November’s Nest

I spy the nest in a thicket at the edge of the field. There’s no way to reach it but to wade in. I follow an old deer trail that takes me part way, and then battle brambles, thorns, and waist-high goldenrod stems to reach the prize. Unlike many nests at this time of year, this one is still quite intact. Whoever wove it did a beautiful job.

Tips and Techniques– I always do some research about my subjects, especially nests. Like identifying birds, identifying nests requires a process of elimination. At first glance, I think this is a goldfinch, but I’m not sure. It’s the right place, height, shape, and size, but lacks the soft thistle down and spider webs that typically adorn the top and inside cup of goldfinch nests. I’ve searched field guides to nests, online images, and bird information, which helped me rule out various sparrows, finches, and warblers, but still I haven’t found a perfect match. It could be that this particular goldfinch didn’t follow the script. Sometimes you just have to accept the mystery. At any rate, I thought I should post it before it becomes December’s Nest.

28 Comments on “November’s Nest

  1. So exceptionally beautiful, a sensitive endearing so carefully painted. Lovely!

  2. I too found a nest woven like yours in Groveton, NH. I watch it for over a year, saw no signs of any bird using it and then I made the decision to cut the supporting limbs, leaving the n est in tack. I have it in my house. I have never seen another in that area. I would like to know what bird build that nest also. janice fleetwood-bean

    • Another nest mystery! Consider the habitat first. That will help you eliminate unlikely candidates and narrow your choices. Most birds do not reuse the same nest, though they may nest in the same location, especially if they are successful.

  3. Your bird nests are always so delicate and exquisite!!! Thank you for sharing your tips with us and inspiring us to go outside to paint and learn about a nest ourselves!!!!

  4. I learn so much from these posts and illustrations of yours. I think your nest builder was exercising artistic license!

  5. Superb, Jean! The perspective and story of this nest is outstanding and enchanting. It must not have been too high to inspect for a downy bed. I’d like to think your goldfinch was a rebel and built this nest in unique fashion. But I do love a good mystery. Maybe the builder will return next year and make improvements while you watch?
    I absolutely love your nests.

    • The nest was about seven feet off the ground so I could bend the limb down to look in. I’ll go back and inspect it again. It’s rare to find a nest in season, except for a few species that hang out close to houses. Most birds are so secretive and so good at hiding their nests and not letting you follow them. The field is too thick to reach this spot in the summer, too. I’m grateful to find the nests in the fall.

      • Luckily the branch was flexible enough to bend! I’ve been wondering why songbirds build nests where they do ….. why some are higher than others. And do they always choose the same species of tree or shrub. I agree it’s a challenge to find an active nest, and was lucky to find a scrub jay nest this year. She gave herself away by her call when flying right in front of me. I stood very still, and after a brief perch on a close by piñon, she flew straight into a scrub oak, right into her nest. When she left again, I stood on a rock to peek inside and discovered a few eggs. Such a woody nest about 6 feet above ground, but in the very densest part of the tree.
        I’d be curious what you discover about your pretty nest after another inspection. Do you know what species of tree this bird nested in?

      • That’s pretty typical behavior, Barb. Birds don’t often fly directly to a nest. They perch nearby to take a quick look around and then duck in. It’s often a “tell” if you see that behavior in springtime. Cool that you found the scrub jay nest. Nesting strategies are diverse and fascinating…which always keeps me looking.

  6. Just lovely, as always. I love to learn about art and birds and nests from you. How exciting to find a new discovery of one in November! Perhaps the down has blown away by now? I have a good many goldfinches around, but have never gone looking for a nest. Now I know what needs to be added to tomorrow’s list of things to do 🙂 Thank you for the many ways you inspire me!

    • Thanks so much Cathy. Good luck with your nest search! I always start by scanning trees and shrubs for dark shapes in the branches. With the leaves down, sometimes a nest will be quite obvious and you’ll get lucky. Think like a bird– where would you want to hide your nest?

  7. So beautiful. It appears to be like me “ holding on for dear life “ against all the obstacles thrown at it. lol

    • I’m sorry you are “holding on for dear life” but hopefully, like this nest, you are still full of beauty and intrigue despite (or perhaps because of) the hardships. Those unraveled strands are what make the nest interesting.

  8. What a beautiful piece! I love the composition, the rendering, and the way you used the blue. Marvellous! I have a number of nests that I cannot identify (they blow out of the trees in my yard).Time to educate myself about them. Nests are such ingenious structures.


    • Lucky you to have nest falling at your feet. My advice is to consider the birds you see most frequently in your yard and look up their nesting habits and nest structures. The bigger the bird the bigger the nest. I like the book “Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds” by Baicich and Harrison. All About Birds online is also helpful.

  9. Your sketch has so much life and charm – down to the quick stroke of buttery yellow behind the title. It’s always exciting to find nests. I have a very old Peterson guide to birds’ nests, dated 1975, that I held onto mainly because I love looking at the pictures. 🙂

    • I have that same field guide. The photo quality is awful by today’s standards, but it still works. The variety is amazing and I am more aware than ever of the many nests that I’ll never find hidden on the ground, in thickets and tall reeds, high up in tree tops, etc. etc.

      • 🙂 That’s too much! Yes, it’s old-school but I’m fond of it, for the reason you mention – just leafing through it reveals all that variety.

  10. As someone who sews for a living I’m always impressed with how deft birds are with only beak and claws. Making a painted study of this is a great inspiration. Well done!

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