I wake up each morning to a wildlife documentary

The documentary has been years in the making. Seeds of the documentary took root 5-6 years ago when we planted a rose bush outside the bedroom window.

The bush grew explosively, forcing us to corral it last year with a trellis. Last fall a bird feeder was placed on the trellis, allowing us close up views of house finch, various species of sparrow and an occasional cardinal.

Come springtime, we replaced the seed feeder with a hummingbird feeder. The results have been amazing.

Now, I wake up each morning aware of wildlife outside the window before even opening the shades.

On mornings when the windows are open, the buzzing of hummingbirds jockeying for position is clearly audible, as are the assorted squeals and squeaks.

And, sneak previews are available even when the windows are tightly shut. The shadows of the flitting hummingbirds are clearly visible through the window shades.

Opening the shades normally startles the birds for a few moments. Generally, they just back off several feet, hover for a few seconds before deciding it is safe to return to the feeder.

A new chapter in this real-life drama unfolded Monday morning.

With night-time temperatures hovering near 65, the windows were open. The sound of beating wings greeted me as I opened my eyes.

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Predictably, the birds backed off as the shade opened, but Monday the hummers reacted differently. A bird roosted on a rose branch, something that frequently happens, but it appeared oddly distracted, watching the rose bush instead of the feeder.

A brief territorial squabble ensued, but each time a new hummingbird claimed the rose branch, it kept its focus on the bush.

Shortly thereafter, a Carolina wren landed on the trellis. After glancing around to make sure the coast was clear, the wren hopped to a Cardinal nest that had been abandoned for a couple of years. As the wren pulled loose grass from the nest, a hummingbird arrived.

It hovered just a few feet from the wren, keeping a close eye on the construction project. At about that time, another wren came upon the scene, assisting with the rehab work.

The wrens came and went for the next few minutes. In the meantime, the hummingbirds returned to the feeder, albeit nervously. They would land and glance suspiciously in the direction of the nest before taking a drink.

At the same time, another hummingbird sat down on a branch about two feet from the nest, apparently keeping his eye open for further wren activity.

I’d never seen hummingbirds display this behavior before. It was fascinating as well as enlightening. They were clearly suspicious, and resentful, of the wren activity. Their passive-aggressive behavior made that clear.

Conversely, they didn’t physically challenge the larger wrens, who were more or less oblivious to the activity around them.

I can’t wait to see how the rest of the story plays out in the next few days. Can the two species co-exist? Will the wrens get tired of the constant activity? Will the hummingbirds' desire to eat be the final arbiter of this dilemma?

To be continued …

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LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.



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