Friday, June 14, 2002

A Bird in the Bedroom

Last Saturday morning, I was lounging around downstairs when I heard a frantic shriek from my wife, who was upstairs, followed by "John! . . . There's a bird in our bedroom!"

Incredulous at what I thought I had just heard, I rushed upstairs, not knowing quite what to expect, but thinking perhaps a European Starling or House Sparrow had somehow found their way into the house. Sure enough, there really was a bird in the bedroom--a very agitated Carolina Wren, as it turned out. How on earth did it get in? That question would have to wait for later. My immediate problem was figuring out some way of getting the bird back outside, where it belonged. Not having any good way of capturing the bird without injuring it, the first thing I did was shut the bedroom door to confine it to that one room of the house. When I first entered the room, the wren was fluttering against the glass of one of a group of bay windows, all of which were closed tight. So, the next thing I did was to slowly make my way across the room to the bay, trying not to inflict any more stress on the bird than necessary, and opened the bottom sash of one of the double-hung windows. My approach to the bay windows brought me closer to the wren, which caused it to take flight and settle on a bookshelf on the opposite side of the room--as far from me as it could get. Okay, so now there was an open window--the only possible avenue of escape for the wren--but the wren was now on the wrong side of the room. I gradually backed away from the open window and slowly walked toward the wren, not directly but at an oblique angle, hoping that my approach would cause it to fly back to the other side of the room, to the vicinity of the bay windows, where it would have a chance of finding the open window and make it's escape. Well, I have to give that wren credit. Whether it was intelligence, instinct, or simply dumb luck, that bird flew directly toward the open window and disappeared to the outside without so much as a goodbye chip.

Now, how did that wren end up in our bedroom? All of the doors and windows of the house were shut tight, with one exception, and we have no exterior holes or cracks in the house that would have allowed the wren access from the outside. The one exception is the downstairs back door, which had been opened to bring in the cool morning air. The screen door was closed, but there is a large hole in the bottom half of the screen that the dog has come to use as a quick exit/entrance from/to the house--and which I have been negligent in repairing. And a pair of Carolina Wrens has set up territory just outside the back door, where I believe the female is attending a nest in some shrubbery. Earlier that Saturday morning, I had heard the male singing quite close to the back door. I finally concluded that the hole in the screen door was the only possible way that that wren could have found its way into the house. But why? What strange sense of curiosity caused him or her to explore this strange new world?

Getting into the house was one thing. That was easy. But once through the hole in the screen, the wren would have had to have made a right-hand turn into the kitchen, proceeded straight ahead through the kitchen and into the hallway, travelled vertically up the stairwell 15-20 feet, and made a left-hand turn into the bedroom. There were many other places in the house that the wren could have ended up. But it chose an upstairs bedroom, one of two rooms in the house that was occupied and where it's presence would be noted. To put this into human perspective, this wren's journey through the foreign terrain of our house would be equivalent to a 6-foot, 250-pound human blithely entering a strange structure with 130-foot ceilings (that's roughly equivalent to the height of a 13-story building) inhabited by 80-foot creatures weighing two-and-a-half tons, and whose intentions and dispositions are unknown, and nonchalantly wandering around for a distance of about 1,600 feet, or about one-quarter mile.

For good reason are wrens sometimes described as bold and inquisitive!

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