that were tossed from a nest in a spring storm. They were a delight to have around. 🙂
            I hope as I explore the pecan orchard I will notice various species of bird and be able to track them somewhat. Birding is relatively new to me… I’ve been more focused on small mammals in my rehabilitation work… and of course the deer! 🙂

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    1. Thank you! We entertain a LOT of family over the summer months so the sign was important! The furniture is old and came from Pier 1 stores. It has held up well in the summer heat. I would definitely have a set like that again. Even the cushions have done well. Our hand-raised squirrels have probably been the hardest on our furniture. 😦

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      1. I can only imagine the squirrels!! lol It sounds like you live a charmed life, I’m a small town girl who married a “farm-kid”. Even though I’m deadly afraid of cows, I love the outdoors lifestyle. Best of luck on your ranch!! 🙂

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        1. I used to be afraid of cows too, but the previous owner of the orchard used the area for cattle grazing and I got used to them over the years. I think the more you expose yourself to your fears, the more likely you are to overcome them. I used to be panicked by snakes. I have learned to appreciate them, and I’ve even captured and held some of the smaller ones. I usually just shoo them off if I am working where they happen to be.

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  5. Having grown up with barn nesting barn swallows, I am not particularly fond of diving birds. But this situation seems to have worked out for you. Your photos are incredible and your appreciation of these birds touching. I am glad all worked out for them to co-habitate in your environment.

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    1. Oh Audrey, swallows can be wicked with the dive-bombing! We had them too, growing up. I suppose those past experiences are what get me in trouble – I project I will have the same trouble with each experience. This time though, I was pleasantly surprised!

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  6. That is a nice story, with great photos, as usual. I also just wrote a story about the barn swallows that kept nesting on our front porch. After waiting out the fledglings of two families, I lost my patience for the third and solved the “problem” from the point of view of the humans.

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    1. Barn swallows are much more invasive and certainly noisy! We haven’t had any here over the years, but I remember them everywhere on the farm that I grew up on. They have no trouble dive-bombing any intruder in the area! 😀

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  7. It amazed me that the lower nest in “occupied territory” (table between two chairs) would result in the wrens’ quiet, non-aggressive behavior. Smart birds! Survivors.

    All in all (photographs, yes, but mostly because of your telling) this was such an uplifting post. Small things make a big difference in the daily routine. It is great that you take the time to describe these events.

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    1. Thank you, Albert. I sometimes hesitate to write about some of the down-side happenings since people tend to get enough of that in their day. It feels good to write happy stories, and I certainly love when I learn something or make a discovery about nature that I didn’t know. There is something to learn in every story… nature is such a marvelous teacher.

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  8. A simple tale but a wonderful illustration of Mother Nature at work. Loved the family shots! We are visited by lots of different creatures on our 25 acres – foxes, kangaroos, wombats, frogs, ducks, parrots. kookaburras, magpies, swallows (who nest under our veranda) and cockatoos who provide an early morning alarm. We are learning to live with our new neighbours.

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    1. Learning to live and appreciate our neighbors is a challenge at times, but I find overall it is rewarding. We see a lot of interesting critters here, and sometimes the predator/prey part of it can be difficult. In the perfect world I would love for everyone to get along! ha ha These wrens really surprised me after I’d had that previous experience of noise and combat! It just goes to show it’s all so unpredictable!

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  9. We also have wrens nesting in a flower box outside our laundry room window. It’s the fourth time we’ve had them, and we never hear them. Once they nested in a large potted hydrangea on our deck. From the kitchen window we could sit and watch everything … unfortunately we missed the hatching, but watching them feed was beautiful. They are one of my favorite birds. 😊

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    1. How sweet!! You must have the perfect digs for them to set up nesting. The parents were very secretive about entering the nest so we didn’t see the feeding process. I was lucky to get the image of that first fledgling, as the others flew off rather quickly and I didn’t see any of that happen!

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  10. We had the same problem. The wrens wanted to build their nest in our grill, so I put a cardboard box out, cut an entrance hole in it, and they moved to it and laid 8 eggs. You were fortunate that you had that remarkable view into their nest!

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    1. Ha ha! What a lot of work you had to go to re-route those nesting plans! It’s always a good chuckle to hear from others some of the difficulties and challenges in living with wildlife. It is a wonderful thing that they allow us a glimpse of their world.

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    1. I have been doing some video of the deer. I enjoy adding video to the blog posts. With these birds, they didn’t come to the porch if we were present, so getting video of feeding and fledging was probably not going to happen. I’m so hit and miss with the camera. And I haven’t learned patience much yet either. Always something to learn, eh?

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        1. Yes, even when I thought I was far enough away and I had my zoom, one of the parents would alight on a tree branch near me and chatter away. No matter where I went, I was found out!

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  11. I get it. For most of the summer we’ve had to leave the garage door open, because a pair of barn swallows built a nest in the garage. We can’t park our vehicles in the garage, because the cat would use them as a ladder toward the nest. And the male perches above our back door, depositing his poo on the steps. Every time we go out the door, we’re dive bombed.

    We looked forward to returning to life as normal once the hatchlings fledged. But alas, we delayed too long. Just as soon as the first hatch were gone, the mama laid and began to sit on another clutch of eggs, so now we continue to live our lives around the comfort of those birds. 🙂

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    1. Ha ha ha!! Oh my, that is hilarious! You are some of the most patient folks I can think of! I did not realize they had another clutch so soon after a fledge. Twenty-some days to a hatch doesn’t seem like that long until you have to wait patiently for you garage space and back door entry! 🙂 Alas, it feels good to be respectful though.

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  12. What lovely pictures. And it just goes to show how smart birds can be. We have Barn Swallows that nest on our north porch almost every year. The biggest problem with them was the poop they left as the babies got bigger. Tom just puts down a board and some rocks sometimes to help with that. Easy clean up. 🙂

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    1. Ha ha! Yes, sometimes we have to come up with clever ways to deal with cleanup. After hearing about so many folks having trouble with barn swallows, I sure hope we don’t get any of those around here!

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      1. I haven’t had any trouble with ours. I think they do eat some bugs from around the back porch, and they nest in my horse sheds too. I wish they would eat more flies and ticks. 🙂

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  13. The adaptability of birds seems limitless at times. Even around the marinas, there are birds nesting everywhere. Some choose the covered tops of pilings, some (especially swallows) build on the undersides of floating docks, and mallards will move right into cockpits of boats that have essentially absentee owners. More than a few ducklings have hatched in cockpit pockets, and needed a helping hand to get up and over the boat’s bulwarks into the water. Starlings, sparrows, and doves will build inside booms or on top of radars. Anyone who suddenly starts seeing twigs on deck knows what’s happening — finding out where is the question!

    That last photo is a charmer. And hooray for UPS and FedEx. I suspect they enjoyed being part of the waiting and watching, too.

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    1. I had no idea birds were such a problem at the marinas! Birds really are clever at finding safe places to nest. Had we not noticed one of the parents frequenting that table we might never have seen the nest hidden in the decor box. I never once saw the parents feeding the babies, yet each evening when we’d take a peek, they had grown and were developing feathers. They sure were a quiet bunch.

      That last photo is my favorite. That fledgling looks like it has an attitude… and maybe I would have attitude too if I had to set out on my own in this 100 plus degree weather!

      Both UPS and FedEx got used to coming down the lane slower when we had Emma and Ronnie. They know about the friendly squirrels we raised that sometimes come to the front porch. I think they are cognizant to slow down in our neck of the woods. The UPS guy did ask if someone brought the birds to me so I explained that no, it was just nature doing its thing.

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  14. Obviously your place is considered prime real-estate by creatures.
    Glad everyone/every bird cooperated so well during the event. (nothing like bird diving to make you feel the power of small things HAHA.)
    The lift off pictures are adorable. (Cool rescued tray and objects, too)
    Can’t wait until next season to see if your tenants return (They do pay their rent by bug elimination?)

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    1. The fact that I have strategically planted a lot of odoriferous plants around the house to repel many insects, doesn’t allow for a lot of bug snatching by birds, but I did notice that the wrens flew to the north where my lettuce and herb garden is, and also there is Daisy’s old clover patch just a short distance. They did not seem to have trouble feeding the kids. So the wrens really had it made, in the shade, so to speak (we have a solar shade on the front porch to keep the heat off of the porch!). I like your term, “prime real-estate”. Ha ha!
      The photo of the first fledgling was a lucky shot. I never saw the others leave the nest and if FD hadn’t alerted me to that first one taking off, we’d have no photos of the babies on their own. You know I missed the Killdeer babies taking off from their ground nest. Things happen so quickly in nature!

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      1. Even with the odoriferous plants, you/your climate must have much far fewer bug than ours. HAHA Always a battle here – We welcome outdoor spiders, lizards, birds, bored cats…. (Sigh. A downside for pesticide free yard, but the upside is natural predators, right?)

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        1. This year we only had about a month of pesky gnats and mosquitoes. Things dried up quickly in the intense heat and now there aren’t so many insects. We have been pesticide free for a decade. We have more bees and butterflies than I ever imagined!

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