Friday, September 13, 2013

Nesting instincts

I love bird's nests, they're one of the construction miracles of nature, but recently I found a vacated "modernist" nest which shows how some birds are adapting to life in the heavily urbanised 21st-century city.

I found this one in a tangle of cardamom and ginger plants,
which is not where I expected to find one. However, the tangle
is directly beneath one of our olive trees, so perhaps it fell
from that more predictable spot. Viewed from above it looked
like a pretty normal nest, a finely woven dish of plant fibres.

I brought the nest back to the outdoor table under our pergola
to show it to Pammy, who will probably do a painting of it
one day, and by chance the nest was flipped over in a gust
of wind, to reveal a very plasticky surprise below.

I love the non-discriminatory attitude of birds to nest-building
materials. When they discovered the thin shreds of plastic I
imagine they thought "beauty, this stuff is light, strong, can be
woven easily to form a base, fantastic!". I know, I know,
plastic bags kill birds such as seagulls, penguins and many
others in huge numbers, but this use of plastic just shows that
the modern urban world interacts with the nautral world
not just in one way, but in a complex variety of ways, and
the creatures which adapt the best have the best chance of
reproducing and surviving. Sadly, that's Darwin for you.
I don't know which species of bird built this nest, but I never
fail to marvel at their delicate beauty and complexity. I would
much rather discover a nest built entirely of plant fibres, but
above all else I am glad to know that several families of birds
find our garden a safe enough haven to start a family here.

Hopefully the ring of down around the nest is a sign that
the babies hatched, grew up and made it into the flying club.
The thing that always gets me about bird's nests is the way that each species is hard-wired to construct a certain style of nest from particular materials. The native peewee (or pied mudlark) for example, is pre-programmed to build a very tidy nest from packed mud. In her current art show, Pam has done a painting of one American warbler's nest, which is built as a hanging basket of Spanish moss suspended in mid-air.

In the case of our found nest, the bird's hard-wiring must include a section which is a bit more laissez-faire, saying "find whatever materials you can which can be woven into a shallow dish". I just hope that the little guys made it into the world. And they are free to crap on our clothesline if they like, and chomp our figs and strawberries too. I'll do whatever I can to not get in their way (or wreck the joint) when they're in homemaking mode, and hopefully life will go on this way for many more years.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

It's a beautiful nest. I too love them and have a collection of about 10 fallen ones that I have found on the farm. They sit on our loungeroom side board and all guests admire their construction.