The first broods of garden and woodland birds are now wobbling their ways out into the wide world. Very often they are quite without fear, which paradoxically gives us the joy of seeing a wild creature close up, but also the worry that such naïveté will lead to an early grave. This is indeed the case. These fluffy morsels are at the very bottom of the food chain and are sitting ducklings for all the predators that are also raising their own young.
For osprey juveniles it may seem that the mortality rate of about 70% is unusual, and due generally to the rigours of migration, but in fact the same percentage of the smaller birds die to tooth and claw. All things being equal, any couple only has to reproduce themselves once in their breeding lifetime. So, looking at the Bluetits, taking on the nesting box at the lower viewpoint, a brood of up to 10 chicks is never going to be viable. Unless the world is to drown in a Bluetit inundation all that green energy from the sun, transmitted through leaves, champed up by caterpillars, and poked down the throats of hungry chicks, must pass on in flesh to the top predators. So, the sparrowhawk couple visit the feeders every day. Somewhere in the forest their brood of chicks will live or die, depending on the source of supply.
Cruel? It’s a fine line of balance, with the creatures within the cycle doing as they have to.
We don’t need telling, but real cold-bloodedness lies with us; although we are superficially touched by the helplessness of young things; although we wonder intermittently at the intricacies and fine weightings of our amazing planet, yet deep down we condone comfortable lifestyles which depend on our deliberate manipulation and destruction of the building blocks of our world. Over the past week some of the children and grandchildren of the volunteers of the osprey project have been striking from local schools to join with the millions of other young people standing globally, pressing governments to work together to find a solution. They are the ones who will inherit the earth. There is no Planet B.