Ring of Eggs #1

Dispatches from the Robin's Nest 2022

Crewdson Studio is located in a small village outside of Great Barrington, MA, in a renovated side-by-side former church and firehouse. Our neighbor’s house was once the original post office. So it’s actually less “in” a village and more “was” the village. There are some other houses nearby, and a general store, but it’s not exactly populous. There’s dense forest in one direction, cornfields in the other, with creeks, rivers, bodies of water, and more forest all around. There is virtually no cell service, but the stars are abundant and bright in the night sky. In so many ways, it feels like the perfect location for Gregory’s studio, because of how important spending time in nature is to his process, and how the themes of nature run through all his work. Here in the yard, there are bear, deer, possums, raccoons, foxes, as well as all manner of birds, wandering, crawling, and flying through daily. There’s even a family of starlings living in an air duct in the church that we can’t bring ourselves to disturb, but I’ll get to that later. The point is, wildlife is everywhere around us. Nature encroaches.

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GREGORY CREWDSON, Untitled, 1993, digital pigment print, image: 30 x 40 in. © Gregory Crewdson

About five years ago, I discovered a robin’s nest in the cypress tree next to the landing of the church’s entryway stairs. It’s exactly at eye level as one exits, and therefore almost impossible not to gaze into several times a day. That first year, Gregory and I watched a full cycle of egg laying, hatching, growing. Four baby birds grew and developed under the careful attentive watch of the two adults, until they flew out of the nest a few weeks later. The next year, it was exciting to see the nest built in the exact same spot. Again we watched. This time, there were three baby birds.

There has yet to be a year when the robins don’t build the nest in the same spot. Subsequent years didn’t go as smoothly for the birds, though. Sometimes eggs would disappear mysteriously. Sometimes we’d find the broken shells on the ground. One year, one of the adult birds was killed and left near the base of the tree. Still there were some successes, and it was thrilling each time hatchlings would fly away into the wide world.

This year, I installed a hidden all-weather camera higher up in the tree, early in the spring, so we could watch the robins return in real time. Each day they worked to gather materials and build their nest, expertly weaving it together with their beaks and feet and bodies. It was a very warm early spring and all this seemed to happen a bit earlier than usual. The video at the top of this page was taken in April. Both birds seemed playful and optimistic. Everything seemed fine.

Then the drama began to unfold… Stay tuned for more.

Juliane is Producer/Studio Manager at Crewdson Studio, and a writer.

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Juliane Hiam