The Mystery of the Vanishing Nest


Location: Santa Elena, Yucatán, Mexico

This morning I became very excited at the activity of the Social Flycatchers working on their nest. I put the camera on a tripod, pre-focused it, and used a fast shutter speed to catch them in mid flight. If you had asked me yesterday if a bird could fly upside down, I would have said no. That the down stroke muscles are many times stronger than the up stoke muscles, and that the wing dynamics are not designed that way. I would have been wrong. These birds are flying upside down to work on their nest. 

As a bird watcher, this is one of the most impressive things I have seen in a long time and I take over three hundred pictures of the activity. After a bit of a break, I come back in the early afternoon. I looked out to check on the nest this afternoon and it was gone… Vanished… Disappeared. I know that the nest just didn’t fall out of the tree. It had been tossed about quite a bit in last weeks storms, and it held together just fine. Nonetheless I check down below and there is no fallen nest. There are fallen twigs and leaf litter on the ground, but these could have been deposited months ago.

I asked my neighbor about this and he said that the most likely culprit was squirrels taking it apart to get the eggs.  Other than the twilight zone, this seems to be the best possible explanation. 

It is hard for me to express my feelings on this. It is both like the TV fan whose favorite series was just cancelled in mid-season, and the sports photographer who missed the shot of the grand slam because he left to go to the bathroom. I feel a loss for the birds. I feel a loss for the shot.