Saturday, July 7, 2012

Nature is not always kind

The forecast for a 30% chance of rain today got me outdoors earlier this morning to mow the back lawn. I was about 80% done with it (can you tell I like percentages?) when I felt a nasty burning sensation in my left leg, just below the knee.

I'd been stung by a hornet. I walked, half ran down the Stairway to Heaven toward the garage, abandoning the lawn mower. I realized now the hornet was chasing me so I dove inside the garage and closed the door.

Back inside the house, I quickly downed an antihistamine. I'm not deathly allergic, but when I get stung (and it seems to happen once a year or so), the swelling lasts a full week. Even now, I see an angry red blotch is spreading across my leg.

A little while later, I decided I needed to rescue the lawnmower in case it rained later, so I pulled on a pair of jeans, a corduroy jacket with hood, all buttoned up, and a pair of gloves. If a neighbor saw me out there, they clearly must've thought I was crazy. It's only 90 degrees out there.

Next, I decided to head down to the vegetable garden in the front of the yard to hand-pollinate my squashes. I was in luck: there was a female blossom open and waiting for my attention, so i dabbed a q-tip on a male blossom and then on the stigma, if I remember my high school biology right.

Before I knew it, I had collected a large bowl of yellow wax beans and green string beans, and I spied the season's first cucumber ready for picking.

While I was so occupied, I noticed a commotion in a spruce near the perimeter of my property. A group of four crows were showing inordinate interest in the spruce's dense inner branches. Suddenly, a mourning dove came dropping fast out of the tree and it almost seemed to stumble across the surface of the lawn as it fluttered low toward the shelter of a large burning bush.

I walked toward the spruce, flushing first one crow, then another and another. I thought there was one more in there, but I couldn't see anything. Seconds later, it emerged, rising high in the air as it flapped its wings to gain altitude, carrying in its beak a large mourning dove chick.

It was a helpless feeling to watch it carry its prize off to the treetops of the white pines. It galled me that a crow would snatch a chick right out from under its mother. Crows are known to be smart birds, and I'm guessing they're smarter than a mourning dove. Had they decided to gang up on the mourning dove to mob her or distract her while another crow made off with her baby?

I guess I'll never know that and I'm just torturing myself by speculating. I would have been saddened to see any bird attacked by crows, but the mourning dove, especially, seems like more of a victim. It's so placid and peaceful in its habits.

I know, crows have to eat too, although I wish they'd stick to roadkill. A small flock of hyperactive house finches caroused and quarreled nearby, shortly after the carnage. They seemed unperturbed, or unaware of, what happened.

I guess this kind of things happens every day, but most people probably wouldn't bother to investigate a group of noisy crows. I kind of wish I hadn't seen it.

1 comment:

  1. We romanticize nature but in reality it is pretty brutal out there. I kind of wish you had stifled curiosity too, and not gone to investigate the murderous crows. How sad to see that right in front of you. But as you said, they are smart and they gotta eat too.