I was watching the blue tit, great tit and woodpecker fledglings this morning from my window, as I often do. They have been coming constantly since they were old enough (a month or so now) to feed at our two feeders. It has been an extraordinary spectacle and sound-scape of companion and feeding calls as well as other high pitched, fast excitable sounds the likes of which I will never likely know the meaning of.
It has been occurring to me of late that these young ones only know how to feed from the feeders, and that they may have lost the ability, or have not even developed the ability, to catch insects, search for seeds in the grasses and other edible delights. It began to feel unhealthy to me that the feeders were almost constantly in use and I felt that we (my partner and I) may not actually be doing these youngens a favour. Were they forgetting to hunt? Were they losing that faculty to forage and search? Could this mean they were becoming less attuned, less aware than their precursors? Could it mean, therefore, they were becoming more susceptible to prey? Putting it plainly, am I in fact adding to the demise of this species by feeding them? Is it for my own gratification that I continue to fill the feeders at this time of year? Winter and Spring are important times to put food out for these young ones but in mid and late summer I’m not so sure.
There is a deeply honest conversation we humans need to have with ourselves if we really want to support beings like these winged beauties, who some of us so love, to be around. And it’s this conversation I am having with myself as I write this blog.
The feeders have become empty and we are choosing not to re-fill them. This morning I witnessed blue tits, chaffinches, a blackbird, the voles (also frequent visitors to the ground beneath the feeders) and the woodpecker fledgling all in a state of confusion. Literally hovering where the feeder had been and then perching nearby looking in that place and all around that place. I then heard a rapid tapping noise. When I looked over to where the sound was coming from I saw the woodpecker pecking at the half rotten fence post near to the feeder. He appeared to be feeding from the wood, picking out morsels of insects from there. Ah, the relief! He does know how to do it! “The woodpecker is remembering his original instruction of how to feed himself.” I heard myself saying, my belly dropping.
So, where does this leave me in the conversation? Perhaps we need to interfere less (no news there) and, despite my thinking that feeding birds was a positive thing in the Summer, it is in fact unlikely to help them in the long-run. What if we humans did less sometimes and trusted that nature has the original instruction right there, ready and waiting. Can I start with myself and trust this enough to let go and let those little ones find their way with the flying insects, the worms and the seeds?
And what of my own original instruction? Can I trust enough to let go of always needing to go and get the packaged food from a building that is in a town that I have to get inside a metal box with wheels and drive at up to 50 miles per hour to get to whilst using a fuel that is sourced from fossil gases extracted from the earth and that is probably going to run out in the not-too-distant-future? Could I let go enough of those comforts of the modern age and risk actually foraging and hunting the food I need from nature’s abundance?
I have been trying this out for a number of years and I love it because, well, I feel more connected when I do it. I have a feeling though that there’s another, deeper layer of tapping into my original instruction (an apt phrase, don’t you think, given the Woodpecker’s habit?) that I haven’t yet dared to go to. Stay tuned………
I wrote most of this blog a month ago. It is now August and I haven’t seen the woodpecker since then. I hear them calling through the trees though, and that brings a smile to my face and a feeling of connection to my being.
Photo: Vincent van Zalinge
May all beings know their original instruction.