A big summer thunderstorm swept through our humid coastal town a few nights ago. The next morning the sun was shining so brightly and the birds and squirrels were at their peak of communication.
Metaphorically, it reminded me that the sun – producer of life and heat – always seems at it’s brightest and fullest after a storm. A rejuvenation. A cleansing.
The rewards of connecting with nature.
And then we saw it. Nestled and hiding under small branches and twigs that had fallen everywhere.
An empty, abandoned nest. If we had not been paying attention to our surroundings we would have walked right by it.
But there, under the towering palms and live oaks, it lay. A bird family had lost their nest in the storm, just as the trees and foliage had lost limbs.
It had been built with such intention and care. We checked for any eggs lying around just to be sure, concluded that perhaps the eggs had already hatched earlier that spring, then carefully lifted it from the wreckage and brought it back home.
To breathe a symbol of life, awareness, and appreciation into the nest Punkee decided that it would be oh-so-appropriate to create eggs for the nest.
You know, because it’s pretty, it’s fun, and I think the mommy and papa would like that, she says.
Sure, sweet… whatever you say. Wink, wink.
This was how she chose to offer her appreciation to the birds…
How to Make Clay Spotted Eggs for a Nest – Using Pine Needles for the Spots
Objective: to learn how to roll clay into bird eggs to use as decoration in a natural nest.
Deeper Objective: to gain a deeper appreciation for the sensorial enrichment of manipulating and rolling clay into ovals, as well as showing an appreciation for the natural world by learning about animal homes and the cycles of life.
1. bird’s nest (please make sure it is not being used)
2. air-dry clay
3. butter knife or clay molding paddle
3. acrylic paint (we chose blue to match a Robin’s egg, but we think it’s a Thrasher’s nest)
4. a small bundle of pine needles
First, gather your materials to shape your clay ovals. Using a real egg is a helpful guide, and a great way to show the true shape of an oval in a geometry lesson.
Take a chunk of clay about the size of a half dollar and begin to roll it around in between your palms. Use enough strength to form the ball, but not to much that will flatten it. Once it is round like a ball, then you can roll it back and forth lightly in the center circumference so that it is just slightly elongated and not a perfect sphere.
Once you are confident with your long ball, you can take the paddle or butter knife and lightly tap one side until it you have created a more narrow peak for the top of the oval. Using the paddle also helps to smooth out any random bumps and clay scales. Then use your fingers to gently rub away any crevices or ridges that may have formed. Go slow, and be mindful of the process of forming your bird egg.
Place your first egg into the nest to see if you are content with the shape and size of the egg in relation to the nest. If you’re happy, then move on to however many eggs you’d like to create.
This is a great time to have already done research into how many eggs the particular bird normally lays. A robin lays 3-4, so we chose three.
Lay your eggs out in a sunny, airy spot to dry. Notice how every egg has it’s own personality.
Once the eggs are dry, you can begin the painting process. We are using a rack for the painted eggs to dry on, so as not to disturb the wet paint.
Mix your paints at this point. We used white to make the blue much lighter, but used the same blue without the white for the spots.
Start to paint!
Once again, lay them out to dry. This won’t take nearly as long as it took the clay to dry. Meanwhile, you can prepare your pine needles.
Select a pine needle bunch that has needles that are not too closely packed together and not too spaced apart. You will be trimming the needles, so look for the spacing about halfway down the length of the bunch.
Give the needle bunch a nice hair trim after thanking it for being a part of your project. Sprinkle the rest of the pine needles back to the earth.
Holding on to the stem of the bunch, dip the tips of the needles into the paint-of-choice, making sure it doesn’t glob.
Dab the tips onto the eggs in random places to make it look a little more natural. We had already done a bit of research into how a spotted egg looks, and we came to the final conclusion that no egg looks the same.
Turn each egg over to do all sides of the eggs. Then leave them to dry while you clean up the paint materials.
Once they are dry, place them in your nest and send a heartfelt gratitude to the birds for allowing you this pleasure of recreating a snapshot of the cycle of life. Get creative where you put your nest – you can even use it as a centerpiece!