The new brood has left the nest

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There's a wren house on the clothesline post under a spruce tree in the backyard. It's been occupied each summer for untold numbers of years by a pair of wrens.

The house has been repaired and rebuilt several times, and so the only constant is its location. One wren looks much like another and so perhaps the current occupants may be descendants of the original pair. Or they may be no relation whatever, simply opportunists.

This summer Martha and I have not fled the smog of the Banana Belt for the relatively purer air of Taylor Lake. We have to stay close to our medical support. Aren't the golden years fun?

We have been able to listen to the familiar warbling song of the wrens for the first time in over 20 years. There are swamp wrens in Rainbow Country, but they are like Silent Yokum, not a sound out of them.

At the cottage there was always something to get me off my butt and outdoors: flowers to be watered, weeds to be pulled, tag alders to be held at bay along the laneway, beaver work to be cleared from the culverts, a dump run more to chat with the men who used the recycle yard as a club than to dispose of garbage. And being a lifelong comber of dumps, it was not unusual to lug more stuff home than I left behind.

It was maybe two weeks before we knew which of several nest boxes in our yard was being used this summer. The warbling notes came from shrubs, trees, the back of lawn chairs. A curtain of branches obscured the view of the clothesline post facility. We had to find a line of sight to the hole in the box and try not to blink. Finally we espied one of the pair swiftly and silently enter the nest.

After a time we noticed not just one of the pair was coming and going. Both parents were searching for insects and flitting to the opening. We imagined open beaks stretching to be the lucky recipient.

Our spruce trees are afflicted with a disease that kills the needles, usually first of the lower branches, but progressively higher. For esthetic appearance, but also for another reason, I prune the dead twigs, branches and limbs. Of course when I was absent through the summer, this chore was neglected. That resulted in plenty of skeletal material to be removed.

The reason for pruning other than for appearance is that the spruce is able to break new growth to replace the diseased wood. Letting air and sunlight in helps the tree heal itself.

Sadly, nature has yet to find ways to heal human lungs suffering the ravages of polluted air. We must depend on respirologists.

In the process of pruning the tree that concealed the wren house, I became aware of two very angry chirpers flitting from twig to twig around my head. I was working near the wren house. The sauce boxes came eye to eye inches away, body language loud and clear. Gently I assured the birds I wasn't going to mess with their home. I knew there must be nestlings in there, but not a peep betrayed their presence.

As I moved farther from the clothesline post the scolding diminished, giving way to the usual warbling song.

This morning I took a pail of food scraps to the composting bin in the garden. This is nowhere near the clothesline pole, but the air was filled with angry chip, chip chipping. I caught sight of a wren flitting to a different vantage point to protest the intrusion. It had short tail feathers.

The new brood has left the nest.




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