One of our favourite stories is The Best Nest by P.D. Eastman. This marvellous book tells the tale of a pair of birds searching for and building their perfect home. Now that UK bird nesting season is truly under way, we decided to have a go at building one too.
In the story, the birds set about finding all the materials they need. “First they got some hay. They got some soda straws and broom straws. They got some sweater wool. They got some stocking wool and mattress stuffing. They got some horse hair. They got some man hair.” Well, we decided to forgo the man hair, but we gathered an approximation of the rest, plus air drying clay, moss, leaves and grasses.
We turned the collecting of the materials into a week-long task. Every time we came across something we could use, we picked it up and stored it in a bowl until we had enough.
First, we sculpted a basic nest shape from the clay. Of course birds don’t use clay, but they are far cleverer with their beaks at building than the Little Explorers or Biggest Explorer could ever be with their fingers! This was an interesting concept for the Little Explorers to realise. You could use a paper bag moulded into a ring if you don’t have any clay to hand. And if you are particularly skilful you could weave a ring using any long and bendy plant stems you can find, tying it with garden string as you go.
Then the Little Explorers threaded, poked, wove and packed the nesting materials around the shape. It was a very satisfying task. The moss was used to make a soft bed at the base, and feathers, straws and wool used mainly for decoration. Littlest Explorer eventually flattened his nest into a boat, but we couldn’t argue with the creativity!
With Easter on the horizon we thought it only fair to leave a few chocolate eggs in the nest, for decorative purposes only of course! (These may be eaten and replenished by the kitchen fairy during the night.) We will put our nest out in LittleLife HQ’s garden soon to see if any birds make their home there, or if they scavenge the materials to create their own superior version!
Expert Explorers: Did you know that Australian Bower birds create elaborate structures, decorated with flowers, beetle shells and berries to attract a mate? The Satin Bowerbird chooses blue trinkets, including blue ballpoint pens and pieces of plastic to accessorise his nest with - see the video below! The older he is, the more blue items he uses. Sociable Weaver birds in the Kalahari Desert create huge group nesting sites for an entire colony. More than 100 sociable weavers can live in the nest at once (bottom left). And European Penduline tits (bottom right) build elaborate hanging nests. The nests are tightly woven and so strong that they’ve been used as purses and children’s shoes.