Saturday, April 25, 2015

Little Brown Bird with Incredible Talents

If you have been reading this blog for any period of time, you know that Ed and I get a kick out of bird watching around Farm Dover. We gotten pretty good about being able to identify a couple of dozen birds that frequent our farm. We can usually identify a bird if it holds still and we can focus our binoculars on it for a moment or two. But that doesn't happen very often. Instead, we rely on hearing their song, watching their flight pattern, observing how they hold their tail or peck about for food, or seeing bright flashes of color as they flit from branch to branch.

There is a whole category of birds that we usually just throw up our hands and call them "little brown birds." These are the ones that refuse to hold still for more than a nanosecond. They are tiny and wary. We more often hear them than see them. They love tangles of vegetation and vines; brush piles are their playgrounds.  They move in jerky hops. I think most are wrens and sparrows of one sort or another. All fit the description of a little brown bird. Always before, I just dismissed them as a not very special bird. But not anymore....


The other day, Ed said he wanted to show me something. He walked quietly up to a tangle of an overgrown wild rose bush, surrounded by honeysuckle. He carefully moved back a thorny branch and invited me to take a look deep inside the dark space.

What I saw was a marvel. A bird nest unlike any I had ever seen. Unlike a robin's nest, it was fully doomed with a round opening on one side. Bits of bark strips, dried grasses, dead leaves, pine needles, straw and bits of small downy fluffs formed the underside. The top was fashioned from bright green moss, like a thatched roof you might see in storybook set in a medieval English countryside.

It was the nest of a Carolina wren and it was breathtaking in its construction; adorable in its execution. My estimation of this little brown bird soared.

The mama wren flew out when she heard us approach and took up station in a nearby bush where she set about letting us know in no uncertain terms that she wanted us gone. Now. I took a quick photo and moved away, assuring her I would not harm her or her eggs/chicks.

Unfortunately, the photo just doesn't do the nest justice. You can't really make out the shape, but here is a closeup of the nest. If you look closely, you can make out the front-door hole in the top-center of the photo; the green moss roof you can see on the left side; and the bottom of the nest is made up of coarser twigs.  The entire nest is snugly tucked in among thorny rose canes. I wish you could see it up close and in real life.

Once I got back home, I pulled out a book called America's Other Audubon which features a collection of reproduced engraved illustration that were initially produced in the late 1800s by a young woman named Genevieve Jones. After she had produced five drawings of her intended 130 species of birds that nested in Ohio she died of typhoid fever. Her family was paralyzed by grief and shock. In mourning their child, they vowed to complete the project that she had started and spent the rest of their lives finding nests/eggs, drawing them accurately and then hand coloring the engraved prints. Her father spent his entire life savings to publish the two-volume book.

The book that I have now was compiled and published three years ago by Joy Kiser and includes the entire collection of the Jones family engravings. Here's the illustration for the Carolina wren.

The nest we found was even more amazing than this illustration -- the green roof is proof in my mind that this little brown bird has incredible talents.

I never know what I might see around our farm. Almost anytime I take the time to look, I see something amazing. Albert Einstein once said that if you look deep into nature, you will understand everything better. I think he is right.

1 comment:

  1. I had two of these birds in my back yard and am trying to find out what they are called, have you any more information