Small architectural marvels were hidden in storage for decades at the California Academy of Sciences until 2007, when artist Sharon Beals began unearthing them from cardboard boxes and wooden cabinets. She wanted to photograph nature's miniature masterpieces-birds' nests-which had been collected over the course of a century from a variety of species. Her images first appeared in Audubon's March-April 2008 issue and on its cover; they soar again in her elegant new book, Nests (Chronicle Books, $29.95). One by one, the structures appear in stark relief on a black background, exposing their exquisite intricacies-colored thread in an Altamira oriole's creation, seashells in a Caspian tern's-and, often, intact eggs. On facing pages, an illustration of the builder perches above companion text describing the species' nesting habits and construction methods. "Each nest is a scientific treasure trove," write the academy's Jack Dumbacher and Maureen Flannery in the foreword. "Each nest is also an amazing work of art." So is Beals's book.
-- Julie Liebach, editors choice, Audubon magazine
In her new book, Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them, photographer Sharon Beals brings to light an often-secreted piece of the lives of birds. From the collections of the California Academy of Sciences, the Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, she has selected some of most ecologically unique, visually stunning, and just plain ingenious nests built by birds both familiar and exotic, from the marsh wren (Cistothorus palustris) to Kauai's akekee (Loxops caeuleirostris). The nests are, by turn, miraculously intricate, strikingly simple, sinister, strange, or sweet, but all are a testament to the resourcefulness of creatures who lack complex tools but have nonetheless evolved some of the most sophisticated, diverse architecture of any organisms on the planet.
Beals' beautiful photographs, a sampling of hundreds of nests carefully collected and preserved, are a testament to the power of these miniature masterpieces to inspire our imaginations and awaken our powers of observation.
-- Audubon magazine blog
"An intricate, illuminating window into the natural artistry of avian architecture."
-- Shelf Awareness
Drawn from the exquisite collections of three California academies and institutes, the nests in these delicate, detailed images reflect the meticulous care and skill of their creators-50 species of birds, each described in facing-page text that is as free of scientific jargon as it is interesting.
-- American Photo magazine
Award-winning San Francisco photographer Sharon Beals is author of several books including What Dogs Do and What Cats Are. She lives in San Francisco.
Jack Dumbacher and Maureen Flannery are ornithologists at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
Author and naturalist Scott Weidensaul has written more than two dozen books on natural history.