Friday, November 5, 2010

Small Changes

In the spring the cats and I watched as a pair of cardinals labored day after day
 to construct a nest in the "burning bush" a few feet beyond the sliding door in the dining area.
A good deal of building material was conveyed to the site, much of it to be rejected before the nest was
finished and ready for eggs.

Teasel, intent on the "pretty red birds" going about their business such a short distance from her nose.

Although the cardinals raised their young in such close proximity to us they were shy
and I was never able to get a photo which showed more than a flash of red feathers.
When the young birds fledged the cardinal family spent several weeks bobbing about the back yard.

There has been a biting north wind several days this week and the brilliant fall foliage of the euonymus
has been mostly stripped from the branches.
The cats and I looked out on a grey sky this morning.
Something in our nearer focus seemed different
and after a moment I realized that the now familiar shape of the cardinals' nest was missing.
Dislodged from its place in the shrubby twigs it lay on the fallen leaves.

I picked it up and marveled over its workmanship.
It was built of coarser materials than I would have imagined; fine twigs made a framework
around which were woven broad blades of grass.
J. thinks it is "Johnson grass" plucked from the rough area near the drained pond.
Even the interior of the nest seems rather crispy and unyielding.

The underside of the nest displaying the coarsely woven blades of grass--almost like a basket.
I brought the fallen nest inside and placed it on one of the shelves which Mr. Rogers built 30 years ago on either side of the fireplace.  Hopefully it is tucked high enough that the cats will not discover it
and decide it is a plaything.

On hands and knees beneath the bush I was struck by what
a large and tangled thing it would seem looming above a small child
[or a cat]
a wonderful place of imaginative possibilities.

My thanks to "quiltcat" who kindly left a comment several posts back identifying the shrub
as euonymus, 'burning bush.'


  1. It does look very coarsely constructed, but perhaps that makes it more substantial in the face of a summer gale? We once found a Chaffinches? nest which was SO soft inside and had hair from Merlin, our palomino Section A's tail, woven into it, alongside mosses. I kept it for years. Cardinals are such beautiful birds.

  2. You're really lucky that you saw where the cardinals had their nest! I've had a pair (or two) of cardinals nesting in my yard for years and most of the time i don't know where the nest is. Just a word of most states it's illegal to possess a bird's nest, even out of season...and more serious, perhaps, beware of any insect pests who were living in the nest and might get active again now that they're indoors and warm.

  3. I have just looked up the Cardinal in an old bird book that my father used to take with him, when his work took him to the US. It does look a beautiful bird. How wonderful to have a pair nesting so close to home.

    We have so many wild birds nesting in the garden, fields and the woodlands nearby, but they are so secretive that we rarely find the location of a nest until autumn winds blow the leaf cover away.