Fiesty wren rules the Jenkins roost

To think I am being held hostage by a half-ounce bird!
Outside the kitchen window, the wisteria vine is headed for the roof, hulls from oil sunflower seeds are piling up, venturing to the trash can elicits a loud scolding, and even filling the bird bath is a challenge.
Who, or what, is this mighty mite? The house wren that has built an elaborate nest within the plastic gourd hanging from the pole supporting the wisteria.
Early on I warned him – her? – that the entrance hole was too large and a sparrow or even a blue jay could destroy the structure or its eventual inhabitants.
The bird’s only response was to make sure enough twigs protruded from the hole that a slight squeeze was necessary to either enter or exit.
Since I’ve read that male house wrens build several nests to attract as many females as possible – sounds something like Fatal Attraction – I surmised this was just one of many prospective honeymoon nests.
Little did I know that a female had inspected it, found it to her liking and proceeded to start a family.
I’ve also read that both parents brood the nest, which explains the almost constant bursts of song as they come and go all day.
I am privileged to have a grandstand seat, as the gourd is maybe 10 feet from my window, so I can watch as I sip my morning coffee. I’m eagerly awaiting the emergence of the little wrens.
Another entertaining feature of this free show is the behavior of a certain male cardinal who has learned the art of “hovering,” like a hummingbird, if you will, and manages to grab two bites of suet from the little holder before his own weight forces him to fly.
Still on the topic of birds: The barn has become a huge aviary for swallows that have produced at least four broods this summer! They are so beneficial and beautiful and musical I forgive them for decorating the floor as they wheel in and out.
At the moment, there is only one active nest – the others have all fledged and flown – and five little faces peer down from the rafters.
There had been six, but the overcrowding proved fatal for one baby, even though I found it still breathing after the terrible tumble. I filled a small container with hay and placed the tiny body within so at least it could die in comfort.
Since the disruption in the oak grove across the street, with seven of the huge trees felled, the pair of red-tailed hawks that nested there fly and cry all day. Even into twilight I hear them.
I must assume their young were old enough to fly, or perhaps it is the young flying and crying. Also, squirrels have long nested there, and now they come here. One youngster has found the window feeder, and I took his picture the other day as he climbed the screen to look in at me.
And yes, my silver maple is 100 percent intact and safe! After all the fuss, the power company did indeed back down.
When they came to “trim,” I watched as they snipped maybe four very small branches. The entire effort took perhaps five minutes. But they couldn’t admit total defeat, could they, by an old gray-haired lady in tennis shoes! My tree now sports a big yellow bow.
* * *
During their visit, my nephew and his wife – Joe and Marilyn Mick of South Matick, Mass. – thoroughly enjoyed a trip to Noah’s Lost Ark, as did I. And owners Ellen and Doug Whitehouse gave us a two-hour personal tour in which we came to know the interesting and sometimes horrifying details of almost every rescued animal there.
I do believe the most fun was watching two 5-month-old black bear cubs while Ellen tried to fill their water bucket. She’d no sooner start to pour than one would jump in and then be pummeled by the other. A wonderful educational place for both children and adults.
* * *
Winnie continues to be an absolute joy and is fit and trim after spending every morning in the barn with me. She is convinced there is a groundhog somewhere in the back barn – I’m sure she’s right – and dashes back and forth, having to check the front yard before racing to the back gate.
I did find one very wet little baby swallow on the floor, and am sure it was another falling from a rafter nest.
Winnie had apparently mouthed it, but gently, and I tucked the little fellow into one of the more accessible nests where I hoped its parents would find it.
* * *
Sometime in the near future, I’ll share with you letters I have yet to see but Joe and Marilyn found while emptying Barbara’s house. They were from my mother’s brother, Kenneth Thompson, the first East Liverpool and Columbiana County soldier to be killed in World War I.
I have already received the Homer Laughlin gold-trimmed dishes he decorated especially – all of the Thompson men were potters – for his big sister before he went off to the war from which he would never come back.
I never remember my mother using them, though, and she gave them to Barbara. When I pass on, they will go to the East Liverpool Historical Society, which will also eventually receive the letters.
Joe, Marilyn and I visited the society’s remarkable C.C. Thompson house and thoroughly enjoyed a conducted tour by attorney Tim Brooks, president.
We took several old photograph albums with portraits of East Liverpool notables from long ago, and he was thrilled to get them.

About the Author

A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More Stories by Janie Jenkins

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