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Carl Wernicke: The Right Place For A Home


With the coming of spring, the home building boom across Pensacola remains in full force. But human houses are not the only construction underway. Birds have been busily building their own nests.

And as with human construction, it doesn’t always go smoothly.

My wife and I collect bagged leaves to use for compost and mulch. The end of March and early April feature roadsides littered – in a good way – with bags stuffed with leaves raked up by homeowners ready to trade in their rakes for lawnmowers.

We recently collected several of the large brown paper bags that are increasingly replacing plastic bags. The paper bags, unlike plastic, are compostable, and I’ve been happy to see them proliferating.

We stored several of these bags in our carport, with the tops open, to keep them dry. But coming home one day from a short trip, we flushed a small wren from one of the bags. Suspecting what was up, I looked down into the bag and saw a beautifully constructed little nest atop the leaves.

The problem was that the bag was right next to the path we take to the back yard as well as our main storage shed where we have a freezer and second refrigerator. The wrens had taken advantage of our absence to build their nest, and I feared that our constant movement might cause them to abandon it, or even eggs after they were laid. Thinking I was doing them a favor, I moved the bag across the carport to a more isolated spot. There was a second bag as well, so I folded the top closed.

I figured the wrens would quickly find the nest and resume activities.

I was wrong.

My wife came in and reported that she saw a wren pecking at the second, closed bag, which of course was right where the other bag had been when the nest was built. Surely, I thought, the bird would see the other bag, investigate it, and find the nest.

Again, I was wrong.

I came out the next day, and there was the poor little wren, perched on the closed bag, pecking insistently at the brown paper. She, and I assume it was a she, as I don’t think the male would have been so dedicated to finding the nest, was determined to get in that bag.

Now, I was feeling bad at this point. The poor bird obviously knew exactly where that nest had been, even if she didn’t recognize that the original bag was gone, and that the bag clearly positioned just a few feet away on the other side of the carport could be it. I thought that if she would only look in the other bag, all would be well.

But no, after another day of pecking at the second bag she disappeared, and the little nest remained abandoned in the original bag.

Now, these weren’t the first birds to ever lose a nest, and won’t be the last. I presume that after awhile nature’s prerogatives drove them build a new nest somewhere, and to forget about the lost one.

At least, I hope so.

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home in Downtown Pensacola, as well as watching baseball and college football, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union and is a Master Gardener. Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.