Baby Wrens Update 2

Here are 3 more photos of the Carolina Wren chicks at days 8, 10, and 12. It’s interesting to see them developing.
On day 8, their eyes are beginning to open and their feathers are mostly black. 
On day 10, their eyes are fully open and their feathers are turning brown.
On day 12, they’re starting to look like adult wrens. You can see the white stripe above the eye. They’re noticeably larger, too. The nest is looking pretty crowded. They are almost ready to fly.
The baby wrens finally fledged on Sunday, May 30th. By my reckoning, this was day 14 after they hatched, which agrees with what I read about their development time line.
My last photos of them were on Friday, May 28th or day 12. I did take a photo of the empty nest, just for completeness. I checked on them Saturday morning and they were still in the nest and also when I checked in the evening.
I checked on them Sunday morning and they were still there. When I checked in the afternoon, however, they were all gone.
I’ve seen them flying around inside and around the garage. It seems they’re still learning their way because they look a bit clumsy, especially when landing. I also noticed that I’m seeing them less and less, so I think as they gain ability and confidence, they’re roaming farther.
I’m glad I got to follow their development. It’s something I never before had a chance to do and I learned quite a bit. Their average lifespan in the wild is about 6 years, and I’m sure I’ll see them around.

Prickly Pear Water Purification

I came across this article in New Scientist about using Prickly Pear for water purification.
Basically, the cactus’ mucilage causes the sediment and bacteria in water to join together and settle to the bottom. This promises to be a cheap and simple way to purify water in the developing world. 19th century Mexican communities used it this way.
We have prickly pear plants on our property and I mostly consider them a nuisance, just behind the Ashe Junipers, in terms of undesirability. I appreciate the reminder that what I consider to be a nuisance is mostly a human concept and that it all depends on your perspective. All plants are good and potentially useful. We just need to keep an open mind and appreciate all life.
In fact, Prickly Pear are also edible, both the pads (nopalitos) and the fruit (pears). It also has medicinal uses and can be used as an intoxicant.
When I get a chance, I’m going to conduct my own experiment and see how well it works.

Baby Wrens Update 1

Here’s a quick update on the baby wrens.
I think the wren eggs hatched on May 16th and my earlier photo shows them at 1 day old. The following 2 photos show them at 4 and 6 days old.
They’re developing rapidly, as you would expect if they’re going to fledge by day 14. At day 4, they still have bare skin showing, but by day 6 they’re completely covered by feathers. Their eyes are still shut.
I’m trying really hard to not disturb them constantly. The parents are not in the nest all of the time. In fact, I did not see them when I took these two photos. Before, when I took photos of the eggs and then when I would check to see if they’d hatched, the mother bird was always in the nest.
The parents must be out gathering food and I’ve seen a Carolina Wren in oak trees near the garage.

Baby Wrens

Mary called me at lunch last week. She noticed a bird had made a nest in our garage on a shelf among some spray paint cans. When I got home I went out to get some photos. As I approached the mother bird took off and although I didn’t get a good look, I could tell she was a small brown bird with a pointy beak.

I was able to get a few photos, but didn’t want to take too long or disturb the mother. The nest was about five feet off the floor and made from leaves and twigs. It looks like the inside is lined with hair, possibly dog fur.

The eggs were white with brown spots and were about 1/2 inch long. There were 6 eggs in the nest.

Mary and I are not bird experts, but we have access to several in our Master Naturalist Chapter. I posted the photos to our Chapter’s forum and quickly got an identification.The bird was most likely a Carolina Wren. We looked the bird up in our Peterson bird guide and it looked like the correct identification. We thought it might also be a Bewick’s Wren which is very similar, but the Carolina is a bit redder.

I wondered how long they had been there and when they would hatch, but had no clue. These photos were taken on Tuesday, May 11th, so I would just have to keep watching and see when the chicks hatched.

On May 17th, Mary told me that there were now baby wrens in the nest! I took this photo that day, and I think the chicks are less than a day old. As you can see, they only have a few feather tufts on the head and are bare otherwise. They have huge eyes. They’re really quite ugly, but in a “cute” way. All six eggs have hatched. I looked up the incubation period for Carolina Wrens and it’s about 12 to 14 days, so the eggs were laid in early May, probably around May 3rd. The eggs hatch synchronously, within 24 hours of each other.

The parents coax the young ones out of the nest after 12 to 14 days, so I’ll keep an eye on their progress and keep you updated.

Naturescapes 2010

This year I’m the Hill Country Photography Club’s Coordinator for the 6th Annual Naturescapes Photography Contest and Exhibition.

Goals of the contest include increasing public awareness of the importance of protecting our natural world and giving photographers at all levels of experience a chance to capture, share, and receive recognition for beautiful and inspiring images. The Contest is now accepting entries and the deadline for submissions is Monday, July 12th.

The contest is sponsored by the Hill Country Photography Club and the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance. You can find out more about the contest, including the rules, here. The basic requirements are that the photos be taken within Hays County, within the last 2 years.

The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance maintains a flickr page where you can view the images from 2007, 2008, and 2009, and the previous award winners. Be sure to take a look. The images accepted for the Exhibition are of the highest quality and you’ll find some truly beautiful nature photography.

If you’re interested in nature and photography, this is your chance to share the beauty of the Hays County natural areas and perhaps receive recognition for your work!