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Guest ARTicle: Nesting in Place

by David Kewitt

SAGE Member, Oil painter from Cody, Wyoming

In this week's Guest ARTicle, David Kewitt explains the inspiration and process of recreating one of nature's most delicate works of art: the bird nest.

"We have a good-sized yard with mature trees and bushes, a nice variety. The yard attracts number of different birds. The blue spruce by the front gate has hosted a number of nests over the years, and many end up after a big wind on the ground by the front door. The nests range from being somewhat crude to extremely detailed, fine examples but all the nests we find are very interesting.  Sometime they arrive on the ground with passengers. One time, 2 of the 3 newborn helpless chicks survived that first flight to the ground (in the nest) but never were able to fly on their own.

Having a nest to examine in your own hands is awe-inspiring, and I have been hooked watching the birds that use this space. Many nests don't appear until the leaves start falling. Others, particularly those that robins may build in plain view, seem to be okay with us sharing their space.

Last spring, we had a particularly beautiful robin nest appear above my shop door, tucked in the notch formed between the building and the shoulder mount of a deer archery target that I had hung there years ago to see if it would attract any neighborhood arrows. Unfortunately, this nesting spot was abandoned by the birds, I think because it faced south, and didn't have any foliage to block the sun. The heat bouncing off the building was just too hot. After returning from a week away, we noticed the robin pair was gone.  We waited a few days and still nothing.  In hopes of attracting them back, I climbed up and put a simple shed roof over the nest. No luck, but the nest survived the winter and we remain hopeful this spring.

My own nest building actually started quite a few years ago out of my adoration the birds and what they do. Trees and bushes need to be trimmed at times;   sometimes there are lots of branches that I could take to the dump, cut up to burn, or find a project to use them.  A lot of the branches have nice curve to them, and I thought they would make a nice nest around the base of the blue spruce. Bird nests have lots of material in them. I realized that this would not be a quick project! Some years: lots of material -- some years: no material or time. 

This spring? Lots of time, material, and energy to expend and also the enthusiasm to make a lot of progress on the nest project. My first goal was to trim branches away from the overhead wires. That done, there was still a lot of material on the ground to deal with. I separate firewood by cutting smaller branches off bigger branches, leaving many wispy branches that would be great for the nest!

It is a great way to isolate in place.  A work project became the spark that reignited the creative thoughtful process of building a nest that started years ago. As with most projects, it has been very satisfying to see progress and a lot of fun.  I'm not sure if it is done but it is looking good!"

This week's #ARTbreakSAGE Challenge is all about our beautiful planet. Use natural (found) materials, recycled materials, or upcycle something old into something new. Or, consider a project like David's: put yourself in a bird's "shoes"!


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