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“Nature in the Little Finger Lakes” by Angela Cannon Crothers

The Unveiling of Autumn Nests

By Angela Cannon Crothers

October 2014

Last night I was weaving a slim cherry branch through the delicate edges of a Northern Oriole’s nest left behind from summer. The nest is a pouch of lichen threads and spun cottonwood fluff, or maybe felted cobwebs on a tapestry of mycelium; I don’t know - it was gifted to me by an expert birder friend from FLCC. I wanted to hang it in my new house above the door. Carefully threading the twigs through wasn’t easy - I don’t have a beak and should have used a crochet hook. Still, the pouch is hung, and tangled on this branch is also a small fly hook that I gathered along side Naples Creek.

When the season lets go of all its lush foliage, leaf by leaf, new structures emerge exposing beatific and hidden forms of seasonal, temporary, and transitional shelters; bird nests are some, but so are the soft fuzz of cocoons like those of the wintering Mourning Cloak caterpillars, the fragile egg cases of spiders, the goldenrod gall hosting a miniscule wasp larvae, and the hardened thick foam of a Praying Mantis’ ootheca containing hundres of eggs for nest spring. A nest gathers. A nest holds. Nests vary in purpose.

Bumble bee ground nests decay in the fall, and many in the Apidae family don’t make it to spring. Squirrels gather bails of leathery oak leaves high in the trees, so that they can. Porcupines use no nests at all. A nest is a gathering. A nest is a holding. Nests vary in purpose.

In fall I look for bird nests adorned with the scattered bits of colored yarn, the long thick strands of my pony’s tail, and fistfuls of hairbrush tangles from my daughter’s lovely red locks; these offerings I put out in the spring for the birds in hopes the autumn might unveil colorful works I contributed to in some small way. But I’m at a new piece of property now, out of the woods and on a sunny hillside. Here, there is a bluebird box under the twisted flowering pear that I think Buddha should be sitting under, with three abandoned blue eggs that, somehow, break my heart.

Nests gather their holdings. Nests are left windblown to what remains. Nests vary in purpose.

There are homes inhabited for shelter from winter, nests for raising young, cocoons passed through as a transition to someting else, homes in which to do one’s work, homes for settling in, and homes for dying in. Cherished, gentle shelters or those with memories as ragged as denim fray, each is a moment of time in the ever-changing journey called life. Like all things in nature, we, too, must move from season to season, year to year, and sometimes change the nest we call home in ways physical, mindful, or both.

Nests vary in their different purposes.

Editor’s Note: Angela Cannon Crothers is a naturalist and writer who teaches at Finger Lakes Community College and with The Finger Lakes Museum. Here are some columns that she has written about the Little Finger Lakes. Her columns also appear in the Lake Country Weekender newspaper.

Visit Angela’s website at: Angela Cannon Crothers

Read the Lake Country Weekender at: Lake Country Weekender