The Absence of Plastic

Towards the end of January in 2017, I cleaned out the three birdhouses in my back yard. They all had nests inside but I noticed that none of them had been used; one was barely begun and another I judged to be abnormal.

the 3 bird nests

The one I considered abnormal had practically filled the whole bird house. The top of it was flat and solid, there was no place for a mother bird to lay or sit on her eggs. Like the others, that birdhouse was made of many natural materials, but it also included many small pieces of plastic.

I ended up taking that bird nest apart. I soon discovered it contained a tremendous amount of plastic. Below you will see a photo of the plastic that I found in that one nest.

I wondered if the bird’s brain had been poisoned by the plastic and if that was why the top was flat. My heart ached when I thought about the many ways humans contaminate nature.

This experience occurred soon after we started working on restoring the Greenbelt property that is adjacent to my house. The land at that time was full of trash, big and small, and there were a lot of small plastic pieces in and on top of the ground.

It was near nesting season, so we decided to invite the Bala Kendra group from our Amma satsang to do a Greenbelt litter pickup work party. It was amazing to see how much trash the children gathered in an hour’s time.

In the years since then, numerous truckloads of garbage have been removed from the property.

This year, when I cleaned out the bird houses in preparation for nesting season, I found that two of the houses were practically empty. Only one contained a complete nest. It didn’t look like it had been used, but at least it had been built normally; there was a cup indentation on top, a place for the mother bird to lay her eggs.

I didn’t take apart the nest this time but the absence of plastic was very noticeable. I only saw one small piece on the outside of the nest and another small piece at the bottom of the cup.

***

You can read the full story about my 2017 experience in a three part series. It includes many more photos, some of them microscopic. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

A Surprising and Disturbing Discovery- Part 2

img_0206

Last week, when I cleaned out the three birdhouses in my back yard, I discovered that the nests inside of them were different sizes.  One had barely been started, the second was 2-3 inches tall and the third almost filled the bird house.

In Part 1 of this series, I showed photos of the bird houses and the nests and questioned why the one was so big. I also wondered why the big one had a flat top; there was no place for a nesting bird and her eggs to lay.

Several people who read my first post told me that the big one was a wren’s nest. One reader thought that the bird houses were too close together and that the wren who made the big nest had chased the two other nest builders away. Another reader joked that the bird who made the big nest must have had OCD! No one speculated about the flat top.

I did some investigation. After looking at photos of wrens’ nests, I realized that the readers were right; the big one was a wren’s nest. From an Audubon Field Guide, I learned that a male wren may build several nests. When the nests are finished, the female wren chooses between them. The guide went on to say that the male may build some incomplete “dummy” nests. After reading that, I realized that it was a good possibility that the same wren had built all three nests.

I took the big nest inside so that I could look at it closer. Once I removed the top layer, I discovered a section that looked like a plug. It was much denser than the rest of the nest.

img_0211

I wondered what the plug had been plugging. When I looked underneath the plug, I saw this:

img_0208

It sure looked like an area that could have been meant for the female and her eggs!

The Audubon Guide had mentioned that wrens may puncture the eggs of birds that are nesting nearby. It also said that a female wren may leave the male to take care of her eggs, and go nest with another male. I wondered, partially in a joking way, if the female had not approved of any of the nests her partner had built and had taken off to find another male. If that was the case, had the abandoned male decided to plug the nest and add a solid roof on top so no other bird could use it? How in the world had he built the plug? I was left with another set of questions.

After finding the plug and the place that might have been intended for the female, I went back to examining the whole nest. I discovered it was made up of at least ten different materials.

img_0346

I separated much of the nest into ten piles. The remainder looked like this.

img_0223

I took a sample of this conglomeration of substances  and looked at it under the microscope. I was mesmerized by what I saw. (Click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.)

I had intended to make this a two-part series but have decided to divide it in three instead. In Part 3, I will show you microscopic images of the ten types of materials I found when I separated the components of the nest!

components2

 

cropped-senior-salonShared on Senior Salon and Lets Create a Fine Chain…

For last segment go to: A Surprising and Disturbing Discovery- Part 3