Thursday, June 27, 2013

Carolina Wren, in geraniums

For the first time in a long time, I ran a Breeding Bird Survey route. BBS birding is intense. The surveyor must begin at sunrise (my starting time was 5:32 am), and drive a 25 mile route, stopping for precisely three minutes every half mile. During the three minute stop, the observer is to record all birds seen and heard, and that can be a challenge, especially when the dawn chorus is in full swing. It's great practice, and makes one really look and listen, oftentimes in places and habitats that might not normally be visited. The data contributes to a massive pool - BBS surveys have been ongoing since 1966, and provide an excellent barometer of the health of North America's breeding birds.
My route extends on a north-south trajectory through rural Hardin County, ending at the massive Findlay Reservoir in Hancock County. I made the run last Friday, and tallied about 71 species - not bad for farm country. This rural run reinforced how Vesper Sparrows thrive in highly agricultural landscapes, and how many Red-headed Woodpeckers live in open country interspersed with woodlots.
One stop was at a small cemetery, and upon hopping from the car, I heard the excited chatters of a pair of Carolina Wrens in some dense brush. Glancing over, I noticed the luxuriant growth of some sort of ornamental geranium spilling from a pot hung between two headstones. I figured that's where the wren's nest was, and kept one eye peeled while tallying other birds. Sure enough, it wasn't long before one of the wrens slipped from the brush, and popped into the flowerpot.

Carolina Wrens love to nest in flowerpots such as this. If you've got 'em around, hang a few pots on the porch or wherever, and there's a good chance your geranium basket will grow birds in addition to plants. The Bewick's Wren also likes hanging baskets. One of the last known Ohio nests of this species, which is now likely extirpated here, was found in the early 1990's in Pike County by Dave Minney. Those birds, which I saw, were nesting in a pot pretty much just like the one in my photo. It hung from a rail on a country home's porch, and I think that the house's human inhabitants didn't really understand the hubbub the little birds created among birders, who stood around staring at their geranium pot for extended periods. Nonetheless, the homeowners were gracious hosts and endured the ogling of their wrens by birdwatchers.

Anyway, I had to take a slight break from the rigid three minute stop interval, and tack on a bit of time to snap a quick photo of the nest. There were at least four young wrens in the flowerpot, although I'm not sure of the exact number. I didn't spend much time looking, and didn't want to disturb the nest. Peeking through gaps in the foliage revealed a fuzzy little scrum of infant wrens, downy plumage still obvious but the telltale bold white eyeline already clearly visible.

By now, these baby wrens are probably out and about, and hopefully they didn't suffer too many unwelcome waterings by whoever tends that flowerpot.


Anonymous said...


Tina Niven said...

I too had a Carolina wren in my hanging flower pot on my covered (but open) porch- I got quite the surprise when I reached up to water the plant and the wren flew out. I could see the almost finished nest, I stopped watering the plant but I don't think the wren ever returned.