The birdlife is abundant and diverse in our little corner of the world here in Southern Oregon. Although we haven’t moved our trailer for almost seven months, we haven’t lacked for bird sightings.
So Many Birds!
Every morning, a White-breasted Nuthatch forages in the cedar outside our dining room window. Black-capped Chickadees, Scrub Jays, Stellar’s Jays, and Oak Titmice are regular visitors to nearby feeders, and families of California Quail patrol the grounds, zooming past like wind-up toys.
A serene pond just steps from our trailer shelters geese, ducks, blackbirds, and the occasional heron, even throughout the snowy winter. Come spring, the geese and blackbirds build nests. This year, we’ve been watching the Wood Duck nest box, hoping there will soon be babies.
At Emigrant Lake, just down the road, a large and varied population of woodpeckers fly among the gnarled oaks, entertaining us with their raucous calls on our daily long walks.
Bluebirds flash by in a streak of sapphire, and brilliant yellow goldfinches appear in vast flocks, singing their little hearts out. Bald Eagles and Osprey dive for fish, while Red-tailed Hawks soar overhead. Recently, we came upon a fierce, fluffy owlet—and spotted the Great Horned Owl parent in a nearby tree.
It all delights us. But by far, our most extraordinary bird experience this year involved a family of Rock Wrens.
The Saga Of The Rock Wrens
Colored pale gray and brown, the diminutive Rock Wrens blend perfectly with their favorite environment of arid, rocky canyons. We’ve spotted a few on our walks around Emigrant Lake, where they hang out on the rocky, boulder-strewn shores, making themselves known by their buzzy trills and comical bouncing movements.
Usually, Rock Wrens nest in rock crevices, hidden from sight. But just a few weeks ago, we discovered a pair of wrens nesting in a most unusual place. Several mornings in a row, we noticed wrens flying in and out of a steel pipe that serves as a gated entry to the lake. When we peered into the pipe, a pile of tiny stones marked the entrance. Rock Wrens have the unique habit of building “walkways” for their nests, and this was a telltale sign that the wrens had chosen the pipe for nesting.
Each morning, we looked forward to visiting the wrens. A couple of weeks passed, and we observed the pair busily foraging and carrying a variety of insects and spiders into the pipe. One day, Eric photographed a wren bringing a small lizard to the nest. Our ornithologist friends told us this is highly unusual behavior and something that had never before been recorded.
We surmised that the eggs had hatched, and we were looking forward to seeing the fledglings when they emerged. But late one afternoon last week, Eric rode his bike to the lake to check on the wrens, and sent me a heartbreaking text—“The wren parents were killed today.” Both had been hit by cars while foraging for food along the roadside.
A Rescue Operation
Neither of us could bear the thought of the nestlings starving to death while waiting in vain for their parents to deliver food. Even though we knew there was a slim chance for success, we decided to try to save them.
Equipped with a small cardboard box lined with paper towels and a jar of live bugs, we set out on our rescue mission. As we approached the pipe, we could hear the nestlings calling for their parents. The babies were more than a foot deep into the pipe, and although I was voting for Eric to stick his hand in the pipe, mine was the one that fit. I wedged my hand into the pipe halfway to my elbow, groped around, and one by one gently dragged the nestlings out. Once secure in their temporary cardboard box nest, Eric fed the hungry babies the bugs he had captured.
We’re not experts in wild bird care, so we turned the wren babies over to Badger Run, a wonderful wildlife rehab center in Klamath Falls. The people there are extraordinarily dedicated, skilled, and compassionate. (And they can use all the help they can get—with no funding from state or federal agencies, they rely on donations and volunteer efforts.) Liz, one of the founding members of Badger Run, has been taking the wren babies along to her “day job” as an insurance agent because they must be fed every 15 minutes.
A Happy Ending For The Rock Wren Babies
As of today, one week after their rescue, the nestlings are thriving. In just a few weeks, they’ll be returned to Emigrant Lake, where they’ll be released back into their home territory. We’re sad that we won’t be here to see them take flight, but we’re preparing to take flight ourselves as we resume our fulltime travels. We’re hoping next fall, if we’re lucky, we’ll see the wrens in our walks around the lake.
I love, love, love birding in the spring! When we lived on Pine Lake, we had so many beautiful birds and waterfowl. The wood ducks were my favorite, and one year, we had a Chinese Mandarin! What a treat to have him around for a few weeks. Our favorite time of day was late afternoon. We’d sit out on the terrace and watch the eagles steal from the ospreys. They put on such a good show. :) Beautiful photos! I know you must be so eager to start traveling again.
Yes, the Mandarins are gorgeous! We’ve had them at Lithia Park in Ashland occasionally, mixed in with the Wood Ducks. Birdwatching in the early morning or late afternoon is best. I’m watching an Osprey right now sailing over the lake. :-)
What a wonderful collection of bird photos. I do hope all the chicks survive.
Thanks, Ingrid. Looks like all of the wren chicks are doing great!
I really enjoyed the bird photos. The fluffy owl baby was my favorite. Where are you headed for summer?We are home in Buffalo with some short east coast excursions.
Glad you enjoyed the birds, Pat. We just took a walk and saw the owlet again, this time hiding in juniper shrubs (a much safer place to be than out in the open). We’re heading up the coast of Oregon in a week or so, then the Olympic Peninsula for a month, and sailing to Lopez for July and August. Happy travels to you!
What a wonderful post! I loved the pictures of you two ever so carefully rescuing those babes……Your bird pictures are great, the first few I’ve never seen so thanks for showing them to us all.
When do you shove off on the continuation of your explorations and where will you head? We’re almost “home” for the summer. I have to admit,it feels very odd.
Thanks, Sue — I’m glad you got to see some birds you’ve not yet seen. We were really happy to successfully rescue the Rock Wren nestlings. We’re hoping to visit them at Badger Run before we leave, but it’s a 50-mile drive one-way.
We head out soon! Oregon Coast/OP/and then Lopez for the summer! Feels odd for us to be leaving “home” but I can understand how it feels odd to return home, too. The challenge of the full-time traveler…
Love the pictures of the birds. There are red birds here in South Carolina. I’m not sure what the are being from the west coast. My daughter thinks they’re cardinals but they don’t have the cap I think they should have. Glad to hear you’re going to be back on the road.
Glad you enjoyed the birds, Pam. You’re right—cardinals have distinctive crests, but they can raise or lower the crests depending on their mood. A Summer Tanager is a distinct possibility. They’re all red with no crest.
These are an amazing number of fantastic photos of such a variety of birds in your backyard. I am unfamiliar with many of them and really loved seeing them. What a great story of rescue and so sad about the parents. You guys are terrific!!
Thank you, Sherry. :-) We felt fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to rescue the baby wrens. If Eric hadn’t gone to check on them, they would likely have died overnight. We’re grateful to Badger Run for taking them on. When we return home after we finish our adventures on the road, we plan to volunteer there.
Ah, so, so sweet to see this variety of birds, Lewis
Woodpecker so picturesque… and again the story
of your rescue of the Rock Wren babies… you guys
should write a book.
and see you in Manzanita soon.
Peggy, the birds are so beautiful, all of them in their own way! We’re grateful that we were able to help out the baby Rock Wrens. With all of the obstacles that birds face, they need all the help they can get.
So happy we’re going to see you in Manzanita! oxoxo
Oh I do hope some of these beauties are still at the lake when we get there in a few days. Maybe I can ask about the babies being returned – it would be fun to see them back after your rescue.
I always love the Waxwings – even more so than the bright colors of their neighbors, they really catch my eye!
Haha, guess who’s going to be your next-door-neighbor at Emigrant Lake?? We’re staying in Ashland a bit longer than we expected, and just noticed today that your name is on the site next to us. We’ll go looking for birds together. There are sooo many here! Just saw the owlets again. :-))
What wonderful photos of all those birds! The variety is amazing and the shots exquisite!
There truly is an amazing variety of birds here, Lisa. So glad you enjoyed the photos.
Oh my gosh! Another amazing bird post. I can’t believe you guys have seen all those birds around here. I’ve still never seen a bluebird. And I’ve never seen a Lewis Woodpecker or the two sapsuckers you have photos of. I need to take a walk with you guys as my guide. I love the Rock Wren story. How heartbreaking that the parents died but nice job rescuing those babes. Thanks for sharing the story and the photos! And it was soooooo fun catching up with you today!!!!!!!!
Janet, I’d love to take a walk together see what birds we find along the way! It’s always like a treasure hunt. Emigrant Lake is a wonderful place for a variety of woodpeckers and all kinds of other species. I’m so happy we had some time together today. Really fun. :-))
You know I am not a birder, but your photos in this post are amazing! I love the quail on the back of the bench…such a lovely photo. Of course, I am partial to the owlet and mama Great Horned. How lucky to see them both in the wild!!
How heartbreaking to discover both wren parents had been killed. Those little ones were so lucky to have you and Eric near by as their rescuers. How sweet that you were able to get them to the help they need. Let us know how they do:) Thanks for saving them:)
Pam, I knew you would enjoy seeing the Great Horned Owl and owlet. We saw them again last night on our evening walk through the park — plus another owlet! The adults were feeding the young ones. We were so sad when we discovered the adult Rock Wrens had been killed, but definitely felt better once we got them out of the nesting site and to a place where they could get help. We hear they’re eating lots of bugs and growing by leaps and bounds!
Another awesome post. Enjoy your summer and the freedom of travel. You will find a new normal, and yet, somehow life is even more full, more appreciated. The little things in life have a sweeter memory. Peace on the road and keep the camera handy. Love your pics!!!!
Julie, we’re looking forward to our travels, and at the same time loving our last few days in Ashland before we take to the road again. So glad you enjoyed the post and pics. Enjoy your summer travels!
Thanks, Brenda. We feel fortunate to have experienced many amazing encounters with our feathered friends. :-)
Such a tearjerker. It’s truly a story for a short movie. Those little wrens must be thanking their lucky stars. I told Bruce a few minutes ago, I want to go to Ashland, and see all of those varieties of woodpeckers that we don’t have on Lopez, and the sapsuckers.
The photos are beautiful! Thank you both for sharing so much loveliness. Can’t wait to see you.
Sheila, we were devastated by the death of the Rock Wren parents. Wild birds face so many challenges—we were grateful we were able to save the nestlings. We saw a photo of the little wrens today, and they’ve grown so much in only a week! They look happy and healthy.
We would love so much to have you and Bruce visit us in Ashland sometime. Meanwhile, we’ll see you soon on Lopez! oxoxo
Ohhh so sad. Fantastic you saved the babies. Feeding them every fifteen minutes, that is devotion!
That photo with their huge beaks open wide is just amazing. Nice job! Well done!!
Thank you, Peta. We were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to help the little wrens. The volunteers at Badger Run are truly compassionate, wonderful people. Feeding those nestlings every fifteen minutes is a full-time job! Knowing there are such good people in the world gives me hope.
Such a skill and patience to be able to find and identify all of those birds. Those hungry mouths are too cute. Glad you got the babies out and fed. All we seem to find on our hikes are snakes.
Haha, you two do seem to find lots of snakes, Debbie! Eric is an accomplished birder, and I’ve learned a great deal just by hanging out with him.:-)Birding is a fun addition to our hiking, biking, and kayaking adventures.
Your bird photos were such a delight to see! What a tragic but amazing story about the rock wrens. How wonderful that all the babies survived.
LuAnn, we were so sad about the Rock Wren parents — saving the babies made us feel much better. They definitely wanted to live. :-) Glad you enjoyed the bird photos — I’m excited about the wildlife we’ll see together in Glacier this fall.
I see you have received so many responses to this blog but I have to say it may have been Perry and my favorite one of all your blogs.
The pictures are spectacular but the story of the little birds brought both of us to tears. You have inspired us to be more watchful of these beautiful creatures and there are many times when I think of taking a picture and sending it to you guys so you can identify it and then we remind ourselves that we should be looking them up on our own so we learn them.
Thanks for the blog and the heart warming story. So glad they are doing well. Looking forward to seeing you in August!
Beth, thank you so much for your loving comment. We’re so happy that we’ll be seeing you in August on Lopez! We’ll go hiking and kayaking and birding together. And if we can ever be of help in identifying birds, please ask us! (Especially Eric, he’s my expert. :-))
Wren rescue was a gut wrenching story. I believe only you and Eric could think and do such beautiful act. I’m sure you are now a very popular with the wrens, being their rescuers!
Beautiful bird photos and of course love them all! I only had a glimpse of the Lewis and the Red breasted Sapsucker, they were too fast for me to take a photo.
MonaLiza, we were fortunate that we were able to connect with people skilled in wildlife rescue. Otherwise we would be traveling with baby Rock Wrens. :-)) As you know from all of your bird photography, it takes soooo much patience and a lot of luck to capture photos of birds! Every day we have lots of blurred images.
Sweet story! I read the Badger Run post and am so glad most of the little birdies survived! You guys are awesome.
Amanda, we were thrilled to hear that the wrens were released yesterday, back at Emigrant Lake. Just wish we could have been there to see them take off. We feel fortunate that we were in the right place at the right time to rescue them. oxoxox
Wow! You have so many birds that we have not yet seen. How did we miss them while in Oregon? Such a sad tale, but with a happy ending, thanks to the two of you and the volunteer. Love the bird pics!
Loretta, you guys need to meet up with us in Oregon so that we can go birding together. We’ll show you all the good spots. :-)