One in the hand

crow_closeupAs long as I can remember birds have been an obsession of mine. Furry creatures were all well and good but the avians could fly, sing, swim and even talk. I’d inherited my father’s small egg collection but by the 1950s it was already frowned upon and so I became an expert nest finder who could only look but not touch.

“If you take just one egg, the mother bird will smell you and abandon her nest” or so ran the adult dictat and the thought of being responsible for such a sad outcome was enough to resist the temptation. I’d desperately wanted to incubate and hand-rear my own bird rather than blow for an egg collection, and wondered with much envy, how it was that the likes of Gerald Durrell was under no such strictures.

Our cat was the next best hope – bringing home fledglings that I would prise from the jaws of death, sometimes to release after the shock or to nurse back to health in an old shoe box in the shed. Inevitably the bread and milk would not be the hoped for restorative and so another flyer was confined to the earth. This pattern was repeated at school when summer visitors would swoop in and build their adobe nests under the lengths of eaves. Featherless house martins falling from such heights had little chance but throughout the term there was the usual box of naked casualties in my bedside locker.

Little did I realise that set against these feeble ministrations a much more serious threat to birds was already taking place. Rachel Carson had already written her ‘Silent Spring’, DDT had thinned the shells of birds, decimated the food source and still half a century later:-

“Humans are responsible for the threats to birds. Expanding and intensifying agriculture and forestry destroy and degrade habitats. Inadequately managed fisheries, ever-spreading infrastructure, invasive alien species, pollution and overexploitation all pose serious problems. Climate change, with impacts already visible, may be the most serious threat of all. Birdlife International

This is the cliché, so oft-repeated that we resist hearing it yet again, as we hurtle to the point where neither bush nor birds will remain unless we stay our hand. If only we could live within the bounds of what we already hold in our hand!

Life & Legacy of Rachel Carson

Taking a twist on The Daily Post Cliche: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush


9 thoughts on “One in the hand

  1. A thought-provoking post! I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read any of Rachel Carson’s books; my journey to a similar destination was through the influence of an aunt, now in her 80’s, who instilled in me a love of birds & trees & so much more. I fear that not only will the bush & the bird disappear but our very hands!


  2. and the migratory birds, battling city lights and hunters.
    I’ll never forget a holiday in Malta – with shots ringing out against the exhausted migrants.
    But I am deliberately choosing my new plants, for the birds. Two that I planted for nectar are making their first flowers.


  3. I was thrilled to read this post Laura and why I try to garden for wildlife…back in grad school I did actually raise a baby bird that fell out of the nest and was abandoned…and we returned it to the wild….it was a great experience.


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