Thursday, August 4, 2011

Local Avian Nurseries

I rounded the garage to change a garden hose near the back deck. A robin flew quickly from the side of the garage to a nearby fence rail – swoosh. Neither of us expected the other and I began re-thinking my assumption that the old bird nest on the electrical box would ever be used again. The recycled nest has been home to numerous nesting’s over the last ten years, but it has been a few years since a mother robin decided it fit the requirements for a safe haven for her young.

No sooner did I digest this discovery when from above me in an old cottonwood there came the tiniest and busiest of chirpings from a small birdhouse our children hung in the tree years ago with high hopes of attracting a mother bird. I do not recall seeing a mother bird ever nest in this birdhouse but this summer a house wren deemed it suitable for her brood. About the time I made this second discovery the mother house wren discovered my observation. She quickly let me know she’d taken notice.

I was a bit perplexed by the newly filled avian nurseries. In my memory mother robins had nested in the nest above the electrical box in June not late July. And I had similar thoughts about the house wren. These could be second clutches, but I hadn’t seen any evidence of first clutches. This seemingly atypical behavior reminded me that our summer season hasn’t been itself either. Everyone agrees that Mother Nature was slow to get the summer of 2011 underway: seasonal temperatures were late to heat up; June rains came in July; and while wildflower growth in the high country is behind it has begun to erupt all at once. Perhaps, the mother robin and the mother house wren heard a more accurate summer forecast which included postponing plans for breeding and trusting that the time will be right when it comes.

While I wish I were writing a happy ending to this posting, as I walked out into a cool dawn this morning I found the birdhouse in which the mother house wren cared for her brood laying on the ground upside down under the cottonwood. I’ve never seen it unhinged from its branch. My first thought was perhaps a predator had taken out the brood. Likely house wren predators may have included cats, rats, woodpeckers, fox, squirrels, and, or snakes. There looked to be some loose bark in disarray at the foot of the tree. But other than that a ladder and bike leaning up against the tree were still in place. I wondered, did the itty-bitty house wrens fly the coop? Had they matured and in their scramble to take flight they'd knocked the birdhouse to the ground? I’ll never know.

I can report that mother robin has four healthy chicks that appear either eager to eat or are fast asleep.

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