Right To Life
This particular image was taken in the outdoor classroom of the last school in which I taught. The bird was a mockingbird, and it had chosen to set up housekeeping in a wax myrtle shrub we had planted a few years back.
The photo was selected for special exhibition in a second show probably based more on its title than on any particular skill in composition. The yearning of the chick--silent, but striving--is a characteristic of all wild young creatures born into the world. And as anyone with a pet can tell you, they are not without cognition, emotion and even empathy. Parent birds mourn the loss of their mates and their children. Unlike us, they can try for another brood in very short order--a trait developed through centuries of evolution to make up for their high mortality rates. But that doesn't mean they don't experience the pain of loss.
Part of what we strive for in our backyard is places to support "the rearing of children." By this I do not mean just our critter babies, but also the human ones that walk by and observe the space. Without green spaces, many children are never exposed to the empathy gained from watching the trials and tribulations of being a small, fragile thing in a frequently cruel world. Birds, unlike us, can't go out and buy a good-sized shrub to go build a nest in--the best they can do is eat berries and pass on seeds for the next generation to possibly benefit from. (There's a lesson, there....) And humans unexposed to the observation of other creatures trying to make a go of it have insufficient experience to relate their own life and impact to the greater world/environment. It is nearly impossible to escape gaining some empathy for a species to which you belong. It is far easier to ignore the plight of the "other" if you've never had to observe "it."
Currently, a house wren is nesting in a small birdhouse we put up on the northwestern side of the yard and bluebirds are using a house in the southeast. Today one of the bluebirds went over and fussed at the house wren, just for good measure...house wrens have been known to puncture bluebird eggs. After just a few minutes, he went back to his bug-collecting duties. Along with at least four dozen other birds in the yard. In fact, the yard has been so filled with birds zooming back and forth it can feel hazardous--I was buzzed by a hummingbird at one point, and then a downy woodpecker a little later.
The robins are leaving/have left their nest on the opposite side of the spruce from the bluebirds. It has been a remarkably amiable parental relationship--evidently the bluebirds do not feel threatened by the robins. And vice versa. I had assumed that the larger size of the robin would make it a greater threat than the house wren--but the bluebird himself made it obvious who he considers his enemies to be.
One thing I'd like to point out about these pictures--each of them shows a bird in relation to an evergreen. The wax myrtle is a native evergreen shrub common to south Georgia, the Fraser Fir is rampant throughout our portion of Western North Carolina, and the white pine is native to much of the United States. If you wish to support wildlife, it does take more than birdfeeders and flowers. Encourage your neighbors to plant places to hide. Clusters of native evergreens function like a good "planned neighborhood," allowing birds to take shelter from storms and predators.
We have our houses--they need theirs. Because we all have a right to life.