Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Heat and House Wrens

The unprecedented rains have left us with severe humidity that has made venturing outside quite uncomfortable… those of us native to Oklahoma are accustomed to dry heat. The ‘steamy/sweltering meter’ now included in the weather forecast is quite new to us and has taken a while to totally comprehend… it simply means hot and sweaty.  The rains also washed and blew the top soil, leaving the garden with the underlying sandy soil that dries out quickly. Watering a must since the overhead sun has begun the summer scorch. It seems as the wheat is harvested each year, the rains abandon us, traveling east and making the countryside as brown as the barren fields.

It is time to tidy the garden by removing the spent foliage of the Amaryllis Belladonna and Jonquils. It has already absorbed nutrients to send to the bulb that is resting below and recently became an unsightly mass of wilted yellow leaves. Once they are removed place a pretty flowering pot in an elevated container over the bare spot. Remember to relocate it when an emerging Amaryllis bloom first appears in mid-July but it may continue to reside over the Jonquils since they are through with their annual show.

Now is the time to venture out in the cool of the morning to scout the garden to look for the darling House Wren. As indicated by their common name, they are intensely interested in humans and often nest where they will receive our attention. The couple will probably make a nest in some odd place so finding it is an interesting scavenger hunt and a fun game for children. Wrens famously choose unusual sites for their nests, including door wreaths, lamp posts, garage shelving, and even old shoes that have been left outside. This year they have nested in the red geranium near the front door and we have watched with gentle interest as the five creamy eggs hatched, the babies eyes fully opened, and fluffy down feathers covered their bodies. Now getting a few feathers, they always peer at us with interest when we move a leaf to check them. 

Wrens arrive here in the spring with the male signaling his arrival with an almost incessant and distinctive stream of burbles, warbles, buzzes and rattling churrs. They are considered a songbird even though their wonderful song is heard only during the nesting season and rarely afterwards. Since the diet of the House Wren consists entirely of insects, spiders, snails, flies, ticks, plant lice, gypsy moth larvae, ants, beetles, and grasshoppers they are a valuable asset to the gardener for natural control of pests.

Small and overly confident, the brown House Wren is extremely territorial and will make efforts to destroy the nest of competitive birds. It is said they will occasionally destroy the eggs of other birds by breaking the egg shell. They have also been known to vandalize the cavity of other bird nests by placing sharp sticks in them therefore rendering them unusable. Regardless of this impolite behavior their fondness for humankind and elimination of pests makes up for it and they are a joyful little bird to have in the garden… they will migrate to Mexico in early October, so enjoy them now.      

Photo: By Catherine Dougherty…  Baby Wren from last year.

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