Sunday, July 10, 2011

Nest Fiber Tales




A local artist told me about another artist who once strung colored yarn abound his yard. During the nesting season the birds helped themselves to the yarn and incorporated it into their nests. At the end of the season the artist collected some nests which had become colorful pieces of art.

When I was a child, Mother would put out short pieces of string for the birds to gather for nests. There was really no shortage of dead vines, twigs and stems. The string just provided another opportunity for us to observe the birds at work. In the winter the nests were easy to find and it was interesting to observe the choices the nest builder had made.

In recent years I have purposely hung fiber material which I have observed the birds, particularly the Carolina wrens and orioles, using. This little wren seems to prefer nesting close to human activity. Every year they nest on the porch of my shop and in, or just outside, the garage. Usually they will pick a natural cavity such as an old shoe, planter, carton, or bucket which has a 3” or greater opening as the starting point then they will gather a prodigious amount of long fibrous plant material to finish the nest mass.

When I tore down some dead and dried out morning glory vines or cut the old pampus grass the birds went after the debris. When we replaced an old cotton hammock I decided to use the residual rope material for nesting fiber and make hanging dispensers to contain it. I cut the old weather weakened rope to smithereens, actually about 6” lengths, and unraveled parts of the twisted cotton fiber cord and it is the bulk of the fiber I put out in dispensers ever since.

We have a north facing entrance step and walk which becomes ice covered and hazardous in some winters so we got some coir, coconut fiber, ice mats to walk on. One of them got damaged and frayed and the Carolina wrens benefitted. Later I tore up that damaged piece and in the following nesting season three large wads or it were hung and it all disappeared before the autumn.

The dispensers I made were all simple ironwork projects in several styles. I now use the one which is quickest to make. The bowl is formed as a 5/16” textured round rod coil which is then pulled out into a vortex somewhat reminescent of our Kansas twisters. I hang them from a limb with an extended S hook somewhat above head height.

They are an inexpensive little garden novelty and sell well. Yesterday a gallery emailed that a visitor had come in and bought them all so I guess I’ll be making more of those today.

1 comment:

  1. what fun...i never thought about putting out colored fabric for the birds. one summer, as i sat on the deck, i watched a squirrel come up and attack an orange string clyde had tied around something on the deck. the string started out to be a good 2 feet long. after a couple of days it was a shredded 2 inches long. if i came toward him, he would run off, but be back in 2 minutes. so, birds aren't the only critters that like colored string/fabric...

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