Who Speaks for the Birds?

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

Birdwatchers respond graciously to stories like the one I wrote two weeks about our Carolina wrens. The short of it: A pair of wrens made a practice nest in the center of a one-time-Christmas wreath still next to our front door.

The usual pattern is that wrens do not build a permanent nest until they’ve ironed out a pre-nup. They know the questions that must be asked and then the rituals, including a really neat nest, lined in soft brown grass, then taking turns sitting on a nest full of eggs. This nest even has a white runner spread oh-so-neatly over the faux holly and into the honeymoon suite.

I should have taken down the wreath when the last test-nest was done. But I didn’t.

Meanwhile, friends and neighbors are hereby requested to phone ahead so I can let them enter the house via the garage. Yuck.

My friend and occasional wildlife consultant Mary Kay Moore jumped on my story, said she had had a similar experience, and commiserated with us for working our daily routine around our tenants.

Mary Kay: “Boy, can I relate to you about the Christmas wreath and Carolina wrens.”

Since 1970, her late husband’s family has purchased a balsam wreath from an organization in Millbridge, Me. When she moved to Georgia, Mary Kay again began ordering a wreath and has had one every year. And every year, a wren has moved in, sometimes just for the winter, and sometimes winter and nest. Every year.

“They have never let me down since 1989 when I moved here,” said MK.

“Sometimes it has been a real pain, especially when I hung the wreath on the door. I finally got smart and moved it to another place. This year, the wrens slept in it at night and about four weeks ago, I took it down.

“The wrens have now built a nest over the top of the porch light – which happens to be a sensor light,” she says. “Need I tell you what happens at night when they move around?”

Mary Kay’s affection for animals extends to cats. In that respect, she is pleased to report that her cats (indoor cats) love sitting by the front door and watching the activity.

“The wrens spend a lot of time chewing out the cats,” she says. “Somehow, they have not figured out that the cats can't get to them.”

May I veer slightly off course? Many years ago when Jim Savage was still managing Falcon Field, I was covering a story about the latest FAA grant he had helped win. The airport was recently renovated, and I was admiring its long swaths of mown grass.

Girl Reporter: Jim, I’ve had the best idea, or rather, I know a Boy Scout who needs a worthwhile project for his Eagle award.

Jim: (with his usual skeptical expression) And that would be?

GR: Bluebird houses. He and his troop can build them and put them up. Bluebirds love open areas where insects are easy to catch in freshly cut grass, and….

Jim: No. Absolutely no.

GR: But, Jim, this is perfect bluebird habitat…

Jim: We do all we can to keep this field clear. Do you know what could happen if a bird or birds got sucked into an engine? We do our best to keep the runways free of anything that could cause engine failure…

GR: OK, OK, I get your point.

I saw Jim the other day, shortly after the successful landing of US Airway’s Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, New York. The loss of engine power was attributed to the ingestion of Canada geese.

I asked him if he remembered our bluebird conversation. “Oh, yeah. I remember.” So did I.

A footnote on the wrens. Dave, as dedicated a birder as I know, wanted a close look at the wren’s nest before he took the Christmas wreath until next fall. Every blade of grass and hair was a perfect fit for several eggs. He extended a finger, and felt them: several smooth, tan eggs in the nest.

They were warm.

And when he came back from the mailbox, Dave used the garage door so as not to disturb the little mother.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

* * * * *

Allow me to give an early reminder for this year’s Yom Hashoah remembrance of the Holocaust, the murders of 6 million people under Hitler’s regime.

Jews and Christians will worship together on April 19 at 7 p.m. at B’nai Israel, at the Fayette/Clayton county lines. Watch for more information.

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