Life is tenuous. All life, but particularly wildlife, and bird life too.
On the morning I went to check if the last Grey Shrike Thrush had left the nest, I almost killed it.
The baby I christened Tiny, the smallest egg, the last to hatch, the runt of the brood, was inches from being stepped on.
It sat beneath my back doorstep. Lucky the mother Thrush squealed at me, hovering above my head to distract me from the small grey feathered blob at my feet.
This is the babe next to my garden Crocs. I don’t have big feet, but the picture might give you some perspective. Tiny was tiny. Very.
I’d watched in the garage as the parent Grey Shrikes gathered nesting materials, built and tended their nest of three eggs in a toolbox on a dusty old shelf in the garage.
I kept watching as they fed the hatchlings continually until they fledged. I observed the changes in the family each day for ten weeks.
Stepping out in a different place would have snuffed out that new life.
Humankind isn’t used to such an enormous loss of life across the globe. We’ve been lulled into a sense of security by modern medicine and technology. Covid-19 doesn’t respect borders or nationalities and has left us stressed out.
We fear the unknown possibilities. We’re left exposed to a new sickness that’s radically changed the world in a couple of months. The same time it took a pair of Grey Shrike-thrushes to add three more of their kind to our NSW farmland.
Able to click on the deadly statistics of each country, state, ship or city in a millisecond, the vulnerability doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve been overwhelmed with sadness for the first half of 2020.
Birds know nothing but a tenuous existence fraught with danger and difficulties. Still, I’m glad I didn’t squash the new chick underfoot. I looked down at Tiny then moved away, photographing from a safe distance. She didn’t move for twenty minutes.
Tiny must have been recovering from her first flight and subsequent fall onto concrete.
The parent birds worked in tandem, standing guard and encouraging her to move. Waving grubs from further away made her hop to them.
The desire to replenish the energy she’d lost fledging outweighed the shock of the new world of concrete and bricks. She jumped, she fed, she looked about with fresh eyes.
After fifteen more minutes, Tiny ventured into the garage and up onto old shelves. Wings beating hard, she flew to the rafters of the garage, then the roof. Again, she stayed still and recovered, being fed again to supply her with instant energy at the time in her life when she needed it most.
I saw her hopping in the garden, digging for worms after the rain this morning. She still loves to be fed, milking that for all it’s worth. Tiny seems fatter now than both her parents. It’s funny, but it’s the way things are. The chick fluffs about, vibrating its wings, dancing, begging and looking cute.
The last chick was the least likely to live but defied the odds. I like it when that happens. It gives me hope for a quieter second half of 2020, hope for humankind.
Nature has always been cruel for birds and animals, right now it has been cruel for many of us as well. Growing up in Australia, secure and healthy with a comfortable house and a happy family, I forgot that fact. Covid-19 has reminded me of the fragility of life; something I can’t take for granted any longer.
Still, I feel joy when I look at pictures of Tiny. It’s good to see the chick that was most likely to die, thriving despite everything.