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