Low: 17°FHere at home, the caninaturalist is something of a nest connoisseur. She has three official resting places in the house: her crate, and two dog beds adorned with flannel sheets, bones, and a variety of half-mauled dog toys. When she was a puppy, we dubbed her “The Sleep Fighter” and thought of her as a Celtic Warrior Princess, so aggressive was she in her bedtime process of shuffling and nesting. Now that Ari is two, she’s a little less bellicose in her nighttime routine; however, she still insists upon an arrangement period so meticulous she could probably get hired for turn-down services at some of the world’s finest (and most eccentric) hotels.
Conditions: Partly sunny with light winds.
In addition to these three official nesting areas, Ari has systematically colonized other parts of the house as well. She’s not allowed on furniture, but we’ve had to compromise and allow her access to the back of the sofa, where she insists on perching and watching for feral cats hellbent on taking over the world. Ari’s also not allowed on the people bed, but she’s knows we won’t kick her off between the hours of 3:00-6:00 a.m. If we do, she’ll get up for good and one of the humans will have to take her out to pee. None of us really want that. As a result, both the early morning bed and the back of the couch have clearly become dog domain now. That means they fall prey to the same nesting impulses directed towards the other sleeping areas around the house.
Given Ari’s meticulous attention to her beds, we were particularly delighted to see this tiny nest on one of our recent walks.
Smaller than my fist, this nest impressed us both in its artistry and its diminutive size. In fact, we might has missed it altogether if the caninaturalist hadn’t spied the first robin (Turdus migratorius) of the season, which was laying over in a nearby tree—probably on his way to Newfoundland (Maine robins are too smart to show up for another few weeks. But for this Northern guy, our frozen landscape must have seemed perfectly balmy).
As for the nest, neither Ari nor I could identify it. After reading Bernd Heinrich’s, Winter World, we really wanted to believe the nest belonged to a golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satrapa). They’re the subject of much of Heinrich’s book, and I fell in love with his depiction of their winter tenacity in the boreal forest. I showed the picture to Dave Potter, the area’s most well-known resident naturalist. “Is it a kinglet nest?,” I asked. “I mean, it could be, right? It could be a kinglet, couldn’t it?”
No amount of enthusiastic questioning could make it so. Kinglets, according to Potter, are not nearly so tidy in their construction. He thought this nest was most likely built by a solitary vireo (Vireo solitarius). After reading about them in the field guide, I’ve taken back my initial disappointment. The vireo is famous for being nonplussed about human and other large-animal intrusion, which might be why we saw this nest so close to the road. And get this: their call is known as the “husky chatter.” How could Ari and I not love this fact?
The solitary vireo is also one of the first birds to arrive in the early spring, which means the caninaturalist will soon have more than just robin company on her walks, too. I think she might just have a new favorite bird.