Perpetually wandering

Robin brings breakfast to the nest.I was chatting, the other day, with a niece about mountain hiking.

“I’d love to hike up a mountain,” I said, “as long as who I hiked with wasn’t in a hurry and loved, or at least liked, mountains.”

“As a spoiler alert, I’m in much less a hurry once I reach the top,” she replied.

Australians, I am told, like to go “on a walkabout.” I prefer to go “on a wander.” “In a hurry” has never been one of my defining traits. I could walk as long and as far as anyone, but almost anyone could beat me in a run. I always figured if where I was going would be gone by the time I got there, so be it.

My driving partner has become used, sort of, to my stopping – or even turning around – to look at something I spied just off the road. I have collected lots of pictures and more than a few interesting stories after suddenly stopping beside the road on my way from someplace to someplace else.

A person in a hurry would have finished this column already, but there are several catbirds flitting around outside my window, I just spied my first wren – a Bewicks, I think –  and a wasp has begun building a nest between the upper corner of my window and the screen I haven’t yet pulled down.

The wasp is going to take some time, I expect. She hangs there, clad in gold-ringed black, almost motionless on the far side of the seedling nest, about three-eighths inch in diameter, hanging by a thread from the bottom of the upper window pane. She has moved around slightly toward me, but not enough I can see exactly what she is doing. I wait for her to move some more.

I have set a tripod and fixed the camera focus on the nest, the better to catalog her efforts. At one point, she was head-up, her forearms wrapped around the anchor at the top of the beginning of the nest, as though tamping cement around the anchor post. Eventually, she moved down and around the beginnings of the structure. I looked away, and when I looked back, she was gone.

But in a few minutes, she returned and climbed the window to her task. She is on my side of the nest, now, but with her back to me, as though demurely hiding the personal mechanisms of her work. I would like to watch a little more of her progress. I have never seen a wasp nest being built, though I have found many already constructed and populated, so this is a bit of a thrill.

But I will soon have to knock down the nest, while she is away and before she gets it to a point she can call in the rest of her construction crew. Wasps are generally aggressive creatures, inherently unaccepting of non-wasps. It would be unwise, I think, to encourage a nest where people congregate for summer outdoor living.

In my youth, I often wandered through the woods, turning over rocks and logs, watching the travels of birds and bugs. I was good at closing the distance to animals. Over the years, I have seen Common Loons fly underwater, and discovered a three-foot-high anthill about 100 feet from a heavily used trail, on which none of the hikers I asked had seen it.

It’s a wild and beautiful world out there, the more so when one is wandering with someone who isn’t in a hurry and loves, or at least likes, mountains – or windows on the back woods.


She circles her beginning nest, then opens the tip of her abdomen about 31 seconds in — something I’d never before seen.

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