When the sparrow was deftly plucked from the bird feeder at great speed and then eaten by the sparrow hawk, I was stunned. I stood and watched the whole thing unfold and as I looked on, filled with an equal sense of awe and fascination and sadness and disgust, contemplating whether I was in the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time.
When we first moved to the farm we didn’t really see many birds, nor hear them either. There was the punctual barn owl that takes its hunting flight at seven o’clock each evening and the occasional blackbird, robin or sparrow flitting about in the hedges. After we installed the bird feeders we, obviously, started attracting a lot more birds, both in number and variety. The first feeding station we created is a long branch suspended across two large branches driven into the ground and supported, onto which we’ve hung about eight different bird feeders. To provide additional areas for other birds and to reduce competition and bullying (it turns out robins and blackbirds can be really narky when they’re hungry!) we’ve hung more feeders from trees and added another feeding station elsewhere, too. We’ve counted over thirty different species of bird now from yellowhammers and black caps to wrens, fieldfares and woodpeckers (my least favourite because despite their majestic look, they have an irritating habit of pecking holes in the sides of the beehives).
That morning that I watched a sparrow being ripped apart by a hawk, I did wonder if we’d perhaps aided its demise by creating these feeding stations. Just a few weeks before I’d found a dead sparrow with nesting material in its beak that I presumed had flown into the greenhouse. Monday this week we found an injured bird on the driveway and despite wrapping in towels and keeping it warm inside, it didn’t survive. Yesterday we discovered an injured pigeon with quite severe open wounds and one of our colonies of bees has a virus, for which there is no known cause nor treatment. I’m beginning to wonder if we should be quarantined!
Of course, all of these are examples of the miracle of life; of nature – no one is to blame for their happening, however, living so closely with nature, as we do vicariously on the farm, finding ourselves assisting it, nurturing it and dancing with it (it’s futile to think about fighting it, so you may as well dance with it), you are exposed to the moments when things aren’t okay. Those moments of death and suffering and of failure of crops to grow often create a really harsh juxtaposition to the beauty of the sunrises and sunsets; the wildlife and landscape and the plants that we are guardians of. It’s easy to become consumed by the things that don’t go to plan; by the days when you wake and your get up and go has got up and gone; by the sadness and tragedies. We live in an ever-false world of selfies, pouting, filters and perfection portrayed by social media and the staged lives people photograph and video: it’s okay to be different and it’s okay that sometimes things aren’t okay. The wonder of life is our difference; something that is celebrated in nature and that we look on with awe: the varying colours of birds; patterns of insects; variation in flowers… and yet we are a species become more obsessed with keeping up with the Jones’; with being just like everyone else and with pretending that things are okay all the time. There’s only one you: be you.
We are simply – merely – sometimes celebratory and other times apologetically, human.
Jez Rose is a broadcaster, honeybee farmer, award-winning author, unconventional gardener and tea drinker. His new book LEGACY is due out late 2018. For more information about his organic farm, honeybee hive adoption business or presentations at conferences, visit www.JezRose.co.uk or www.BeesforBusiness.com