Delight: the magpie nest

Sharp-eyed observers may have noticed the jumble of wire and sticks keeping me company on my Twitter feed.

The jumble is, in fact, the crown jewel in my small but treasured collection of birds' nests.

(Before you start panicking, no innocent avian families were evicted to fuel my curiosity. All the nests I've collected have been found long-abandoned, usually dislodged from trees during storms.)

The magpie nest is no exception.  It came to ground in a park close to Landscapology HQ during a skull-rattling thunderstorm at the end of last year, along with several trees, many branches, and a potentially lethal confetti of Kauri Pine cones.

The Australian Magpie (Cracticus tibicen) is a handsome birdy, dressed and ready for the ball in glossy black and white plumage.

Image credit: John O'Neill, Wikimedia Commons, released under GNU Free Documentation License Version 1.2Β http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6e/Australian_Magpie_2%2C_jjron%2C_5.07.10.jpg

Image credit: John O'Neill, Wikimedia Commons, released under GNU Free Documentation License Version 1.2 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6e/Australian_Magpie_2%2C_jjron%2C_5.07.10.jpg

Magpies build up their flat, shallow nests in layers - generally tough on the outside and softer in the centre - using sticks, twigs, grass and hair.

In urban environments, human-made materials are often found, such as the wire in this nest. 

Even when this is the case, the heavier gauges are still found on the outside, in this case forming a strong triangular armature for the rest of the nest, with the finer wires closer to the top and centre.

The strength of the magpie's beak is evident when you realise just how substantial some of these wires are: this is no unfurled paperclip we're talking about, the base wires here are twice the thickness of a dry cleaner's wire hanger.  Those same beaks have then also placed the flimsiest fibres just so.

This nest holds a special place in my heart for the way it seamlessly weaves together the natural and the artificial - the landscape and the architecture, if you will - to create something of create strength, adaptability and beauty.