From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Monday, June 05, 2006

House Wrens in the Grape Arbor

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... The Rural Life... More About Birds and Animals...



When we moved here, a scraggly old grapevine was growing near the carport, supported by the rusty frame of a ancient swing set. We hauled the old swing frame to the dump, and I tried to dig out the grapevine.

The vine didn't come back that year, but the next year, it sent up sprouts again. I didn't really want a grapevine, but I decided to honor its desire to live. I built a little arbor from PVC pipe and slipped each leg down onto a pounded-in steel fencepost. Then I partially wrapped the arbor with some scraps of chicken wire and hardware cloth that I happened to have, and there the grapevine grows to this day.

A couple years ago, I saw a funny little green birdhouse. It was shaped like a ham can stood on end, and its front and back sides were covered by a large green metal grape leaf. In front, it also had a cluster of purple metal grapes. It was odd and very cute.

I bought the birdhouse and hung it inside my grape arbor. It amused me to have it there, and sometimes people even mistook the metal grapes for real ones. Entertainment was really all that I expected of this curious object, but the birds recognized its greater potential.

House WrenA pair of house wrens nested in the birdhouse last year, despite the frequent human traffic through the arbor within a foot or so of their front door. This year, they (or another pair of wrens) have built a nest in it again.

I have been watching them for a while now. First they were carrying in the twigs. Then the mother was incubating the eggs, and if anyone accidentally bumped the arbor, she would fly out in a panic. Now the eggs have hatched and the parents are busy carrying in food for the babies. I can hear them chirping in their high thin baby voices inside their metal home.

I took a flashlight out there yesterday and tried to peek at the babies, but they are too far back in the mass of twigs to be seen.

The birdhouse is not looking as cute as it used to! Its paint is peeling badly and shiny metal is showing. If I take it down this fall, I'll replace it with a more durable house that can be opened for easy cleaning. When I cleaned out this nest-can last fall, I had to remove all the twigs the same way the wrens brought them in -- through the tiny front door!

birdhouse

Related: A great article about the curious ways of the House Wren.


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2 comments:

Trixie said...

Aww that is really cute! I finally got around to doing the first mow of my yard tonight. Yes, I'm way behind all the neighbors, but I wanted to make sure I wasn't putting any baby birds at risk. And so the summer toil begins ... LOL!

KennethF said...

Hey Gene:
My old workin' buddy Steve, long ago gave me a grapevine cutting, wrapped in wet newspaper & from his Dad. I remember quite clearly him saying, "Don't worry, these vines are almost impossible to kill?" The newspaper was long dry before I poked that magical plant beside our gutter down spout. Every time I cut it back... I thought of Steve's Dad! And now, you!
Thanks much, KennethF
ps: We have many birds nesting very close to our house this year!

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