Monday, September 11, 2006

The Artful Builder

Yesterday's brief walk in the woods yielded this small wonder which took me right out of my doldrums for a while, a delicate vireo's nest suspended from the slender forked twigs of a small maple tree at the edge of the trail.

The nest was so skillfully placed among the branches that I didn't notice it for some time, discovering it only when a young grouse exploded out of the path in front of me in a flurry of wings and agitation and launched itself skyward with considerable difficulty. The bird had been feeding in the fermented grapes nearby and was more than a trifle intoxicated, careening off several trees, thrashing about in the undergrowth and shrieking hysterically before it finally managed to become airborne and settled tipsily in a tall cedar nearby.

The upper edge of the vireo's hanging basket nest was carefully secured to the maple twigs with all sorts of things, bits of hair, grape vine fibres, gossamer spider webs and what looked like the silk from caterpillar cocoons. The inside of the nest was filled with down, and woven artfully into the outside structure of the nest were birch bark, leaves, lichens, fur, mosses, bits of goatsbeard fluff and even small wild turkey feathers.

An Algonquin basket maker would have been proud to claim the vireo's nest, which is organic architecture of the highest order, and I doubt even Antonio Gaudí could have produced a structure more functional and pleasing to the eye. He would, however, been delighted by the concatenary arrangement of its elements.

The woodland was quiet yesterday, and the trees
along the edge of the western hill are starting to turn gloriously, enfolded in the sunny days and cold nights which engender the brightest and most colourful autumns here in the north. Out of such small gifts come clarity, stillness and resolution.


Anonymous said...

Good Morning Kerrdelune,
Thank you for this photo and for a wonderful interpreted tour. I would never have noticed all that you saw. For many years I've admired nests as one of nature's true miracles. Built by beak, claw and wing. The delightful detail for me is that each bird makes a specific type of next, replete with individual linings. This was a great way to start my day. Now, off I go to the Long Island Expressway!

Anonymous said...

I've read speculation that humans learned to weave baskets and fabrics by observing birds making such nests and learned to make pottery by observing wasps making mud nests.

Pam in Tucson said...

What a wonderful discovery! Thank you for describing it in such detail. Otherwise I would never have known its true complexity. Some of my favourite works of art are those created from necessity.

Endment said...

I add my thanks to Pam's - your description has opened my eyes and I find I am seeing things that were before me ---yet I did not see
thank you