Connecting With Wrens (With Help From An IPod)
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Commentator Julie Zickefoose rescues birds in distress as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, and that may seem like a low-tech pastime. Here's her story of what happened when a pair of wrens met one of the most popular high-tech gadgets.
JULIE ZICKEFOOSE: When a cascade of twigs, leaves and rootlets appeared on the elbow of our downspout, I watched to see a little brown wren trying to make a great wad of nesting materials stay on the slippery metal. I caught the bird's eye. Wait right here. I'm going to help you. I ran to the garage, grabbed a little copper bucket, some wire and a step ladder. I climbed the ladder, wired the bucket up under the eave, placed the nesting material in the little pale, and climbed down the ladder. The wren perched on the gutter, just a few feet away, watching. Before I got the ladder folded, the wren appeared with a bill full of moss and put it in its new home. By nightfall, the nest was nearly complete.
Since that day five years ago, 30 or more baby Carolina wrens have been raised in the copper pale. And we've watched the fledglings flutter out time and time again, adding motion and music to our lives. There were five nestlings this summer, and they lined up on the downspout before making their first stuttering flights into the world - well, four of them did. When Carolina wrens leave the nest, they don't mess around. One minute, everything's quiet. The next minute, baby birds are shooting out of the nest like popcorn. The parent birds work in shifts, calling and encouraging the young to hop and flutter to the nearest deep cover. Somehow, the adult birds keep them all together and feed them for the next three weeks as their wings strengthen and foraging skills develop. So I was alarmed to find one baby wren, all bright eyes and yellow clown lips, still perched by the bucket after its four siblings had gained the safety of the woods. Surely, a parent would return for it.
One hour, then two went by, and the fledgling was hungry, chirping constantly for help. Oh, dear. I did not want to be a teenage wren's mother for the next three weeks. I listened - nothing from the silent woods. By now, the family could be hundreds of yards away. What to do? It was time for a little technology.
I grabbed my iPod, which is fully loaded with the songs and calls of nearly every North American bird. I ran to edge of our woods and dialed up the song of the Carolina wren. Please, please, let this work. I played it at full volume -no response. Desperate, I dialed up the alarm call of the wren and blasted it down into the silent tangle of raspberry and sumac. Danger, danger the recording shrilled in wren-speak. An adult wren shot right past my head, flying straight toward the forgotten baby in the copper bucket. The recalcitrant fledgling buzzed out to meet it.
Baby wren: last seen headed to toward the safety of the woods in the company of a parent. Nature geek: smiling broadly.
(Soundbite of music)
BLOCK: Commentator Julie Zickefoose does whatever she needs to as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. She lives in Whipple, Ohio.
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