Parenthood

For the past several springs, we’ve had house sparrows nesting in our terracotta nest box that is attached to an outside wall of our screened porch. While I’m not a huge fan of house sparrows, any nesting activity is fun to follow. This year, however, the nest box was taken over by house wrens. For a while there was quite the turf war going on between a pair of house sparrows and the house wrens. The wrens built a nest, but the sparrows insisted on entering the next box with out permission, causing the wrens to make all sorts of noise and attack the intruder. It was apparent later that the female wren was on the nest, because when the sparrow tried to enter, it immediately flew away — and often the male wren would chase it even further away.

This morning I realized that the eggs must have hatched because both wrens were busy flying in and out of the next box carrying various tasty bugs. It was entertaining to watch them take turns bringing the food to their young. One would sit the back of a chair that is just below the nest box. It would burst into a trilling song, often with difficulty because its mouth was full of bug. Its mate would then fly away from the nest and the singing wren would fly to the nest. Soon the mate would return with a mouthful of insect and sing, to let its mate know it was there, with food. This went on during my two cups of morning coffee and I suspect it is still going on, because I keep hearing the trill of the wren. I wonder when they sleep!

Our neighbors have a bird house in a small tree, just over the fence from us. I remember watching them put it up and doubting they’d get any birds in it. I was mistaken. They have a pair of Carolina chickadees, and judging from the sounds coming from the bird house, the chickadees have a few offspring to feed. I noticed that one of the chickadees (perhaps both — they look alike to me) was flying up to my office window, where I have a feeder full of sunflower hearts. Just now I’ve seen a very disheveled chickadee come and go from the sunflower feeder several times. Definitely a new parent. I remember that look.

I’m pretty sure a pair of Carolina wrens are nesting somewhere nearby, because I’ve heard one singing its “Judy Judy Judy Judy Judy” song so loud it woke me up the other morning.

A pair of Northern cardinals built a nest in a thorn bush outside our kitchen window earlier this spring, but abandoned it soon after. I think they were concerned about all the people coming and going along the path between the house and the bush. Its a shame, because it was a pretty smart location otherwise.

Of course, there are the American robins whose nests I never see until well into the summer, but whose blue eggs I usually find either intact (probably dropped by a predator) or broken and empty (probably dropped by a one of the robins, protecting the nest from predators).

The other day my son and I saw a frantic tufted titmouse at the empty bird feeder outside the window on the other side of the office. I’d not filled it because it was making a mess on the ground below, but clearly one of the birds who’d been visiting that feeder expected it to be filled. He sat on the top of the feeder and squeaked, shaking his wings like a fledgling. He then jumped onto the screen and squeaked even louder. If I didn’t know that birds don’t see in front of them, I would have thought he was looking right at me, demanding dinner. So, I wonder if it was a parent who’d temporarily been driven insane by the rigors of parenthood. I remember that too!

Soon I expect to see fledglings of many of these birds flapping their wings and making their demands for food and attention clear to all within earshot.

Ahh, the joys of parenthood.

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