Friday, August 14, 2009

Recent Hike: Rock Wrens

I haven't been doing that much hiking recently, not since our second Wheeler Peak hike, which was one week after the Wheeler hike I reported on last month. The second hike on Wheeler was less spectacular, except for the increase in blooming wildflowers; oh, and it was sunny.
We didn't go as high, I couldn't go as fast, and it became apparent that I had inflamed or overused my right IT Band, resulting in something commonly called "runners knee." I've been going easy on any walks or hikes on hills ever since, with the downs being worse than the ups.

Last week, I broke from the taking-it-easy mode, and went farther up our hiking hill than I have been going recently, resulting in another flare-up, though one not as bad as the first. Overall, that aspect of hiking has been discouraging. What I need are hills where I can walk down first, then walk back up. This can be done at Great Basin National Park, not by heading for the peak, but by walking down from the Wheeler Peak Camp toward the Upper Lehman Camp, then turning around and walking up before the leg and knee get sore. That's the reverse of the kind of hiking I prefer to do.
On the way back down, not far above our little house, MOH and I came across a group of birds hanging out in and near this stack of railroad ties. The railroad ties had obviously been stacked up for the birds' convenience and entertainment.
The birds turned out to be Rock Wrens. More pictures of these birds and interesting descriptions of them and their habits can be found here, here, and here.
Most of the Rock Wrens we saw were fluffy, as though they were newly fledged. This one appeared to be begging for food.
This is the same bird with it's mouth closed.
A Rock Wren blends in with a nearby pile of old cottonwood stumps.
I managed to catch two of these birds engaged in a curious activity.
These birds pop up and down, up and down, as you can see in these three photos.
Up and down, up and down... doing something The Sibley Guide to Birds refers to as "deep knee bends."

MOH and I have both seen Rock Wrens in and near our little garden, although I have not yet managed to get a photo of them there. We are hoping they are eating nasty bugs and insects, such as the large grasshoppers we have seen recently.
Grasshopper in our kale!


David B. Williams said...

Greetings and fun shots of the rock wren. They are quite nifty little birds. Here's what I once wrote about them.

"The classic rock wren sign is the gravel walkway that leads to their nest. Some walkways run up to ten inches in length. Rock wrens live in a labyrinthine world of crevices, nooks, passageways, and recesses. True to their name they even use rocks in their nests and pave their nest cavity with small pebbles.

Early ornithologists hypothesized that this behavior might help the birds recognize their nest cavity from the multitude of holes found in cliff faces or that the walkway kept "the young from falling into crevices or getting their feet caught in the same." To this day no one knows the real reason."

I am not sure if anyone has figured the reason for why they build their runways of rocks. Why do we humans collect rocks?

Silver Fox said...

Hello, David. I also find it interesting that rock wrens build a gravel walkway, and your quoted words give more of an explanation than anything I found in my online searches. I hadn't read about them using rocks in the nest, though. Maybe they were the first geologists!