The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 9 (April 1, 1931)
Honourable Guild of Nature's Craftsmen
Amere glimpse into the marvels of Nature will reveal inexhaustible treasure-trove as acquaintance is gained with her thousands of master-craftsmen; craftsmen whose art is beyond compare. Her “Tailors,” “Cutters,” “Weavers,” are of wonderful ingenuity, unbounded skill and perfection of achievement.
The Tailor bird of India constructs a nest ravishing in beauty and delicacy of design, artistic in situation, perfect in camouflage. Watch the pair preparing to provide against family cares. How very carefully they pick upon a broad leafed and densely foliaged bush as the home-site. This spot decided upon, operations are commenced by sewing the edges of three leaves together so as to form a chalice-like receptacle for the nest itself. The sewing is done with the bill for needle and plant fibre for thread. Within this chalice a nest is constructed of down and feathers woven symmetrically; a home camouflaged in the swaying emerald of Nature, a cradle most difficult to find. The natives of India, ever poetically inclined, solemnly aver this artist extracts the cotton from the plant's bols and spins the threads she is in need of.
The Baltimore Oriole, with more modern leanings, goes even one better! Not only does it employ plant fibre and pliant grasses, but collects and utilises any silk or cotton threads—even finer twines—it can pick up for stitching purposes, and the suspension of its future, charmingly bowered nursery.
The Vireo builds between the forks of an horizontal branch or stout twig. This little weaver specialises in gossamer from spider webs which is patiently unravelled and woven into a delightful and cosy silken structure.
The Byah, the Weaver bird of India, fashions her common shaped nest of grass woven together, the whole greatly resembling a “loofa” in texture and looks. The tail of the comma is exit and entrance, the head the nesting and egg chamber. This wonderfully intelligent builder is of gregarious habits and builds in regular colonies. It is no infrequent sight, when passing a bamboo fringed stream, to see hundreds of nests, each swinging and suspended from the very tips of the bamboo and over the water. The object in so building is to safeguard against the depredations of roving monkey bands; animals who, though exceedingly partial to sucking bird's eggs, have an innate horror of submersion.
In the insect world are found many craftsmen of the “Tailoring Guild.” Here, the palm for supreme artistry in spiderdom may easily be awarded to that descendant of Arachne, the Orb-weaver. The bell-shaped nest is formed within a tent of wide leaves, such as those of the oak. The leaf edges are firstly pulled into position; then, while so held by the insect's forelegs, the spinarets are brought into use and the edges firmly and beautifully woven together. This accomplished, Orb-weaver passes to and for drawing and webbing the free edges inwards with taut webstrands till a bell-shaped tent results. Finally the tent is plentifully lined with soft flossy silk, the home ready for its tenant. Orb-weaver enters, faces the mouth of the “bell,” stretches out and grasps the super-sensitive trap-line that communicates with the adjacent snare-web and waits. Presently an insect is enmeshed, the trap-line vibrates—the huntress rushes forth, seizes and swathes the prey in silken bonds, hauls it to her larder!
Taking the “Tailors” more broadly the “Lacewrorkers” claim attention. The “Orange Argiope,” a beautifully marked spider weaves a web unsurpassable for delicacy and design in filigree. See it stretched across a bush, scintillating with the irridescent gems of morning dews—you will never see more exquisite lace-craft!