Natural Cruelty

Saturday, 23 July 2011
Gardening is relaxing and peaceful. I live in a quiet neighborhood so when I'm outside I may hear a lawn mower but mostly it is just me, the birds and the rustle of the huge trees in the back. Last night I was outside collecting summer squash and green beans for a meal when I heard an unfamiliar sound. Lily was by my side as she usually is when I'm outside but Violet was not in my line of sight.

I heard the squeaking again and ran around to the other side of the tree where Violet was batting around a baby Robin. Grabbing Violet and speaking softly to her, I tried to get the cats away from it. Lily saw it fluttering in the grass and went after the bird. Moving quickly I picked the tiny thing up and laid it in the "Y" of a tree where the cats couldn't reach it. The poor little thing was shaking but seemed okay. I took the cats inside and went back to investigate. The bird had toppled out of the tree and was on the ground with its eyes half open.

Choking back a sob, I picked it up and felt for a heartbeat. It slowly closed its eyes while I massaged its chest and made a weak attempt at mouth-to-beak resuscitation. Nothing. The beautiful little bird died in my hands. I was struck by how quickly life can be taken away in a predator-prey environment. Violet was following her natural instincts and hunting while the little bird was probably working on its first flight and didn't get very far. Either way, I am just devastated by the loss of a Robin that could have visited each year in the spring.

Taking a tip from Lyanda Lynn Haupt (author of Crow Planet), I stayed with the bird for a moment to have a closer look. It was small enough to fit in the palm of my left hand. With its stomach facing the sky, I gently touched the little chest again and felt the downy feathers. Baby Robins aren't completely orange on the breast yet. The feathers are speckled with white, dark brown and light orange. Her little legs were twig-like and it amazed me how a bird can hold up such a large body (comparatively) on such tiny "feet." The wings were most impressive. I stroked its feathers and separated the wing from the body, gently guiding it so that it was open. Near where the wing met the body, I could see puncture wounds and a bit of blood.

The bird was still warm when I laid her under the tree where her mother was chirping anguished notes. I covered her with leaves and touched her feathers once more. Sadness is knowing that a bird's song will never be heard and that you had something to do with the outcome. 

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