The other day a student brought in a nest that he found in his grandparent’s backyard. I suppose it really was just a matter of time that a student brought some sort of bird biofact into the classroom. I do talk about birds quite a bit in class and I was thankful it wasn’t an old owl pellet or a dead bird. And of course I did what any sketcher would do, I took the nest home and I drew it. The more I sketched the nest, it’s twists and curves, the more I was able to see its architecture and design. I began to see things I hadn’t noticed before, like the petal-less flower stems that ringed the base and the variety of materials used. At first I though the nest belonged to a scrub-jay but upon further measurements and research, including looking at Maryjo Koch’s wonderful book The Nest, I determined that the nest was made by a California towhee.
I like it when the detective work is taken out of the equation when it comes to identifying a nest. Such as seeing a scrub-jay fly into a rose bush at a community garden or a steller’s jay nesting in a potted tree on the patio of a busy restaurant (See the bottom sketch in the Mission #1 post). One nest discovery that made it into my journal was from an experience hiking around the alien landscape of French Meadows Reservoir in the Sierra Nevadas. While hiking among the rocky shoreline I startled a spotted sandpiper who limped away from me with a “broken” wing. I had seen this mock behavior with other ground nesting birds like the killdeer and I know that I was very close to it’s nest and the bird was trying to lead me away. I was careful not to step on the nest and I found it after a short search. The sandpiper’s nest contains four blotched eggs. An interesting fact about the spotted is that the males broods the eggs instead of the female.