Using nests and egg specimens collected over the past two centuries, California photographer Sharon Beals conveys the almost impossible artistry and architecture of birds’ nests — and the fragility of the creatures that construct them — through her stunning images, many of which appear in her best-selling 2011 book, Nests.
Beals, whose work hangs in galleries across the country, photographed nests and eggs at the California Academy of Sciences, the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates, and the Smithsonian’s American Museum of Natural History for her acclaimed project, featured in the Ned Smith Center’s Olewine Gallery.
Like many of you, I share a wonder about the marvel of nests. Spider’s web, caterpillar cocoon, plant down, mud, found modern objects, human and animal hair, leaves, mosses, lichen, feathers and down, sticks and twigs, shells and bones—all assembled, stacked, woven, molded or merely scraped, with only beak and claw, or sometimes body, into an instinctive creation meant to foster and protect the next generation of their species.
Add the fact that birds know where to put them; in a territory that provides enough insects, nectar, seeds, worms, caterpillars, blossoms, fish, or other prey to feed themselves and their young—most often after navigating back to their natal home via a migration of hundreds or thousands of miles.
But survival for many so many birds is tenuous in a world where habitat loss is as common as the next housing development, mega-farm, or distant palm oil or sun coffee plantation, and where even subtle changes in climate can affect food supply. It is my hope that these photographs inspire a curiosity about the lives of their builders, and inspire their protection—and protection for all of the species of life on our small planet.
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