For a number of years I’ve been hooked on the Cornell University bird cams. It’s fascinating watching bird life from mating, egg sitting, baby feeding, fledging, and care after fledging. It’s a close up view which can’t be beat. Of course it doesn’t replace going outdoors to observe the abundant life all around us at each time of year. But for learning the details of behavior, the cams are incredible.
This year I’ve been following four cams–red-tailed hawks at Cornell above the athletic fields, California condors, barn owls in Texas, and peregrine falcons in Montana.
I’ve learned that condors only have one egg or none each year and that the cute (well cute to other condors) little chick spends most of its time alone. At first I felt sorry for the little thing, having to entertain itself each day (unlike chicks who have siblings and who cuddle and poke at each other), until I learned that it was normal to be alone most of the time. I realized that I was projecting my own need and my own type of relationship. That knowing opened my mind and heart to nature and all its incredible diversity in new ways.
The peregrine female had, for many years, met up with the same male each spring to mate, brood, and raise their clutch. This year the male didn’t show up. Some folks were commenting their dismay at his absence and it did feel sad. But several males approached the female and she eventually settled on one of them. But he was very young and, other than enthusiastically mating with her multiple times, he didn’t know what to do about sitting on the eggs or bringing her sufficient food. We got to watch her train him. It was comical to watch him the first time he tried to sit on the eggs. Now he’s a good provider and takes turns with the eggs.
The red-tale’s have been a couple for at least seven years. The have had about five years of successfully raising three chicks at a time. And they’re doing it again. They are so skilled in their work and cooperative. It’s amazing to watch how fast the little ones grow and very dramatic to watch them fledge. A couple of years ago the last one to fledge stood rocking at the edge of the platform and began to take off, changing it’s mind by grabbing onto a bar and hung upside down by one talon for a few minutes. I’m sure everyone watching was holding their breath.
The barn owls are in a part of Texas that has been experiencing extreme flooding. This has made it difficult to provide sufficient food to the chicks. The two youngest died and were fed to their siblings. It was necessary food. People watching were horrified, but every day, every moment, out side there is death occurring. Cornell popped up a warning every time someone chose to see how the owlets were doing, giving them the option not to watch. Well, the weather has continued to be bad and we are now observing three owlets begging for food and the parents return periodically without food. The owlets are slowing starving and who knows what will happen to the parents?
Is it hard to watch? Yes, of course. But I go back hoping to see that food has been delivered. I go back to learn and to be reminded that life doesn’t exist on this planet without death. That evolution only happens because one life gives way for another. It’s a hard lesson.
This morning I was thinking about the extreme weather conditions in the Houston area of Texas with thoughts of my complicity in the continuing drama of climate change which gives no thought to who lives or dies. But I know that the most vulnerable, people and other life, is affected first. We’re seeing mass migrations of people due to droughts and other climate chaos.
So, although life and death is happening every second and has been happening since the beginning of life on the planet, the plight of the owls is also our doing. Another reason to feel sadness today.