Traveling through the oak savanna east of Anderson in Shasta County you can find some amazing things. Our Audubon chapter frequently enjoys bird outings in this area where we see Horned Larks, bluebirds, woodpeckers, falcons, accipiters and hawks, including one of my favorite hawks, the Ferruginous Hawk.
But once you turn onto Ash Creek Road from Parkville Road and travel just a few miles you begin to see an incredible sight. A rock wall.
This rock wall was built over the past nine years by a cattle rancher and his crew. It runs four to five feet tall and five to six feet wide. The amazing thing is that there is currently about 17 miles of rock wall along Ash Creek and Wildcat Roads! That’s a lot of rocks!
The coolest thing about these rock walls, besides keeping the cattle off the roadway, is that they create habitat for the Rock Wren. After getting a report of “Rock Wrens everywhere” from a fellow birder, I decided to head up that way and try and get some good photos of the lively little bird. As always, click on photos for full sized image.
Rock Wrens can be found primarily in arid or semiarid areas with exposed rock in western North America, from British Columbia and Alberta, through Mexico, down to Costa Rica.
They are very active birds, like most wrens, but they usually don’t offer themselves up for scrutiny for more than a few seconds at a time. Like Marsh Wrens that usually pop up out of the bulrush for a couple of seconds, then head back into the thick of it, these guys pop up on top of the rock, then dive into a crevice.
Occasionally they will scurry along the top of the rock walls out here and sing. Audio courtesy of Andrew Spencer, downloaded from Xeno-canto.
On this beautiful sunny day, the Rock Wrens were very active. Coming out, posing on top of the rock wall, climbing over the rocks and peering into crevices then running out onto the short grass and up atop another rock to pose!
One of the most interesting things about the Rock Wren is its nest building. The male and female will actually build a pavement that leads up to the nest. A pathway of stones and sometimes sticks and other material are built at the entrance to the nest cavity before the actual nest is built1. I have never seen this but now that I know where to look, I will search for a nest later this spring, late April or early May.
I was fortunate to watch this guy preening though and took this video. I set the video to a tune by Leo Kottke that I though fit this bird very well. At the end of the video you can see the Rock Wren doing its typical “bobbing” motion before it takes off.
In case you didn’t get to see those fluffy feathers during the video (they do move pretty fast), I made a collage of four of the preening photos I took.
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