On my last expedition to the Falls, I spotted this oddity about twenty feet off the ground on a terminal branch of a cottonwood tree. I had a feeling I knew what this is, but clicked-off a couple more close-ups for more information. The day was very cold, but bright and clear.
I believe this to be a hanging basket nest from a Northern or Baltimore Oriole. I had seen one other similar nest years ago at the Falls that incorporated waste fishing line and long-stemmed grass. This one is different in that it is made mostly from synthetic fibers teased out of a discarded barge cable along with fishing line. These cables are very large, thick ropes that are used to tie-off and secure the barges used in commercial river traffic. Here is a recent picture of just such a cable that was lost and wound around willow roots. This one has blue and yellow fibers instead of orange like the oriole’s nest has.
As these ropes slowly break down, it’s interesting to think of nest-building birds preferring to use this material as opposed to strictly natural ones. I know of other birds (more in an urban environment) that will use other bits of artificial litter in their nests. A month or so a go in the western section of the park I came across another synthetic nest created by a different species and featured that in a post about rare birds. Here is that nest reproduced again along with a close-up of the oriole’s nest.
Since a nest made of these materials will last longer…I’m wondering if the oriole or another bird will attempt to reuse it? I will have to wait until spring to find that out.