This winter, wrens repurposed the gourd from nest cavity to roost cavity. Clever birds they are, choosing such a protected cavity.
Most nights, the wrens duck in and settle down without drama. But not last week on the coldest night of the year.
At 4:17 PM, the first wren arrived, bullet-like, speeding straight in, swinging the gourd by the inertia of its landing. Within three minutes, a second wren, more cautious, flew from awning strut to strut to top of gourd, to brick wall, clinging there, inching down, even with the entrance hole.
Then, pop! The first wren darted out, flew six feet to a perch, flipped directions to face the gourd as the second wren slipped in, gourd again swinging with the energy of its landing.
The first wren returned pronto, popped back inside, a sort of "Excuse me. You first." Sweet. Two little guys cozy now against bitter cold.
Suddenly, from nowhere, zip, a third wren darted inside. Wow. Three little critters cuddled in. Even sweeter.
Just as I deemed all was well with the four, true drama erupted. A fifth wren arrived, hopped purposely from strut to strut, neared the gourd, dropped toward the opening, apparently making a big mistake. In one explosive second, a wren inside shot out after the fifth, tailing it within inches, matching its every twist and turn across the yard. The transgressor plunged through the garden; the lawman detoured into dense juniper. And it sang, loudly. A territorial song? Lover's song? Warrior's song? Victor's song?
Would he return, join the three inside? Six minutes dragged by. I waited, wanting to know. Finally, it alit 15 feet away, stretching left and right, peering every direction, but flew off, out of sight. Had it gone?
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Three more minutes crawled by. Cautiously, a wren neared the box, ducked in without hesitation. Was it wren number four, number five, or maybe number six?
In less than a minute, another wren approaching the gourd from the far strut, watched carefully, flew to the closest strut and zipped in the opening. Some shifting around must have occurred because the last bird's tail protruded beyond the entrance for some 20 seconds before it disappeared, the last in apparently finally finding room in the huddle.
It was 4:45, dark. Five wrens huddled as one, fighting the night's bitter cold.
Mysteries remain. Were the last two the same two that hurtled across the yard, their differences now settled? Did someone forget the pecking order--or bedding order--and have to be reminded? Was an intruder pushed out--literally--in the cold?
In 30 minutes, the reality drama played out, minus commercials.