The Annual Grass House Building Boom

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It’s that time of the year in Africa when the annual little yellow house building extravaganza is about to begin.

Competition among  the male house builders (the males do the construction) to attract a female  house guest is fierce, and the females, being females are fussy. One piece of grass out of place, and it’s rejected. All that intricate hard work for nothing! The only thing the poor horny guy can do then is to start all over again, and with a bit of luck maybe a few nests later you have learnt to be precise and get lucky.

The process of nest building begins with a single strand of grass which is tightly threaded round an overhanging branch to provide the knot which securely fastens subsequent strands to the branch. Piece by piece the weaver intricately weaves the grass into a homely structure. It’s an amazing feat of engineering with natural materials made even more amazing by the fact the bird builds it upside down using only its beak, a feat no human with dexterous fingers could ever hope to emulate.

The acrobatics of the birds as they weave their nests is something you can never tire of watching and photographing.

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As busy as the male is, competition for females is always tough and during the building process he is constantly hanging upside down chattering his building prowess letting the females know how good he is. Aside from food foraging breaks, building the nest is a constant flurry of sourcing new grass and then joining and weaving it into place. Aside from a few species, most weavers build the entrances to their nests at the bottom as a deterrent to predators like snakes gaining access to the nest.

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As the nests get near completion, the females will arrive and inspect and if they are playing hard to get, reject. Eventually however they will accept something and nesting for the year begins.

Photographing weavers nesting is a great experience and its not difficult to come away from a session with hundreds of good frames. Such is the satisfaction, the following year you do it all over over again until ultimately you have to purge your hard drive of unprocessed images to make room for the next batch.

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