The Wild World In Friars Cliff, Christchurch
Working away in the the garden, clipping edges and weeding, I was off in a reverie, relaxed and calm. In such a world, I hear bird song and feel part of the natural world. Suddenly, a plaintiff wailing arose from a neighbour’s high conifer hedge. I anticipated a bird in trouble so walked towards the hedge. The cry continued and I realised that the cruelty of the wild world was in my face.
As odd as it sounds, I anticipated a duck under assault. A mallard has nested in this conifer hedge every spring. The hedge is 12′ high and the duck is silent throughout her brooding. The first thing we experience is a dozen ducklings, led by mum, dropping into the garden. We usher them out into the road, walking them to the nearest fresh water. The herring gulls sit on the rooftops, watching, following our every move. A duckling is a mere snack; a dozen ducklings a meal. But this was not a duck sound, and it was pitiful.
A Feather in the Wind
I walked back into the garden to look higher over the hedge. A smattering of leaves blew out of the conifer. That seemed impossible. I looked again and realised that it was not leaves; it was tiny, plucked, feathers. The bird losing it’s feathers was still alive and in agony. I walked closer, peered up from below and a large bird flew out; it was slate grey and I immediately knew it. The sparrow hawk had struck, silently, and one of my innocent blackbirds, or a robin, had died noisily.
Making Sense of Nature
It was a distressing experience. The sheer bloody cruelty of nature can be a shock. We could all be herbivores, able to live off plants alone, and yet eating other creatures appears part of the plan. This beautiful sparrow hawk ate a songbird, consumed its wailing melody, absorbed in its own silence. This was no quick death but a prolonged agony. What would My Pagan Ancestor Zuri make of it? I doubt she would even conceive of the wild world. Hers was a bountiful place and meat and fat were a gift of the gods. As for me, an atheist, I have no god to blame for this barbarity. I realise that nature is like the sparrow hawk; indifferent. It does not appreciate the melody and innocence of the songbird, which is my weakness.