Friday, March 26, 2010

Repurposing - Building a Nest

This month as I've tried to take my Green Action #3 by living sustainably everyday, I've also been watching the Allen's hummingbirds building their nests.

These tiny industrious birds are models of sustainable living. When the female builds her nest she gathers a variety of natural materials: new and old spider web, plant fiber and animal hair, feathers and twigs, grasses and bark. She is reusing what others have discarded.

She also frequently recycles materials from previous nests.

This fuzzy tuft of debris is a nest built last summer that was destroyed by winds. Despite winter rains, the basic building materials, fibers and organic matter, are still attached to the branch. One of the females in the yard, Pop, has been building a new nest. She has been actively reclaiming these materials.

The actions of these creative girls inspired me to refurbish my own nest. I've decided to reupholster my dining room chairs. If the hummingbirds can do it, so can I. The basic structure of my chairs are sturdy oak. There is not need to waste the resources that a tree has already provided. I'm working on this new project a little bit each day just like the hummingbirds.

This Allen's hummingbird nest started with a base of materials attached to a branch and a fork created by two leaves.

Over the course of a few days, Pop built up a cup-shaped nest about the size of 1/2 cup.

But I've noticed a possible problem. If you compare Pop's nest (above) to the nest DR has built (at the very top and below), you might see it too. Pop has found a source for polyfiber stuffing. Probably a neighbor's patio furniture cushion. She used some of these fibers last year in the nest that failed. The white man-made fibers don't compress like natural fibers. They make a looser, fluffy nest that lacks structural integrity. A few of these fibers might be alright, but I am concerned that this nest might not survive long enough for chicks to mature. It also might not breath like natural fibers or stretch like spider silk.

If you look closely at DR's nest, you can see a strip of plastic that she has used on the outside of her nest as camouflage. Our synthetic materials are invading animal homes as well.

Reusing materials helps save resources. But we all need to increase our awareness of how synthetic materials are affecting the world around us.

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