Sometimes when you least expect it, life answers a question and shares a lesson. Over the years, we’ve noticed that in our part of the world, there often seems to be a game of tag going on between a big crow and a much smaller bird. Thinking along the lines of playful fun, we’ve often wondered what was going on. The two almost seem to be enjoying the flight, but we fully recognize that fun is probably not the explanation for the event. This week, the answer became quite clear in a startling and educational way. Please keep in mind that your newsletter editors are 1) a city boy and 2) a beach bum. The city boy grew up without much exposure to the comings and goings of critters in the wild, although pigeons and squirrels technically count. The beach bum grew up among all types of marsh animals from toads to turtles to shellfish and sea birds of many varieties. But certain things were missing. For example, when I (Deb) arrived at college, I was astounded to discover that squirrels could cross the street on the electrical wires! My classmates must have thought something was wrong with me, but the ecosystem on my barrier island didn’t allow for enough trees to accommodate a thriving squirrel population, so this little trick was new and quite fascinating to me.
The sight of a big bird being chased all over the sky by a little one, was also intriguing. Life experience suggested that this had something to do with survival, and this week that hypothesis was confirmed. Out early in the morning to walk the dog, I saw a tiny little bird chasing a huge crow. The crow landed on top of the utility pole just in front of us. The small bird continued to circle. That’s just about when the crow dropped the fledgling bird it had been carrying onto the top of the pole and gave it a peck or two. Suddenly, a gang of about six to ten little birds came into view, flying straight at the crow. They distracted the crow just long enough to let the fledgling fly (sort of) off the pole. It more or less swooped into a neighboring tree, and as it landed among the branches the little birds all stopped their attack and flew to the baby. Presumably the mother bird was the first to get there. The crow flew off without breakfast, and one can only guess the fate of the slightly pecked at baby bird.
We’ve lived long enough to know that nature can be harsh and unkind, especially to the very young and the very old. In a storybook world, the crow and the baby bird could be friends, but that’s just in stories. The crow was hungry. The fledgling bird was an easy breakfast, and nature does what nature’s going to do. There is no prognosis possible for a slightly pecked fledgling. For all we know it was injured beyond the possibility of recovery. Maybe the other birds of its community would have been kinder to just let the crow finish what it started as quickly as possible. These are questions we can only ask, but never answer. Still to see the fight for survival unfold so unexpectedly and so close up was startling nonetheless.
But, this little encounter also illustrates what we humans often tend to forget. When communities come together, there is a greater chance for our young to grow up healthy and the elderly to be well cared for. Whether that sense of community comes from a family, a neighborhood, a faith community, or a professional association, it turns out we humans aren’t that much different from our friends in the animal world. The more we stick together, the better off we are and the more likely we are to feel protected and safe when the predators appear. At least, that’s the way it looks from where we sit.