Thursday, June 5, 2008

It's a Hard Knock Life

It's a wonder that we have new birds every spring. The parents build a nest, lay the eggs, and try to keep them warm and protected until they hatch. During that time, the mother (usually) spends most of her time on the nest, through heat or cold or storm, often dependent on her mate for food. The young Osprey couple on the Osprey Cam at Blackwater National Wildlife Reserve in Maryland left their eggs to seek shelter during a bad storm, and the eggs did not survive. Last year, their nest was attacked by crows who destroyed the eggs.

A pair of Carolina Wrens have used our garage as a nesting site for years. One time, we found the nest in an upside down bicycle helmet belonging to one of the children. Last year, they just built in the eaves. We normally leave the rear windows open about an inch and a half, and the wrens fly through at full speed. This year, I heard some chirping, but did not quite locate the nest, until last weekend. Mama Wren hopped around on the yard tools as we started to get in the car. Then I heard the faint chirp of the baby bird. Following the sound, I found the fledgling hanging upside down with his leg caught between two wire coat hangers above the nest, which was in a small cardboard box hanging from the shelf. Apparently the baby hopped out of the nest to the nearest perch, and the hangers moved, even with only that slight weight, trapping that fragile leg. Despite the mother's protests, we loosened him from the trap, and he fell back into the nest. We hoped that his little leg hadn't been broken.

This evening I went to the garage for something and heard a soft chirping again. Hasn't that baby found his way out of the garage yet? I tracked him down to a box on the floor, and went for a camera. You think birds in general are a hard target to photograph? Well, just try taking a picture of a bird only 2 inches big, in a box, on the floor, behind a bunch of other boxes, in the dark! A flash will illuminate the subject, but only if you can find and focus on it in the first place! Both mother and baby chirped, scolded, and jumped from spot to spot in the mostly dark garage. I got some great shots of the garage floor, but nothing worthwhile of the baby bird.

Maybe he just can't get through the narrow crack of the open window. With the garage door closed, that's the only way out, and a baby wouldn't have the skills to aim itself at that small target. I opened the window a few more inches and left the door open as well. At least, Mama Wren is keeping an eye on him, and maybe she'll show him how to get out into the world. After all, even a baby bird has to face the dangers of outside to grow up.

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