Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Home, Sweet Home

For weeks I've been hearing a male house wren singing all around the yard. I assumed he was trying to convince his wife to take up housekeeping in one of the bluebird houses on our property. Yesterday, though, I saw him fly to this old can that someone left to rust over a metal fencepost. Soon his wife appeared, too. Both of them took turns entering it, bringing food to their babies.

When I drew near to photograph the can I noticed twigs hanging down. Here it is: Home, Sweet Home.

For me, this is cause for celebration. I don't know why the little wren is so dear to me. It is drab and brown, and it is very small. You'd never notice a wren at all if it weren't for its song, a persistent, cheerful trill that is the very sound of summer. You can hear it and see photos of the wren here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/House_wren/id.

Perhaps one reason I so enjoy having the wrens nesting in our yard is because when I was a child my grandparents used to hang wren houses in their trees, and my grandmother, whose name I've taken as my online name, was always so happy if a wren took up residence in one of them. She and I would sit on her porch and watch the wren family all summer.

Grandpa built the wren houses, carefully making sure that the opening was exactly the size of a quarter. Anything larger and the horrible "spotsie"--what my grandmother called the non-native and invasive House Sparrow--would take over the house.

"Spotsies" have been my own enemy here, as they've ruthlessly driven out the native and desirable Eastern Bluebirds from my next boxes. The story of broken eggs and killed adult and baby bluebirds is heartbreaking fodder for an entry some other day.

At any rate, the cute little wren houses were always painted white with green roofs. Grandma dictated where they should hang--it was important that we could easily observe the house from the comfort of her porch. And we spent many pleasant hours watching those birds, from the hopeful attempts of Mr. Wren to lure his spouse to a chosen site to the clumsy first flight of newly fledged babies. One of the cutest things about wrens, I think, is how Mr. Wren, during his initial courtship, will earnestly begin to build a nest in a box. When he finally convinces Mrs. Wren to move in, she scolds angrily and tosses his pitiful attempt at setting up housekeeping out the front door! Then she begins anew to build a nest, this time to her satisfaction. Honestly, how can one not anthropomorphize that kind of behavior?

The coffee can abode is well out of sight from my patio, so I won't be able to watch it, but I still enjoy the summer song of my little wrens. I'm happy to have them in my garden. Wren Nest photo by JulenaJo.

Note: See how brown the grass is in the above photo? While we are not technically in a drought, we have had a very dry summer and it's taking a toll on many of my trees and plants.


  1. Too hot there, too wet here...havoc I say! I came across the biggest bird's nest the other day in our basement window well..amazing the workmanship that goes into these structures. Love that you have such a nice memory associated with your grandparents thru the wrens..fun! ;)