New Neighbors

I’ve been watching our newest neighbors as they take up residence in our yard. Bluebirds recently fledged from one of our nest boxes and a brief battle for the box was won by a pair of house wrens. There are not really four birds, as depicted, but I wanted to capture the pattern of the pair’s activities during the nest building stage. These poses were repeated over and over as I sketched. You’d think that would have made it easier, but wrens aren’t known for standing still. I switched between using binoculars and picking up the pencil to make the initial drawing, then added color later. I like the way the poses capture the some of the story of the wrens setting up house.

Tips and Techniques– I used a pale non-photo-blue pencil to make my initial sketches of the wrens. This gave me a chance to work on the postures before committing to ink. A regular pencil would have been fine, too, but the blue pencil is easy to erase and cover over with paint. It’s a handy tool for birds and other tricky subjects.

My second tip is for those of you who have nest boxes: be sure to monitor them. Open the box quickly about once a week to check on the nest, eggs, or young. This will give you a good idea of what species are using your boxes, whether they fledge successfully, and whether there are any problems. My bluebird nest became infested with ants and I was able to remove it once the birds fledged so that the box was clean for the next inhabitant. There’s good information about nest box monitoring and a code of conduct here:

17 Comments on “New Neighbors

  1. Hi Jean,
    Your work is so fresh and lovely! Thank you for sharing it. I am curious about what blue you used in the sky. It is so pretty!

    • Hi Lisa- The sky is phthalo blue with a bit of cerulean blue. I like the phthalo because its brighter and more transparent than cerulean. Thanks for checking in! –Jean

      • Thank you for sharing Jean. The combination of blues is just lovely!

  2. Jean, this is wonderful. I watch the wrens also, they are my favorites because of that perky personality! They haven’t quite figured out that living low is dangerous as black snakes really like those babies. After a month of nesting and rearing, a snake can take them all in a few minutes.

  3. I, too, have been watching our usual nesting house wrens. Today I saw something that made me very curious so I continued to monitor for a while. I believe that the young are almost ready to fledge since they are sticking their heads out and looking around. Anyway, I watched one wren go into the house and fly off with something white. Then the other parent brought a nice fat bug to feed the young. This went on and on and I realized that the parents are removing the fecal sac (just looked that up ;D). Amazing!! I am pretty sure you know this given your knowledge of nature, but I surely learned something new today. Many thanks for your very lovely paintings.

    • Excellent observation! Yes, I have seen this. My nesting robins consistently ate the fecal sac after feeding their young — that was quite something to watch! But it explains why empty nests are so clean. Thanks for sharing — enjoy your wrens!

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