A Bird in the Hand

This fall I had an interesting adventure with a Carolina Wren, a common Virginia bird that many have found nesting in their flower pots, ball gloves, garages, etc. My adventure began when I was assigned to photograph the homes on our Historic Garden Week tour. I carry my digital SLR camera in an average size bag, much like a square lunch bag with interior partitions for the different lenses, flash, plus spare batteries and some odds and ends. I arrived at one site on Gwynn’s Island and went to work, grabbing the camera and flash, leaving the bag in the driveway well out-of-the-way.

Some time later, job done, I repacked the camera bag rather haphazardly and tossed the equipment in the back seat, then headed home, about a 20 minute drive.  Home is where the excitement began.  I ate lunch, then decided to clean and repack the camera hardware. All was well until I pulled open the vel-croed flap on the flash sleeve.

A young Carolina wren flew out with a flurry, almost colliding with my nose! Into one window, then another it flew. “Now you’ve done it,” said mister gardener. “You’ll never get it out.”  All I had to do was open the door to the screened porch. Out it went. From there I could pick it off the screen and release it outdoors.

The weather was cool but mild enough that it would be fine but I still worried about the little fella. This bird is unusual in that it mates for life and it remains in the same habitat where it nests! How will this new habitat affect this little bird? For weeks it sang loudly and sweetly all day long. For its mate, I figured. We’ve had our share of Carolina wrens who sing and warble, mostly while nesting but nothing like our lonely little newcomer.  There were no others of its kind. The last pair moved on to new territory after threatened by a rat snake.

Our new Carolina wren stays close to the house, flitting from flowerpot to flowerpot, from tree bark to logs, and back to the herb garden looking for beetles, moths, crickets, and then to the feeder when the weather is harsh. It still sings all the day long and it seems to really like being near the screened porch. Twice it has reentered the porch. That makes me wonder. Does it think the porch is the portal back to its home and the home of its possible mate?

It is an adorable little fella, much more friendly than usual. It allows me to reach out and almost touch it. Our habitat would be a perfect place for it should another Carolina wren be seeking a mate. But I’ve made a decision. I want to return the bird to its homeland. Should it fly inside the porch one more time, it will be returned to the sleeve of the flash equipment, vel-croed shut and driven the 20 minutes back ‘home.’  Just hope the mate has not moved on….

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester