An Independence Day Story

IMG_6125Every Spring I replace my bird feeders with birdhouses around my yard. Once the birdhouses are hung, I look forward to who will create their home for the summer. Most often it is the House Wrens and Chickadee’s who set up residence — this year was no different. Just days after hanging the birdhouses, a pair of House Wrens were the first to arrive and claim their home.

Every day for the next six weeks or so, I delighted in watching them. They began by cleaning house. Bit by bit, twig by twig, they dismantle last years nest until their home is empty and clean — ready to move in.

They begin to build a new nest bit by bit and twig by twig. I watched them flying to the birdhouse with twigs to place inside then fly off again to gather more. They brought twigs, feathers, and even some of the dog hair I left around the yard from my dog brushing. This construction goes on for several days from early morning until the last light of day. Their industrious work ethic and perseverance is awe inspiring! They reminded me of growing up in Pennsylvania farmland and watching farmers as they prepared their fields each Spring working from early morning until nightfall.

Then one day, all is quiet. The pair of wrens take turns in the birdhouse. I know their eggs have been laid and it is time to rest and wait. Just like the farmer’s after they’ve planted seeds in neat rows — they must water and wait.

This year, the wrens built their nest in such a way that the opening was partially blocked so I couldn’t peek inside to see their eggs (my curiosity gets the best of me, for sure). So, I too, needed to wait, listen, and watch until one day in early June the wrens chatter picked up in intensity. One would sing loudly while sitting on top of the birdhouse or on a nearby branch as the other would fly back and forth with food in its mouth to deliver into the nest. They would take turns with one always nearby singing or chattering in alarm while the other flew off and returned with food. The babies had hatched from their eggs and were hungry. Once again, I watched in awe at how devoted and watchful the parents were as they cared for their young.

After several days I began to hear the babies when food was delivered. I could easily imagine mouths wide open to receive the food. I felt a part of the family of nature and began to keep a more watchful eye on the activity in and out of the birdhouse. Each day I sat outdoors longer to witness how the mama and papa wrens took care of their young. Just as when they were building their nest, I was in awe at how they worked from early morning until nighttime steadily bringing food to their babies! They were such attentive and responsible parents spending hours flying back and forth with food. The would even clean the nest of bird droppings throughout the day.

As the babies grew their chirping became louder and I smiled at their tenacity. Then one day, I could see their heads reaching above the barrier and I wondered how long it would be before the parents job was finished.

IMG_6129Nearly two weeks later, I returned from a walk to see Mama wren feeding two wide open mouths at the opening of the birdhouse. As she flew away, their heads poked out of the opening — their curiosity led them to look around cautiously before retreating behind the barrier as I approached for a closer look. Each time I would take a step closer, one of the parents (always nearby) began a loud cry of alarm and the babies quickly retreated.

This dance continued for several days until, one day, I noticed the parents were nowhere in sight most of the day. They weren’t delivering food every few minutes. In fact, they weren’t delivering food at all. The babies cried louder as the day wore on and every few minutes one would poke out of the opening and then retreat. The next day I woke to see that the parents had returned. The activity around the birdhouse had changed. The parents each sat on nearby branches and sang (encouraging their young to be brave?) while the babies would emerge to look around and sing in return. Somewhere in the middle of the morning (while I was busy inside, of course) everything grew ‘loudly’ quiet. I went outside and the birdhouse was empty. The babies had found their courage and left their nest to fly on their own into their new life. They had found their wings of independence!

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