Marsh Wren Madness

How about a little cleansing--both figuratively and literally. I've been so busy with the state fair, the RNC, and CivicFest I've barely had time to do some digiscoping. I was able to sneak out for a few hours but felt like my mojo was a little off.

I went birding to a place I use to go to all the time but haven't been to in ages--The Old Cedar Avenue Bridge. I got a reminder why during my outing. There's a trail that's loaded with rails and soras. The above photo is not the best ever photo of a sora, but it certainly is a true to life one--isn't this how you normally see them--shrouded in vegetation. That is, if you see them at all.

The most interesting part of the morning was some odd fluttering I saw on the boardwalk trail. At first I thought it was injured and flailing a bit on the boardwalk but I changed my position and discovered something really cool.

It was a juvenile marsh wren. Check out the little bits of yellow in the corners of its bill.

It had what looked to be a small ant in its bill and it would alternate between preening and stretching out its wings on the boards. I think it was trying to figure out anting. For non birders, anting is something some bird species have been observed doing. Birds take ants and either place them on their feathers or sometimes will lie near an ant mound, allowing ants to crawl on them. It's believed that they acquire defensive secretions from the ants (formic acid) and that it's possibly used as a supplement to the bird's own preen oil.

In this shot, the young marsh wren is totally spread eagled (or should that be spread wrened?) on the boards and is even exposing its preen gland--that's the little pink spot right above the tail. All birds have this, they squeeze it with their bill and excrete oil that is then rubbed all over their feathers. Imagine having a large gland right above your butt that you would squeeze to get some body oil to run through your hair to keep it shiny and strong?

The young marsh wren continued to preen with the wings out, although I couldn't see any more ants around it at this point. It didn't appear to be bothered by me at all, I thought I would try to get a video.

I did, but you can hear me yelling at some bike riders in the background. One of the reasons why I don't go to the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge anymore is that some of the trails are narrow and only meant for foot traffic, but many bike riders like to bring their mountain bikes onto the trail--creating a dangerous situation for both the rider and the hiker.

As I was taking the video of the wren, I saw some bike riders approach. I tried to hold up my hands indicating for them to stop but they didn't understand. I then started saying "No bikes." and explaining the trail rules. However, by the time they stopped, they were right next to the wren and it disappeared into the reeds--doh! I think they thought I was some nutty woman and turned around more to avoid me than to follow the rules of the trail.

They claimed they didn't see this sign that shows this is a hiking only trail.

But, I'm forgetting the purpose of this post: the cleansing of the cute, young marsh wren in its preening glory must out weigh idiots who ignore signs putting themselves and others at risk. Here's a link to the marsh wren video. I recommend clicking on the "watch in high quality" and also hitting the mute button.