(the ugly side of) Nature!

Well, they were sparrows.

Early Sunday morning I was out on our deck and I watched Mama and Papa Sparrow taking turns flying off for food and watching over the back yard;  I saw them dart in and out of the Virginia creeper. Definitely sparrows.

Sunday evening, Dixie and the kids watched the little sparrow hatchlings struggling around on the ground after leaving the nest.  And this afternoon I rescued one of the cute little guys caught in a window-well.  I scooped it out on a shovel and placed it gently in the grass as Mama and Papa Sparrow looked on.

But it’s confession time: I accidentally killed one of the little guys.

Tonight I was mowing the back yard (with our reel mower–still a fan!–but this story isn’t as gruesome as a reel mower may make you think) and I noticed Ma and Pa Sparrow flitting about the yard.  One of them had food in its mouth.  I happened to be mowing near where the nest is in the Virginia creeper, so I stopped mowing and backed away to let them feed their little ones.

Good thing I did, because one of the little ones was nestled deep in the grass as pass or two away from the lawn mower.  So I moved to a different part of the yard in hopes that the little guy would scurry away.  A couple of minutes later I went inside to get my camera.  I told Dixie about the little bird in the grass, how I could have killed the very bird I rescued this afternoon.  When I came back outside, however, the bird was gone–or so I thought.  I searched that whole area of the lawn looking for it, but I couldn’t find it.  I thought I heard some chirping in the Virginia creeper and rather naively thought that it was making its way back up to the nest (I didn’t realize birds leave the nest before they can fly), so I started mowing that part of the lawn again, just to get it done, in case it came back.  I was paying special attention to where I was going, because I knew there were at least two of them.  Except I didn’t pay attention to the spot the bird had been.  Then I noticed some sudden fluttering and saw the little guy struggle, twitch and die.  The front wheel of the mower had run over its hindquarters.

“Oh no!” I exclaimed.  I felt terrible.

I’m light-years away from joining PETA, but I love animals, and I hate to see them needlessly (or accidentally) killed.  This stems from both an innate appreciation for creation, as well as an ugly childhood incident involving a snared gopher.

I don’t subscribe to any of the Eastern religions, but I try to teach Luke not to stomp on ladybugs and other insects after he has observed them with fascination.  They are all–big and small–God’s little creatures (and, for goodness’ sake, His eye is on the sparrow!).  And we had been following this little family’s development for about a week now, were finally seeing them leave the nest.

I know this is just a fact of nature.  If I hadn’t clipped it, the neighbour’s cat may have caught it.  Who knows.  It’s still a shame.

Ma and Pa Sparrow returned and flitted back and forth between the stacked lawn chairs and the roof of the shed, looking and listening for their son or daughter.  A few minutes later, I was near them as they hopped on our fence.  I apologized to them;  “I’m sorry.  I killed your little baby,” I said.

I buried it behind the spruce tree in the back yard.

I don’t have the heart to tell Madeline.  Not because I don’t want her to learn about life and death–she has already learned quite a bit about that–but because I don’t want to face her anger at her idiot, careless dad.

And on that cheery note, tomorrow morning we are west-bound for the first leg of our Western Canada Tour of Insanity (I changed the name from “Tour of Glory” just a few moments ago, because it’s really quite insane what we’re doing.  But more on that later.)

6 thoughts on “(the ugly side of) Nature!

  1. Terry

    We have a robins nest in our garage (if you want to call it that, its quite an ugly building, more of a lean-to). Anyways, the robins started jumping out of the nest a couple weeks ago. Well my chocolate lab took care of at least 2 of them. The murderer. She had a great time, finally something she could actually catch. I punished her pretty severely and locked her in the back of the garage (no robins there). Afterward I couldn’t help but feel conflicted, obviously my dog’s natural instinct is to go after prey such as a robin. But it just felt so wrong. That and I do feed her, so she doesn’t need to eat birds to survive.

  2. Toni

    Its perfectly reasonable for a dog (or cat) to catch and kill/eat small animals, so it may have been a little harsh to punish her for it. I draw the line at our cats crunching up whatever they’ve brought into our house on the floor. It usually ends up in the grass on the other side of the road (I live in the country remember).

    Rabbits tend to leave a lot of mess behind. :p

    Mark – don’t be upset (I’m sure you’re not now anyway). You tried not to kill it, and what happened was just as much an accident as if it had flown into your car while you were driving.

  3. Don Hendricks

    Totally agree with that sentiment, all life is precious. When a bird hits my windshield I feel sick at heart.

    Have a great trip.

  4. Angie

    I am not on Twitter, but I saw your question about whether the Royal Tyrell Museum is worth it….I can’t answer that, but I would HIGHLY recommend reptile world in Drumheller. It is cheap to get in and there are hundreds of different species of snakes, lizards, frogs, turtles, etc. Even a 600lb crocodile!

  5. Phil L

    Do you know what species of sparrow it was? If it was one of our native sparrows, then perhaps its passing is to be mourned. However, if the late departed was a house sparrow (Passer domesticus) – an invasive Old World species – then the native songbirds will thank you for removing one of their competitors from the ecosystem.

  6. Marc

    Phil: I’m not sure what kind of sparrow it was. Its body looked more common sparrow-ish, but its head had a rusty-red “cap”. ( I couldn’t find my birdbook that week.)

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