Saturday, June 9, 2012

Eagles Don't Always Come Home - Birds's Nests

Bald eagle on the nest, Phippsburg, Maine spring 2010
Eagles make enormous nests spanning 4-5 feet across. They are messy, clumsy looking nests. They do hold these giant birds and the chicks, along with whatever food they bring home.

This next nest is a Tree swallow nest. It's sitting on a bed of Thyme in my garden. In the top third of the nest in the center is an egg. This nest came from a Bluebird box on our property which is occupied by Tree Swallows. That's why the nest is square in shape. This nest had been recently abandoned, though not long before. There is feces still on the bottom right corner. This is an elegant, inviting nest.

Like eagles, Ospreys build huge nest, too. Also like eagles, they usually return to the same nest year after year. This one is on top of a utility pole. The photo was taken in February. See the snow? Osprey build nests in high places like this and are often seen atop cell phone towers. The Osprey nests are frequently disruptive to whatever the intended purpose was of their commandeered superstructure.  Under certain circumstances, power and cell phone companies have permission to remove nests.
I have a book about nest identification. It's a Petersen Field Guide titled "Eastern Bird's Nest" by Hal H. Harrison. I find bird's nests harder to identify than the birds themselves, which can be very difficult. Nests vary in appearance depending on available materials. A robin may use hay rather than sticks if that is what available. In that case, the nest would look blond and very different from one constructed of twigs. 
I'm guessing that this is the nest of a type of thrush, but I can't say for sure. It's about 4 inches across and had a mud cup consistent with thrush nest building.

This nest is tiny by comparison to the others. It's about 3 inches across. It probably is the nest of a vireo or warbler. Moss was used on the lower half. Then, Pine needles and grass were wound around together to form the interior. It looks dry and cozy.

This nest is that of a North American robin. They use mud to make a cup and then weave other material around in the mud. The nests are about 5-6 inches across. Robins aren't too fussy about where they nest and often construct nests on and around houses. This one was attached to the side of a house in a climbing Hydrangea vine.

This nest is probably that of a flycatcher, perhaps Olive sided. Thought it looks quite whimsical, it's solidly constructed.

Baltimore orioles build nests about 40 feet up in deciduous trees and construct this pouch style nest. I love the pieces of tarpaulins that have been woven into it. On the bottom right are some white lumps of stuffing. They have been pulled from a pillow, mattress or sleeping bag.

A few years ago, I used to go almost daily to a Bald eagle nest to see what the birds were up to. I followed the progress of the two chicks born there through to the day they took their first flight. The next year, I went eagerly to the nest again. I hoped to catch another season of wonder in nest building, courting, mating and growing Bald eagle chicks.
It was early in the Maine spring. Bald eagles start courting and working on their nests in March here. The nest is on the shores of the Kennebec River where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Unrelenting wind blows hard, raw and cold. My fingers froze. Several times, I pulled them back into the sleeves of my jacket, like retreating turtles. I cupped one hand in the other alternately blowing warm breath into the hand cave. I put in my time in my deep desire to see the eagles. But, no eagles.
Days went by. I wondered, "Geez, where are they?” The Bald eagle pair had nested there for several years, so it was not a new place to them. I had seen them in the air a few times, so I knew they were around. But, they were not nesting. There had not been any construction or other disruptions by man in the area. What could it be? Why had they forsaken me? Me? What about me? Of course, whether they nested there or not had nothing to do with me, but somehow it felt personal.
Like a little kid, I wished really hard for them to bring in a stick or even just light on the rim of the nest to investigate. I wished like a child wishing for a certain Christmas present though she knows that Santa Claus doesn't really exist. When I heard them keening from high in the sky or across the river, I pleaded hard. "Please, please, please," as if they could hear me or understand.
But, no eagles. I had time to look around, to ponder what had changed that made this familiar nest no longer appealing to them. A few years before, they had a different nest a couple of hundred feet away. A wind storm snapped off branches from the huge, White pine that held it. That year, they moved to this newer site. Like a bridge inspector I peered at the superstructure, looking for cracks, signs of crumbling, or changes in integrity. Then, I saw it.
Slithering up the side of the tree, sixty feet into the air above me, meandered a green video cable. It crawled from the woods before climbing up the opposite side of the tree from where I had been watching. The anaconda wire was the feed for a nest cam. The BioDiversity Research Institute had positioned a camera in the nest to monitor the Bald eagle population. In the process, they had captured and banded one of the adults. Should that bird be found dead, they could know about its life history.
             I was outraged like someone had stolen my lunch money! Though heartbroken and angry, I tried to be logical. Wasn't it a good thing to monitor the eagles? Most people can't go sit and freeze their fingers to see a nest and then, hopefully, one day the ensuing young. Most people sit in their offices, stealing moments to look at video cams across the planet. They are voyeurs to the lives of puppies, heinous baby sitters, cheating partners, and eagles. Video cams and photography are ways in which the average person gets to see things they otherwise would not. And in that, they become invested in their welfare. Monitoring of eagle populations is how we came to realize that we were killing them off in the first place!
To protect our resources, it's better to know more about them, even when sometimes there are counterproductive outcomes. There’s risks and always good and bad to everything. And, truthfully, there could have been other reasons the eagles did not come back to that nest having nothing to do with the plastic cable and camera. There are normal, natural reasons that eagles do not nest every year; it’s not always pathological. Perhaps they were just bored and wanted a new place with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, like everyone else.           

This past spring, a friend of thirty-five years called. She said she wanted to talk to me about something. 
  "What's up?" I asked.
            "I don't want to talk about it on the phone," she said.
            "Oh, come on! Just tell me!" I said, but no, she wouldn't.
So, we made a date to meet. That gave me a week to think about what she could possibly have on her mind.  
            My first thought was that something was wrong with her husband, or kids, or grandkids. "Oh God, I hope nobody's sick." I agonized. I asked my husband what he thought. "Do you think maybe there's something wrong with Mike?" My husband had no idea, either.
            With nothing to get my teeth into for a possible reason, I began to wonder if I had done something to tick her off. We hadn't talked much for months, actually. Come to think of it. So how could it be anything? It must be something. Like walking with a rock in my shoe, I went over and over every conversation between us for the past six months. I analyzed and worked over all of it, but remained mystified. Nothing. I couldn't come up with anything. Though I was at a complete loss, for the week before we were to meet, my guts were in a knot. She was my oldest, dearest friend. Nothing like this had ever gone on between us before.
            When I got to her house we hugged as we always did. Her dogs barked and jumped on me, scratching my leg through my pants as they always did. She screamed at them to get off, as she always did. She poured us each an oversized glass of red wine, as she always did. Then we, sat down in the living room, and she let me have it. Which she never did. 
            She told me I was an arrogant, social elitist snob. She said that I had totally changed and did not even look the same anymore. She said that since I had lost weight and become a celebrity, I thought I was too good for everybody else. She dredged up some year old, now friendship ancient history events, which had made her angry - things I could barely recall, never mind defend, things she had harboured for a year. She beat me over the head with the details, clear and fresh in her mind. She punched me with the word 'arrogant,' slapped me with 'snob,' screamed 'know it all,' until my ears were ringing. It was a first rate mugging.
            Like most people who are assaulted, I forgot that I ever took martial arts classes. Every kick boxing move I practiced in the gym had forsaken me. I was in disbelief at what was happening. I stared blankly at her, then laughed and blurted just the worst possible, wrong thing.
            "You're such an idiot, a moron! You can't be serious! What the hell...." I trailed off. She had to be joking. My glass of wine suddenly seemed all wrong in my hand. I set it down on the side table, carefully, before I dropped the whole thing or snapped the stem in half.
            "And that's another thing!" My old pal's smoking rant had only just begun, as it turned out. And I had just thrown gasoline on it.
            When it was 'over,' I was crying and feeling sick to my stomach. The room was quiet. Even the dogs had stopped their incessant barking, always the background to our conversations. I was still wearing my jacket, but I was cold. My fancy scarf and earrings I had chosen specifically for her to see now seemed ridiculous. My stomach churned and growled.
            "So," said my pal. "Ya ready to go out to dinner now?"
            "No, no," was my weak response.  "Are you kidding? After that?" 
            When she stood up I think I flinched. She said "I gotta let the dogs out. I'll be right back."
            She came back into the room with the bottle of wine. Still standing, she topped off her own glass. Wine dribbled down the neck of the bottle onto the carpet. She made no move to blot it up. Normally, an overly fastidious person, she would have jumped on it with a sprayer of Resolve.
            I thought, "Okay, I’m going to rise above this tantrum, this tirade, this whatever-the-hell." It had obviously bothered her, too. I said we might as well go to dinner, which we did. It was stiff. It was awkward. I watched every word that came out of my mouth. I edited and checked every joke. The spontaneous, apparently arrogant, elitist snob, know it all was having a time out.
           It's been months since that happened. I've thought about it every day. Reliving that verbal vomit session on her couch is replayed in my head nearly every night as I'm drifting off to sleep. She is my oldest friend. Friends should be able to tell each other what they feel like, right? Friends should clear the air, right? Friends should be honest, right? Friends should forgive each other, stay loyal, and get over it, right? But, I can't. I've lost some golden thread of trust. I've been told I'm a monster, a self serving, hideous beast that has stomped on my friend. And not just once. No! Apparently many times! I've been told I'm oblivious, self absorbed and uncaring!  I've been told I'm not lovable. And I can't get over it.
        There's a crevasse between us now. I see it every time we speak. My off the cuff, slap stick, jokester self dangles over the darkness waiting to die in every conversation. I can't be me anymore. In a friendship, if you can't be who you are, what is there? A friendship is where trust, loyalty and forgiveness are everything. In every other social relationship, we are at known risk. We know we would be fired for certain things, thrown out of an office for certain things, or even arrested. But a friendship is a relationship we choose because of safety in the bond.
         I don't know what to do with this. I don't know where it will end up. I take each day with her, one at a time. Maybe I'll forget. Maybe I’ll forgive. One thing I do know is that sometimes eagles do not come back to the nest.              

To watch a live Osprey nest came, visit this site:!/live-cams/player/live-osprey-cam


  1. I love the nests you've shared. I've never collected a nest, but have seen a few that friends have. They are very interesting.

    1. My husband broke up with me a month ago because of the little misunderstanding will had, he was dating other young lady and he never take me out again he was totally changed and he never listen to any thing i told him. one day he came and told me he is bringing in other lady in our home, i was so frustrated so when i came across Dr.airiohuodion ( how he use to rebuild broken home and make their family to reunite together again, so i quickly email him and explain all my problem to him and he guarantee me that my husband will definable want me back after the reunite spell. After everything my husband (SAM) came back to tell me he still love and cherish me that he promise never to cheat on me any more i was so happy and i quickly email Dr.airiohuodion ( and thank him for the wonderful spell, he was God sent and if you need his helping hand contact his direct email at.(

  2. Thank you, Barbara. I should note here that to possess bird nests in the United States is a crime. It is a federal offense in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. But, I'm pleased you saw the beauty in them that I do.

  3. You take such gorgeous photos; how do you manage to find such great spots? Although the story was not what I expected; so sorry about your friend.

  4. Postmormongirl (for some reason, every time I read your user name, my mind reads 'postmortem girl,' oh so sad!), I live in an incredible place, coastal Maine, which gives me more opportunities than most people. Then, I take advantage of it. I'm always looking and always have my camera, no matter what else I might be doing. And, I'm lucky, just plain lucky. thanks for the read.

  5. Wow! First off the nest shots are lovely.
    Yes friends should be able to be honest with one another, upfront and foreword, not hold things in for a year and then dump the heap of growing stinking fermenting mess upon anthers head. I must say I felt stunned reading your story. You must be pretty amazing to have taken that and still went to dinner, I would have bolted when she went to get the wine. Sometimes doors close and sometimes birds nest elsewhere. Hugs, a big one, sounds like you need one.

  6. We have some of the same nests in our collections, and I feel a little like you do, about being glued to the Cornell Labs nest cams. If the roles were reversed, and thousands of birds were watching my every move online, it would feel so violating.

    Your friend sounds like she is going through a rough patch. You'll figure out what you want to do.
    June 10, 2012 07:30 PM

  7. How did you manage to take such rare photo?
    Does he know you and great you as a welcome friend?
    Heidi Banerjee
    tipo.It should read "greet"

  8. I enjoyed seeing all the different bird nests. Great photos. Sorry about your friend, maybe things can be worked out? Have a great weekend!

  9. I thought your story was moving! Your nest images are excellent.

  10. Eileen and Mike thank you both very much. I'm sure it will all work out. At least, I hope so. You are very kind to give your time to my work.

  11. As usual, your photos are wonderful. The story about your friend is certainly perplexing and I would feel similarly as you....numb, hurt, and angry. I don't see how your friendship will ever be the same because of her assault. When you have time, please read my short piece I posted late last night. Parts of it have to do with you and your friend......
    I Love Life
    June 18, 2012 09:25 AM

  12. P.S. I'm not sure how I missed this post of your written on June 9. My only explanation is that I'm not on Open Salon as much as I used to be.
    I Love Life

  13. Robin, your work is strong and beautiful, rated!!!

  14. Robin, I'm sorry I'm so late getting to this, I've had a few issues of my own to deal with. Great photos as usual, I enjoyed seeing all the different nests. As for your friend, don't know what to say, hope things settle down. You say you've spoken to her since this happened? Does she still want to be friends?
    A Simple Shutterbug
    June 22, 2012 08:27 AM

  15. Your pictures and knowledge are amazing and your friend I swear jealous for some reason, weight loss will do that or any number of things. That you / that she still expected you to go out to eat with her shows just what an incredible woman you are. I hope you find your way around her...
    Lunchlady 2
    June 22, 2012 08:16 PM

  16. Beautiful photographs, fantastic eagle. I am greeting

  17. Hi Robin, Love the four Canada Geese from that surprising angle! And the nesting Eagles are great. I stopped by the blog hoping to see the Evening Grosbeaks and will look again soon.
    I hope that your story was not autobiographical, such a painful experience. In case you lived every painful moment, let me sympathize, and describe a(much less traumatic) moment of social dysfunction. I have a new little Canon PowerShot (SX150IS)and while I was dog-walking with a neighbor I stopped to try a close-up photo of a wildflower with my new gear. While fiddling with the settings I turned on the video function -but I did not know that. When I transferred the images to my computer I was shocked to hear a 60 second exchange between me and my neighbor (all that was visible was the *Linnaea borealis*). Our voices were excessively low and polite with barely concealed hostility! We were both condescending (not an easy trick) and both of us sounded as if we were speaking to an alien of inferior intelligence who had not mastered English. It was so sad, and a hoot! at the same time. I cringe to remember it. My neighbor and I differ in styles, objectives and needs, but our dogs are very good friends and so we walk them together. Your story struck a chord; I hope I never face a showdown like the one you describe.

  18. Robin, you are a very good writer as well as an outstanding photographer. I am so sorry this happened to you.

  19. thank you for this your broadcast provided bright clear concept..


  20. Awesome blog, i always enjoy & read the post you are sharing.Thank for your very good article...!