A bright yellow surprise 40

This is Beatrice.

I noticed her picking at the abandoned strings tied to a tomato cage we’d left upside down and forgotten. Last spring, she and her mate built a gossamer, sparking nest from found treasures still hanging from the oak tree in our front yard. We knew they’d returned (from wherever Bullock’s Orioles vacation in winter) when we heard the echoing hiccup-like call the male uses to woo his beloved.

After she flew away empty-beaked from the tomato cage, I couldn’t resist the urge to leave her a few bright threads from our sewing kit and a length of twine and yarn. Announcing her approval, she chattered as she inspected my offerings and flitted away with a sturdy red thread. She came back moments later to retrieve a purple one. In an hour, they were all gone.

We’re now on Day Four of avian gift giving, and only the twine and yarn strands have been dropped to the ground, rejected. Each morning and evening, I restock with the choicest threads and so far, Beatrice has taken over 70 strands to weave a nest strong enough to hold her precious progeny.

In a world gone mad, this little interspecies exchange is a bright-yellow surprise, as astonishing as it is healing. May you pause from whatever is keeping you up at night to find delight in gift giving and nature’s mercurial beauty.

40 thoughts on “A bright yellow surprise


    My goodness, it is lovely to “hear” from you.
    You reminded me of a dog we had years ago – an Australian shepherd named Chester. We gave him a red blanket for his sleep time. For several years we saw strands of that red blanket in the birds’ nests in our yard.
    Thanks very much and Peace from Kathy

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      How fun that a little bird sparked this sweet memory for you! Thank you for sharing!

  • Darlene Norwood

    My spirit picked up the threads you left for me. I found the one that cancelled out tonight’s noise. And the one that reminds me to expect sweet surprises. And gifts to find…and to give. Ahhh. I needed that and thank you.

  • Terry Parry

    So glad to see you pop up in my in box and with such a lovely gift of a story.
    I have a few of my own Beatrices around my yard with whom I engage. They keep me sane in that they are going on with the business of their lives moment by moment.
    I have decided to adopt such behavior. Glad you have also.
    You inspire.

  • Deborah Koehler

    I did pause and reminded myself to make these observances. The law of universality – of offering your unique gifts – threads to the Orioles. I followed you last year as i follow few people: so you must have made an impression on me with your writing before. Your tags represent my interests. I wonder who you are that shares my soul. Hope to hear more from you.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      I think, when we slow down enough to notice, we’re a lot more alike than we realize. I’ve written about the Camino de Santiago since 2012, so perhaps that’s when it started? In any case, thank you for the kind note. I’m happy to be reconnected!

  • Marilyn Roofner

    Just loved this and so relate to it. We’ve always enjoyed the birds in our large yard in Central Florida. Because we are on a lake,we see herons, egrets, ibis, red-winged blackbirds, even limpkins. It’s nesting season here. Nature has been our consolation during Covid. A wren is re-building her nest in a large pot of begonias. I’ve been remiss ! Threads ! I’ll put some out today.
    Thank you and your crew. I’ve followed you since you started and still send postcards,emails and make calls.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      I’m so glad it touched you, Marilyn! I’ve been informed by an Audobon expert that the best materials are natural ones. Strings are apparently unique to Bullock’s orioles, so it might be a fun project to look up what those cheeky wrens prefer! 😀 Enjoy in any case!

  • Debra H Bures

    We’ve had so many Baltimore orioles at our feeders this year, as well as rose-breasted grosbeaks, and a plethora of other birds. This avian rainbow is welcome during these strange and challenging times! We’ve found pieces of a blue tarp in robins’ nests, and yarn in others. These gifts are reminders of the continuum of life, and for this, I am grateful.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      “Avian rainbow”! I love this! Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment!

  • Janet

    So much nicer than bits of plastic! I like brushing my dogs outside in spring. Less cleanup for me, and the birds really enjoy using the fur to line their nests.

  • Cassie Bene

    Oh, Jennifer,
    Thank you for this. I find these bright spots in nature are what keep me going, too.

  • Andrea Rosen

    I think interspecies relationships are proof of the divine. Years ago, before I retired, I parked in front of the building where I worked and got out of the car with a coffee and a danish in my hands. An English sparrow landed at my feet and looked up at me expectantly. I could feel her asking for a crumb. So I dropped one. She picked it up with alacrity and flew up to the gutter of a small rowhouse across the street. Seconds later she swooped down in front of me and again cocked her head in my direction. How quickly she had trained me! We went through this exchange several more times before I shook myself out of my reverie and proceeded to my office.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      They are communicating with us, no doubt! I love your story!

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      That is the truth, Gayle. And it was hard to miss this bright yellow miracle!

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      You’re so welcome. Thanks for expressing gratitude–it’s good for our hearts!

  • karen knight

    These gifts, offered and accepted, remind me of what each of us must manifest daily – with one another, those we do not know and all of those bright yellow surprises emerging into hope. thank you. your words and actions made my heart happy.

  • Kat

    So sweet! It brought tears. Thank you. Walking in the open space near my home I heard an owl! I tried finding him, but they are sneaky. I’m now on a mission to catch a glimpse 🙂 Thank you for sharing this story of beauty. I’d love to see her nest! I bet it is the envy of all the others.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      I’m so glad it touched you! If you’re patient on those owl prowls, I’m sure you’ll get a glimpse!

      Her nest is a work of art. If you google “bullock’s oriole nests photos”, you’ll be amazed at the colorful trapeze they concoct!

  • Sharon Mac Kenzie

    Beatrice is beautiful! And, I’m very sure she’s very happy and appreciative with all your gifts. Thanks for sharing “A very charming and sweet story.”
    I am not a bird watcher. I know the Robins, Cardinals and Blue Jays and maybe the finches or wrens, not sure of the difference between them. We did have an unusually mild winter here, the Robins seem to be a bit chubbier than usual.
    Being in lockdown in NY, I have been more aware of the birds, love hearing them and seeing them flit around from wires to trees to the lawn. On my last trip to the supermarket I decided to pick up some wild bird food. I don’t have a feeder. I know there are many types of feeders but haven’t a clue as to what to buy. So, in lieu of not having a feeder, I put a cup full of the bird food in a dish in my little backyard. The squirrels had a feast. I will go online and buy a basic bird feeder (doubt I’d find one in the supermarket) – I try not to buy things online as I feel bad for all these Amazon and UPS drivers constantly delivering stuff. It’s unreal. Too much stuff.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      Some say that we all have a “spark bird”–one individual or a specific species–that ignite our passion for the avian world. Mine was (and still is) the Swainson’s thrush. It’s not much to look at, but has the most exquisitely beautiful song. I stop everything I’m doing when I hear one singing and savor every note. It sounds like your spark bird might already be in your garden, trying to win your heart!

  • Sherri S

    So gorgeous! They make me so happy when I see them in our yard (ours are hooded, not Bullock’s). Thanks for sharing!

  • Ann White

    This post helped me take a deep breath this morning, and smile.
    Thank you, Jennifer, and thank Beatrice too!

  • Jill Grieveson

    I love this!
    It is a reminder to not feel hopeless in these unprecedented times.
    Thank you!

Comments are closed.