Drawn to Nests

One day in spring of 2014, I started drawing bird nests. I didn’t stop for almost a year. These drawings began as a way for me to explore my curiosity about birds’ nests without causing any harm to the birds themselves. My work on this series made me more aware of the impacts we have on wildlife, even when we are trying our best not to. I created these drawings using field guides, photographs and my imagination, not by observing birds’ nests in the wild. I hope to offer viewers the awe and wonder of viewing a nest and eggs up close, something which would normally be harmful to nesting birds as it can cause them to abandon their nest.

During this time when most of us are “nesting” in our homes, it is especially comforting to know that birds are continuing their own nesting rituals as spring unfolds in the high desert.

 

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Bobcat

Bobcat

Found only in North America, where it is the most common wildcat, the bobcat takes its common name from its stubby, or “bobbed,” tail. The cats range in length from two to four feet and weigh 14 to 29 pounds. Bobcats mainly hunt rabbits and hares, but they will also eat rodents, birds, bats, and even adult deer.

Latin name: Lynx rufus fasciatus

 

fact

What defines Oregon’s high desert?

What defines Oregon’s high desert?

Bounded by the Cascade Mountains to the west and the Blue Mountains to the north, Oregon’s high desert covers approximately 24,000 square miles. Annual rainfall in the high desert varies from 5 to 14 inches. The average elevation is 4,000 feet; at 9,733 feet, the summit of Steens Mountain is the highest point in Oregon’s high desert. The terrain of the high desert was mostly formed by a series of lava flows that occurred between 30 and 10 million years ago.

Sources: The Oregon Encyclopedia; Wikipedia  

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Badger

Badger

Badgers are generally nocturnal, but, in remote areas with no human encroachment, they are routinely observed foraging during the day. They prefer open areas with grasslands, which can include parklands, farms, and treeless areas with crumbly soil and a supply of rodent prey.

Badgers are born blind, furred, and helpless. Their eyes open at four to six weeks.

Latin name: Taxidea taxus

Western Meadowlark

Oregon’s state bird nests on the ground in open grasslands and river valleys. The meadowlark’s uplifting song is one of the first signs of spring in Central Oregon’s high desert, and often welcomes ONDA members to Camp Hancock for our Annual Meeting.

Marsh Wren

Male marsh wrens build several basket-like nests and the females choose their favorite mate based on his construction skills. The unoccupied nests then serve as decoys to distract predators. These unassuming little birds can often be observed building their nests at Summer Lake and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Yellow Headed Blackbird

These noisy wetland-dwelling birds build their nests above water in plants like cattails or bulrushes. The female uses wet grasses and other plant material to build her nest, and the nest dries it shrinks to form an even tighter and more solid structure.

Savannah Sparrow

Once, after a long day of pulling fence on the South Fork of the Crooked River with a group of high school seniors, we were walking back to camp and almost stepped on a nest in the middle of a field. It was hard to convince ourselves to move on quickly so as not to cause the mother bird to abandon her nest out of fear. Later, back at camp, we looked at a field guide to nests and eggs of North American Birds and guessed that the nest belonged to a Savannah Sparrow. I still remember the awe I felt upon finding that nest. That feeling inspired me to create this series of drawings, and I hope to instill the same sense of wonder in the viewer.

harlequin duck nest

Harlequin Duck

I drew this nest for my late friend Gene McMullen, who was a master angler, painter, woodworker, and outdoorsman, an avid conservationist, and a loyal friend of everything wild. Gene’s favorite bird was the harlequin duck, a whitewater daredevil he occasionally spotted on his fishing excursions on the wild rivers of the Pacific Northwest. I remember Gene telling me about once watching, gobsmacked, as a mama harlequin duck deftly navigating huge rapids with her tiny ducklings trailing fearlessly behind.

There are virtually no photos of harlequin duck nests, so I had to use my imagination and field descriptions of their nesting behaviors to create this drawing.

calliope hummingbird nest

Calliope Hummingbird

The smallest hummingbird normally found in the U.S., the Calliope sometimes builds its tiny nest on top of a pinecone and uses spider silk to secure pieces of lichen to the outside of the nest, helping it blend in with the tree.

Sage Thrasher

I love the way that the bright green-blue eggs of the sage thrasher contrast with soft and subtle colors of sagebrush, where it builds its nest. This drawing is based on a black and white photo from my mom’s 1950s copy of Birds of Oregon. I enjoyed making this drawing because it required me to study sagebrush closely to get it just right.

About the Artist

Gena Goodman-Campbell

Gena Goodman-Campbell is ONDA’s Public Lands Coordinator, engaging our members and supporters to help protect wild desert public lands and waters.

Growing up in Portland, Gena enjoyed exploring the wetlands and rivers around her home. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Colorado College with a focus on international conflict resolution. Drawn back home to Oregon, she joined the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG) at Central Oregon Community College to organize voter mobilization campaigns, petition drives, and wilderness hikes.

Gena was elected to Bend City Council in November 2018 and is serving a four year term. When she’s not out exploring public lands, Gena enjoys drawing, cooking, and chasing after her young daughter.