Wednesday, January 6, 2010

To love a bird

It's not hard to like birds. Birds can brighten a gloomy day, and bring a smile to your lips with their songs and antics. All birders have a favorite or two, and even those who don't consider themselves to be birders probably could tell you about a bird they like. Bold coloring, bold personality, or limited seasonal viewing opportunities might be given as reasons for why one likes this bird or that bird. I certainly have several that fit each of those categories. But what makes one love a bird?

Even though I try not to play favorites with the birds that visit our woods, some are, admittedly, closer to my heart than others. Sure, I do truly love them all, but there are a select few with whom I feel a special connection. There are those who bring their young in to beg and dine at our feeders in the summer and fall. What a wonderful treat to watch these family interactions, to get such a close look at their family dynamics. Each day I laugh and laugh at the little ones who are perfectly capable of getting the food themselves, and even go so far as to sit on the edge of the feeder while giving their begging calls, but refuse to eat until the food is put in their bill for them.

There is another family interaction to observe, though: nesting. It is the birds who nest close by, especially - those are the birds that I hold most dear. Trusting little souls who voluntarily build their nests near or on your own human dwelling. From a human's perspective there is an intimacy in that action that is beyond words. It makes you feel special - chosen, almost. It creates a bond between you and the bird. You feel naturally protective of the nest, the parents, the eggs, the fledgling young. You feel loss and remorse if the results are less than successful: an egg doesn't hatch, a nest predator has its way with things, or a newly fledged youngster is captured by a larger, swifter mammal on the lookout for an easy meal. You feel happiness when you see the young growing stronger and larger every day, and elation when the day has come that they are finally coaxed from the nest and they FLY!

Two birds fulfill this role in my life: the Eastern Phoebe and the Carolina Wren. They dwell with us during mating season and bestow upon us the privilege of observing the stuff of life that for them is merely survival, but for me is poetry in motion. Seeing their lives unfold before my very eyes brings me such great joy. With this joy comes great attachment to and great love for them. It is no surprise, then, that I was very sad to see a Carolina Wren on only one day last winter. One day. In previous winters the Carolina Wren had at least made sporadic appearances throughout the season, and sometimes I would even see two at once. But last winter... nothing.

This winter has been the very opposite. I see my sweet Wren almost every day. At the very least I see it every weekend, and sometimes I see two of them. On some days when I'm standing out on the deck, I can hear as many as 4 of them chattering about all across the woods, TEAKETTLE-TEAKETTLE-TEAKETTLE-TEAKETTLE-chrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrRRRRPT! Knowing they are here brings something special to my day. Here are some photos I was able to capture this past weekend. Wren likes to eat suet and safflower seeds. I've noticed it ground-feeding quite a bit this season as well, as comfortable on the ground among the Song Sparrows and Juncos as it is on the feeders with the Titmice, Chickadees and Nuthatches.

I'm sorry this image isn't in better focus. I'm also sorry for all the Dove poop on the deck railing.

Insert image here of wiping corners of beak with dainty napkin, followed by a dainty burp.

Hover Bird!

Bottom's up!

While I have no current photos of the Eastern Phoebe to share in this love-fest of a post (they won't be back until March), I can tell you that we are thinking of naming our property Phoebe Hollow in their honor.


KaHolly said...

Most delightful post! I absolutely adore the photo sequence. I was pleased to see you offered your suet to the wrens in small pieces in a dish. I hope they survive the winter! So very sweet.

James said...

Awesome pictures and wonderful meditation on favorite birds. Starting a day watching and listening to the backyard birds is such a great way to get going. I also love the little wrens. We've got Carolinas and Bewick's year round, but only the Bewick's nest in the yard. The Carolinas know where the feeder is though. My other fave is the Black-crested Titmouse. They're into everything!

Emmett said...

"or a newly fledged youngster is captured by a larger, swifter mammal on the lookout for an easy meal"

I don't know what you could be referring to.

The Early Birder said...

Whilst I enjoy going out looking for species there is nothing like watching our regular favourites. These little fellows certainly take advantage of our offerings to keep the cold at bay.
Visits here from our Winter Wren are very brief and definitely never stops for a photo call.
Super series of pics Heather.

Gabrielle said...

It's just an adorable ball of fluff with a beak - how could anyone resist? Great pictures!

Ginnymo said...

Very cute post Heather! I love those little Wrens. But haven't seen any yet this winter. I've only spotted a Wren a few times around here. And "poop" comes along with the territory..Ha! Ha! I don't have a bird in sight right now. Must be the Hawk is out there. Not a squirrel either. But it's a funny day. Almost like sleet out there today but it's only 24 degrees. Weird! Have a great day! Hugs!!

fourwindsphotojournal said...

I only see about one wren a year, and don't even know what kind it is. What a sweet little bird! The round that makes me love chickadees.

RuthieJ said...

Boy, that little wren is sure cute! I hope I get the chance to see a Carolina Wren in my backyard some day.

Phyllis said...

Love the photo of the wren's rump. They are definitely one of the cutest birds for sure.

I don't know that I've ever actually seen and Eastern Wood PeeWee but I know their song and hear it every spring. It's very distinct :)

Cathy Olliffe said...

Your photos are simply beautiful. I was looking at your blog with my two young sons peeking over my shoulder and my nine-year-old said, "She has quite an eye." (!) When he's right, he's right.

Heather said...

Karen - I would venture to guess if the wrens have made this far into winter, they will make it through to spring. They certainly won't die of starvation, that's for sure!

James - Both Bewick's and Carolinas, eh? You lucky duck. Sounds like Titmice, in general, are pretty brave, nosy and rambunctious.

Emmett - Oh puppy, I know you only act on instinct. Mommy still loves you, even though she might not talk to you for a few days after such an incident...!

Frank - Putting the suet out in a dish seems to be the key for getting the Wren to "sit still" long enough for a photo.

Gabrielle - You got that right! There is no resisting these little cuties.

Ginny - I don't see too many hawks around here, but I know they're around b/c they do spook the birds from time to time. Take care!

Sandy - Hopefully a wren will come to visit you again soon!

Ruthie - I hope a Carolina Wren will come visit you, too!

Phyllis - Yup, Wren rump is irresistible. We get the Eastern Wood Peewee's breeding around here, too - I love those birds that say their own names!

Cathy - Hello, and thank you for stopping by. You and your sons are very sweet.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Dude! CAWR and EAPH are two of my top fab favorites, too. I love the idea of naming your place Phoebe Hollow. We had to name ours Indigo Hill for all the buntings singing all summer. And besides, we're not in a hollow.
I am all for Carolina wren lovefests. Your photos are precious.


Heather said...

JZ - Thanks, I knew you'd identify with some wren and phoebe lovin'. I suppose if we were proper southeast Ohioans, we'd call it Phoebe Holler... but we aren't, so we won't.