Do No Harm

It is nearly impossible for someone like myself, a European American, recovering (well sometimes) from western civilization, and not yet indigenous to this land (I’m trying, honest!), to do no harm.Unknown.jpeg Take the little Carolina Wren pair that has made a nest on our porch. Really, right on the shelves we use to store gardening stuff!  Just in time for spring gardening. What are we to do?

I fell in love with Carolina Wrens about 9 years ago, right after we got back from our year of living in Botswana. It was there, in the southern part of Africa that I became a birder. I’d always liked birds, we’ve had bird feeders for the last 25 years in our various yards, but it wasn’t until the rains came and our garden in Francistown turned into a lush little Eden with outrageous flowers and over-the-top birds. During the rainy season which is also summer birds come from all over, especially northern Africa and Europe to breed in this paradise. Not only do they come to breed by the millions, they often metamorphose into shockingly beautiful specimens! I was enthralled.

When we came back to the US, I suddenly began seeing all types of birds that I had not even known existed. Carolina Wrens were one such species. Besides there energetic perkiness and gorgeous white eye makeup, they have an piercing call that seems much too loud for such a tiny being! You have probably heard it, even if you are unaware of it. It is described as  singing “tweedle, tweedle, tweedle, twee” or “tea kettle, tea kettle, tea kettle, tea!”  Nine years ago a pair built a nest in the eaves of our porch. I was surprised and a bit shocked because we have cats and they climb up the tree next to the porch and onto the roof where we let them in and out our bathroom window. But, as far as I know they had a successful brood. Its is a bit hard to know, since they are usually ground nesters and therefore make no noise what so ever- even when startled!

A few years back, much to my dismay, I noticed that a pair of robins had built a nest on top of the arbor just outside our back door. I was not only dismayed, but annoyed, because I thought we’d be sure to be the cause of the nest being abandoned, since anytime anyone went out the back door, the robin went squawking off! I took that feeling with me into Quaker meeting for worship. There with the help of G!d (Holy Mystery), I was able to see that perhaps with some self restraint of the humans in our household we could not use, or minimally use the backdoor for the 6 weeks (8 weeks?) that it took to hatch the eggs and bring the brood to fledge. And we did manage to do just that. What I had not anticipated was the delight we would all get watching that unfold, right outside our dinning room window!

Often, our best intentions fail, however. I remember about 20 years ago, watching with horror as our cat, Milo, jumped straight up and nabbed a bird from our feeder, five feet off the ground! Well, I had not intended it to be a cat feeder! so it came down that very day. For this very reason we have no cats at the farm. So, when I noticed this pair of Carolina Wrens building their nest, I was both please and worried. Should I do something to discourage them? I tried, I moved the flower pot they were building the nest in- twice thinking that would discourage them. But after reading online about their habits; they often build more than one nest and one is usually a dummy nest, I decided that maybe they knew better than I did and I put it back. I also thought that my coming and going, opening the door next to where the shelves and nest are, many times a day, would discourage them, or convince them that this was the dummy nest. But then, I’m only here about half the time…

When I announced on FB that this nest was being built a fellow birder warned me that the nest could be vulnerable to raccoons or other egg eating predators and advised putting up a fence of some sort around it. So, after seeing that there are 4 beautiful mottled eggs in the nest, I started moving  the stuff off the shelves that we might need in the next 6 weeks and began thinking about some way to fence off this area- not just from predators, but also to remind us not to come too close. During this time we did scare the wren off her nest twice and each time I was afraid she wouldn’t return. (And I still am!) I finally settled on using deer netting. With David’s help it got set up. Then, however, I began to wonder. Aren’t wren’s pretty smart about nest building? they are a successful species, and without my help manage to survive even when some end up as food for predators- right? Might the deer netting harm the wrens? (its hard to see and the wholes are of a size that a small bird might get caught in- maybe?!) Ai, yai, yai! what a nightmare!

Fortunately, or unfortunately the snow today knocked down the fencing. Are the eggs being brooded? did all of this scare them away for good this time? About half the time we are using a different entrance and we’ll be gone tomorrow mid-morning. No one will be back until Tuesday night or Wednesday, so well see…





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