Today I decided to bird some new areas. I first headed to a birding hot spot in Virginia. The location consists of two large farm fields and a quiet dead-end road in between. I got to this birding spot there and was initially disappointed because I only heard a Blue Jay and spotted some Mourning Doves. I decided to move on to the next spot. As I was heading back down the the dead-end road I saw a massive bird “cloud” moving in the sky in the field to my right. These birds were flushed from the ground by a hawk .
I figured that the birds were probably starlings. I stopped and got out my binoculars. I could see that they were not starlings and wondered if they were some sort of black bird. I couldn’t tell until they came toward where I was parked.
I watched the massive group of birds as they moved along in the field. Finally they started flying in my direction and stopped in the field and in the road next to me. I could see without binoculars that they were Brown-headed Cowbirds. I looked with my binoculars at the group in the field to see if there were any other birds mixed in. I spotted only one starling.
I was awestruck when the birds were all around my car and perched on the fence posts on both sides. They gradually moved to the field on my left.
I figured I should get a photo to prove that I saw so many cowbirds today. I was just about to get a great shot when a hawk came out of nowhere and flew into the mass of cowbirds that were in the air coming toward me. The hawk easily snagged one cowbird for his meal and flew away. The remaining cowbirds scattered. I managed to get a few photos and video with my smart phone. Unfortunately, the birds were now some distance and skittish as I tried to get closer so no good shots.
For a bird enthusiast living next to a state forest had its perks. Many birds that nested in the forest would pop over to look for things to eat. There were the usual Northern Cardinals that always are a delight to watch, along with House Sparrows, and Carolina Chickadees. However, the proximity of the forest also provided for regular glimpses of Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Carolina Wrens, and the rare visit of a Winter Wren.
The Winter Wren was one of the rarest visitors to my porch only appearing for a few days each spring in earnest search of insects. I spotted the Winter Wren busily clearing every nook and cranny of my porch of bugs. I appreciated the pest removal service and the entertainment provided by this bird who completely ignored my presence. It was a quick visit similar to when a hummingbird swoops in to drink nectar.
One evening, I put the porch light on and to my surprise I noticed that there was something wedged between the light fixture and the wall. It appeared to be a bird of some sort. I discovered the preferred sleeping spot of a male Carolina Wren! Each night the wren would return to sleep in this spot safe from the owls in the adjacent forest. I looked forward to dusk when he would return and set up for the night. It was fun to see him arrive and warily try to sneak up to his hideaway. He would land the fence then move over to a chair looking all around before making his finally move up to his spot. Then every morning, he would sing loudly before departing. He usually did not wake me up as there seemed to be always an American Robin that would take to sing around 430am.
Eventually, I started to see the same wren in the day time. It would look for insects on my porch and hang around longer than the Winter Wren had. I was surprised when I saw the wren head over to the plate of birdseed I had on my porch. The wren tossed aside many nuts and seeds until it found a choice piece. I ended up seeing the wren swallowing whole peanuts. I noticed that when he was eating seed, the other birds stayed away. Apparently, the Carolina Wren is intimidating to other birds! So he had the seeds and nuts to himself until he decided to fly away to the forest or just to the parking lot.
Often I would spot him hopping around the parking lot and jumping up to car fenders to pull off dead insects to eat. When satiated the wren would spend the day off in the forest. At dusk he would return to his safe spot on the porch to sleep.
One day, I noticed that there was another wren with slightly paler markings coming to my porch with the male wren. I later guessed that this was his lady friend. They would show up to look for bugs. This female wren was a lot shyer and would quickly hide behind a planter to eat a seed she scooped up from the plate. The male wren was bold and would visit even when I was sitting a few feet away from the plate.
At some point, I witnessed the male wren showed the female wren his sleeping spot. They both even nestled down for the night a few times. They were really crammed in there with one perched on top of the other! I do not think the female wren was impressed with this spot as she would disappear some nights and he would be back alone for the night. Probably in an effort to impress his lady and get her to want to nest at his “bachelor pad,” the male wren began a meager attempt to build an actual nest on the light fixture. He brought a few small twigs and placed them up there. Later the twigs would alway blow down. He would try again. He tried at least three times to make a nest with just a few pieces of tiny twigs. He alway failed. Every now again, the male wren got the female wren back up to this tiny spot.
I bought the wrens dried meal worms to eat and left a pile for them. They enjoyed them a lot whereas most of the other birds at the feeder preferred nuts and seeds. I delighted in watching them visit together. Then one day both of the wrens disappeared.
Infrequently, I would spot the male wren in the daytime but never at night. The female was missing. I figured she must of convinced him to go with her to a different nesting spot. Sure enough one day the pair came to the porch in the daytime with a fledgling! It was as if the father wren was showing his baby where he liked to hang out and get something to eat. I only saw them visit twice.
I saw the whole wren family with another fledgling in the nearby forest many times though as the male wren gave away their location by singing loudly every day.
I have since moved away and miss this wren family. Whenever, I hear a Carolina Wren sing I think about the times I was amazed by the wrens on my porch.