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Sunday, July 08, 2012

I Finally Solved The Wren Mystery

This has been driving me nuts. 

A small wren took up abode in my porch. I like wrens very much. I also like the porch very much. The wren and I had a fundamental disagreement about who had usufruct of the porch, with the wren taking the position that I had the right to maintain it as good shelter from the weather, but only she had the right to occupy it.

Anyway, an extended series of negotiations ensued, with a happy outcome. We have agreed to co-occupy, as long as I never sit out there too long. For the duration of the nesting season, I am not allowed to clean the porch. In exchange for this courtesy, said wren is very good at eliminating spiders, so it certainly is not a one-sided affair. 

One problem is that the wren's nest is built less than two feet away from where my head normally is when I am sitting in my customary coffee-porch position. Out of courtesy, I have moved the sitting stool, but I only did that today when I realized where its nest actually was. I was deliberately not looking due to not wanting to upset the wren.

The negotiation process was exceedingly confusing to me, because it often seemed as if I was discussing the matter with two different birds. Not only did the vocalizations change, but the behavior was quite different. Just when it seemed as if we had established a firm agreement (wren flies to door, sits on sill yawping to announce its presence, I vacate the area within a reasonable time), suddenly the wren would fly in from a different direction and hover in front of my face sputtering indignantly. It seemed almost as if the bird even looked different to match its moods!

For a while there I was wondering about the incidence of schizophrenia in wrens, but it turns out there is an answer - there are two. One is a Bewicks wren, which is supposed not to be here, and the other is a Carolina wren. I guess the Bewicks got lonely and mated with the Carolina wren. I had noticed the color and tail differences, but I was so confounded about the odd behavioral changes that it didn't click until this morning. 

This is not due to my great intelligence. What happened is that the Bewicks has laid eggs and is now sitting in the nest on those eggs, so suddenly I was dealing with just one wren flying in and out. 

The Bewicks, btw, is a calmer bird who makes a much better negotiating partner. We established a modus operandi very quickly. The Carolina wren is considerably more nervous and does not like to sit around chatting with anything as ugly and wretchedly obstructionist as I am. I know because it told me so.

The Bewicks and I had initially had prolonged confrontations, but I told it quite firmly that I was no threat to it and indeed would be something of a protector, and within two days it had accepted that. When it reached the peak of nesting frenzy it would fly in and out of the porch right past me. When it had something really long and dangling to add to the nest it would hop around on the door sill and demand that I move, but I guess that was because flying in with something that long would bring the dangling item too close to my head. 

The nest is quite beautiful, well-woven and mossy. It has one kind of artistic dangling tail on the side. This morning when I realized where it was I climbed on the stool to check, because we had a bad storm and I was afraid my chatty wren had gotten killed. But no, the Bewicks was in the nest, and she squirked sociably to me. I apologized and moved the stool. 

I find most birds quite sociable, if you know how to talk to them, and amazingly intelligent. The word or phrase "bird-brain" is exceedingly inapt. 

Heh. I spent a very pleasant half-hour one time learning the air traffic control vocabulary of seagulls. Came in handy while having a picnic on the beach, but I've forgotten all of it now.
Moral of the story, don't mess with a woman who's nesting, be she bird or human.
Pictures would help greatly.
No way am I bothering a brooding mother. See Brian's comment.
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