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Wrens a-roosting in our Christmas wreath

S

plinter and I started decorating early for Christmas this year in preparation for a flock of Round Robins that was scheduled to arrive on the afternoon of Dec. 13. What a strange feeling for us to have the house ready for the holidays by mid-December. Now what do we do? Ha! Ready or not, there is always something to do in December.

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I had a brief encounter with a Carolina wren a few days before the 13th as I was decorating a wreath that hangs year-round on the side of the house next to the door. Last spring, the perky little wren built a nest in the wreath. I was aware of the eggs but never got a glimpse of the nestlings; perhaps they hatched and fledged while we were on vacation. The nest was typical of a Carolina wren's building style as it had an opening that led into a tunnel. The eggs were hidden at the end of the passageway, and I had to reach my fingers in to know that there were four of them.

When fall arrived, I added some autumn trimmings to the wreath for the changing seasons. The nest was still there, but the birds were finished with it — or so I thought.

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For Christmastime, I had taken some cuttings from the holly trees that grow on our property, and as I reached out to tuck the first holly branch into the wreath, out flew a Carolina wren. I'm pretty sure that the little bird was no more startled than I was! She flew off towards the woods, and I carefully arranged the wreath for the holidays to avoid damaging the nest.

Many bird species that spend the winter months in our region seek sheltered roosting places to spend the cold nights. Cavity nesting birds, when they are lucky, find holes in decaying trees or vacancies where woodpeckers excavated nesting sites during the breeding season. It's not unusual for bluebirds to return to their nest boxes; often several crowd in together, to share body warmth. It seems that my Carolina wren decided to seek comfort in the nest she built for her family earlier in the year. I'm glad that we didn't remove it after the breeding season. And I hope she likes the way it is decorated for the holidays.

In case you are curious about the flock of Robins that visited on Dec. 13th, they did indeed arrive just in time for lunch followed by an afternoon of sharing laughter, gifts, stories, and memories that we've made together during our friendship of 48 years. We met at Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College, as freshmen many years ago. There are nine women in our circle. Though our "carefree" days at college came to an end long ago, the friendship has endured. It is one of the blessings in my life for which I am forever grateful.

If you are looking for last-minute gift ideas for a birdwatcher in your life, here is a short list. (No need for a long list since Christmas is only four days away!) Every bird enthusiast should have a field guide for identifying the birds they see. My favorite is the National Geographic, but there are many excellent ones on the market. Binoculars (can be a bit pricy), camera, books, videos, stationery, jewelry, warm clothes for cold days in the field — caps, gloves, socks, long underwear, bird feeder, bird bath heater, and wind chimes are a few options.

As Christmas approaches, spend some time enjoying the sights and sounds of the season. Have you heard the sweet sound of the white-throated sparrow that forages under the feeders? "Oh Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada." As Santa prepares for Wednesday night's trip around the world, we may hear the white-throats singing, "Old Saint Nicholas, Nicholas, Nicholas!"

Sue Yingling is a Times outdoors writer. Her column appears every other Sunday. Reach her at 410-857-7896 or sports@carrollcountytimes.com.

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