Last Sunday I was on my way to the beach when I got distracted by the sound of some birds that turned out to be winter wrens. There were at least two birds, but one in particular was quite active chipping and occasionally singing the distinctive winter wren song. As I sat watching and listening, I heard some rustling coming from the salmonberry bushes to my left. The noises got closer and before long, what appeared to be a young winter wren came into view. While the adults seemed to flit noiselessly through the most tangled of thickets, this young bird could not seem to avoid running into branches and leaves even in the relatively loose bushes through which it was traveling. It came to within five feet of me when it suddenly seemed to realize that there was something out there that it should probably be concerned about, that is, me. It came to a sudden and somewhat graceless stop, resting heavily on the forked branches of a salmonberry. It sat and stared in my direction for quite some time before it retreated back into the bushes from whence it came chipping as it went.
As all this was going on with the young bird, the adult winter wren continued its chipping and singing. It seemed to me to be trying to communicate with the young bird, although I am not sure what it was trying to say. Perhaps it was encouraging the bird to practice flying. Some minutes after the young bird had disappeared, the adult started to move about. It flew some distance away, although it continued the chipping and singing. Before too long, the adult bird was back fairly close to me and it carried some stuff in its mouth. It perched on the branches of a tree that had been cut down and began chipping insistently. Soon, it received a weaker reply coming from the bushes. It flew into the bushes where it remained for a couple of seconds and then flew back out. When it came back out it still have stuff in its beak, but not as much. This was repeated a couple of times before the adult had nothing left in its beak. The adult flew back to the large tree where I had first noticed it and started chipping and singing again. At this point, I guessed that maybe there was a nest down in the bushes where the adult had gone. Figuring that the young bird would need to eat again soon, I decided to do my best to quietly slip into the bushes and wait for the next feeding in a place where I could see what was going on.
I had seen roughly where the adult had gone to deliver the food, so I got down on my stomach and wormed my way to where I had a relatively good view of that location. I had been waiting there trying to be quiet and still for quite some time when the young bird started chipping. I looked and was able to see the bird through the branches. It did seem to be aware of me and a little uncomfortable about my presence, but not so much so that it flew away. Sometime after it started chipping, the adult flew back. I was hoping that it would come down to feed the young bird again, but this time it flew around calling to the little bird and after a brief conversation, the little bird flew off with the adult. Perhaps the adult was not happy with my presence and decided that it was time to move on.
In the day since my observations of the winter wrens, I have heard the chipping and singing. I am guessing that this is the sound of the adult teaching the young bird the ways of winter wrens. Soon it will probably be on its own.