Thursday, August 2, 2012

Out and About: Round Lake Nature Notes July 2012

We never expected to be so thoroughly entertained by a pair of House Wrens that nested in a gourd hanging from our garden shed porch!  It all started in mid-May.  We had been away for a few days.  We were not in and out of the shed or out and about in the yard and garden.  The wrens probably thought that they'd found a quiet place to select a bird house.  The first day I was back I walked toward the shed and heard a chattering and scolding call and saw a little wren, tail up, looking right at me.  I backed off.  Only the weight of about two quarters, it had convinced me to leave.  I retreated to the house porch to watch what was going on.  A wren pair flitted in and out of several of the bird houses hanging on the shed's porch.  Decisions, decisions and not a realtor in sight.  This decision process went on for about a week until I finally saw nesting material being brought into the gourd, consisting of  dried grass, leaves and twigs.  Watching through binoculars so as not to disturb them, it seemed they were building a barrier inside the house to protect them from the elements and predators. 
    House Wrens are very vocal.  Both the male and female sing.  During breeding the male sings nine to eleven times a minute and the female responds.   Guess how early they start singing?  At the crack of dawn until about 8:15 in the evening.  Good Grief!  Initially, we closed the bedroom window but I could actually hear them with the window closed.  One morning I could not hear them and got up and opened the window so I could.  They were ruling our lives in other ways, too.  While the male was over singing in a neighbor's yard, we took our gardening tools out of the shed and put them by the garage. As quiet as I tried to be, he caught me going in and out of the shed.  He gave me what for, chattering and physically making his presence known by flying around the yard.  I stopped weeding by the shed and filling the hummingbird feeder on the shed's porch.
    On June eighth, activity changed at the gourd.  I saw Wrennie ( Yes, I named him.) bringing insects to the gourd's opening.  Baby birds!  I saw the female fly out of the gourd with white, round balls - fecal sacs - poop!  She would come back after her drop with an insect for the babies.  Our yard began looking like a continuous  paint ball fight with only white paint.  Birds remove the sacs because it can get messy in tight little nests.  They also dump them away from the nest as to not alert predators. 
    Wrennie positioned himself in the lilac shrub next to the gourd like a surveillance camera.  He hated Blue Jays.  As soon as one came into the yard he not only started his scolding but he went after it, chasing it out to the playground.   He went after squirrels and chipmunks the same way and even pecked at a squirrel's back as it ran along the fence rail away from the nest.  He would leave in search of insects for the kids but fly back quickly, poke the insect into the gourd and resume his post.    These wrens were amazing parents.  They were diligent and vigilant, guarding the nest and scouting for insects for their babies for fifteen days.
    Then on Friday, June twenty-second, things were quiet at the gourd house.  I had heard singing in the early morning but by mid-day everyone had moved out.  I missed seeing them leave and was really disappointed.  I knew it was about time for fledging as House Wrens fledge  between fifteen and seventeen days after birth.    I still hear  chattering nearby though.  Maybe Wrennie and his mate are starting a second brood.   I'll keep you posted!
    On May twenty-seventh Dan and I paddled down the outlet of Round Lake and saw not a single nest in the heron rookery.  A week or so later, we biked on the Zim-Smith trail and detoured into the Industrial Park before Curtis Lumber.  We rode  over to the edge of the Ballston Creek Preserve.  It looked like half a dozen heron nests were back there.  On June eleventh, I walked into the Ballston Creek Preserve from Eastline Road.  I discovered there are eight active Great Blue Heron nests and one very large Osprey nest in the preserve.  Dan and I went back on June seventeenth and several of the heron nests have four to five juveniles in them.  The Osprey pair was not at all pleased with us being there.  The female flew out of the nest to investigate.  We kept our visit quiet and short so as not to disturb nesting.  I have pictures on
    Check out the Pizza Garden on the side of the library.  It was planted by three and four year old gardeners.  They are doing a great job growing ingredients for a delicious pizza.  We've had two lettuce harvests and are eagerly waiting for tomatoes, peppers, and zucchinis.  Enjoy Summer!      

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