Beauty In the Birds-Eye Mind Of The Beholder

A snow-covered bird's nest tucked into the branch of a tree, with brightly colored ribbons woven into the nest.
A snow-covered bird’s nest with brightly colored 
ribbons woven into the nest.
© Jane M. Mason, 2014.

This is a watercolor painting I created a few years ago. It depicts a bird’s nest intertwined with holiday ribbons. It is from my imagination.

But, oh my….the experiences I have had trying to get birds to make nests using the beautiful ribbons and strands of gorgeous wool, satin, and silk that I have intentionally selected for them. I thoughtfully draped these tantalizing textile appetizers on shrubs, in trees, across porch banisters, and near bird feeders in my yard.

I discovered that no bird ever had taken any of my elegant or brilliantly dyed strands of fabric. (As much as I could scientifically ascertain with in my yard…) Over the months I watched the strands and streamers of fabric get rained on, snowed on, and bleached from the sun. Unstarched and abandoned, they sadly sank farther into the core of the shrubs or blew off branches into the flotsam of spring rains.

Having some bird families who perennially made nests at a convenient eye-height in my yard I would studiously examine what they had chosen for their nests instead of my offerings. I found plastic six-pack straps, muddy paper, twine, sticks, mud, leaves, chunks of Styrofoam, plastic from bags of chips, and other “trash” in the nests…. it was mind-boggling to contemplate why these common, discarded remnants of modern life were preferable to intentional products of a weaver or textile artists.

In the final analysis, I had to accept it: whether considering functional art, or art for arts’ sake, it really is in the eye of the beholder, eh?

So this “Winter Nest” watercolor painting with the brightly colored holiday ribbons is a wishful figment of my imagination.

Although in discussing this with my sister, she noted that in her (similar) experiments–and who knew she and I were doing the same independent experiments–she found pieces of her fabrics in nests farther away from her home. And, in discussing with others, too, they reminded me that looking only in the 2-3 nests at eye level, I really limited my review of results! So, the take-away here is not only that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, BUT ALSO that scientific experiments should be peer reviewed, and that our “line of sight” does not provide an objective point of view. (It’s like when you lose your keys looking only under the street-light because the light is better there!)

Have you tried a similar experience with studying bird behavior? Let me know.

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