It’s Just Lunch

The songbirds always let it be known when there’s a killer in their midst, be it a cat, a raccoon, a hawk, or a crow. Today, it seems that every bird in my little acre was shrieking with alarm — not just the usual robin whose nest was threatened, but the chickadees, nuthatches, and many others as well. When all the birds sing happy songs, it’s background music, but when they sound like several fire alarms going off, something is wrong. I went out onto the deck to have a look.

In the tall firs next to the house, many songbirds were divebombing a preditor who sat and watched from her perch on a dead broken branch. I ran back into the house for my camera. The merlin (a small falcon) didn’t seem to care about me being there. She was either a juvenile or brazen or both. However it was, she allowed me to take many pictures, even posing a bit.

She ruffled her feathers, being Mrs. Cool. I’m not afraid of you!

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The songbirds set up the alarm in the whole mini forest around my yard. A chickadee and a nuthatch, both tiny birds who are often chosen by the falcons as appetizers, bravely sat on the branch directly behind the merlin, scolding her.

The merlin merely gave them a look that said, “Who? Me?”

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Then she looked down at the ground to see if her lunch was still there. I suspected she had done something because she had blood on her hands…er…beak.

033Yes, it was me, she says. I’m not proud of myself.

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She shrugs her shoulders and says, “It’s just lunch.”

039My little puppy, Emma, found the falcon’s intended lunch, lying on the ground below the tree. A juvenile red-shafted northern flicker, one of my favourite birds in this area.

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I was choked. I don’t want to hear another person say a word about “Mother Nature.” There is nothing “motherly” about nature. As beautiful as nature is, it is also very cruel when we apply our human values to it. But that’s how it has to be.

And I do think the falcon was sorry.

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I waved my arms but the falcon didn’t want to fly away. It was only when I opened the big patio umbrella that she flew off. The songbirds settled down and silence hung in the air.

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When I picked up the flicker, a single tail feather fell to the ground and as I walked away, I heard one lonely bird calling. It had to be the mother giving one last quavery call to say an anguished goodbye to her baby.

39 thoughts on “It’s Just Lunch

  1. Such a heartbreaking story, and unfortunately, a common occurrence in my own backyard. 😦 I know the predators have to eat too, but do they have to look for food in my neighbourhood? I have these very same merlins hanging around here and they never look like they are sorry. They look annoyed when I try to scare them away. I’ll bet the chorus of birds sounding the alarm really got your adrenalin pumping. Great photos, Anneli.

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    • I almost didn’t go for the camera because I was sure he’d fly away, but as it turned out he didn’t even fly when I waved my arms. I opened the patio umbrella and poofed it at him before he decided to take off. My poor little birds!!
      The merlins nested nearby this year and they’re always over here looking for something to eat. Thanks for visiting, Sonja.

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  2. It is at times like this one wants to interfere in the way of things… the way of nature… but in this case it was too late… just a thought though, by not allowing it to finish its meal have you not caused another small bird to now become its meal.?? I know how you feel, having seen antelope meet their end at the claws of lion… want to scream out a warning to them, but need to let things take their course…. it is a shame for that which was too weak or slow to avoid becoming a meal…

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    • Oh no! You’re so right! That falcon went away hungry. I hadn’t thought of that. My excuse is that I didn’t discover the dead flicker until I had shooed the falcon away, but I probably would have made that same mistake even if I had known. Stupid of me. I think I must have watched too much Walt Disney.

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    • I know in my story sequence, I said I saw the bird and then chase the falcon away, but in fact I was on the deck with the camera, and then later took the dog downstairs and she found the flicker.

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  3. This brought tears to my eyes… and I’m not THAT sentimental. I think you were able to transfer your feelings in the images and the text.
    It’s a tough one, this applying our values to the animals around us. When I watch nature documentaries, part of me wants the camera operator to put down the videocam and intervene, damn it! Stop that snake for gobbling up the unsuspecting furry thing. Jump in and rescue the injured fawn. don’t just sit there, DO something!
    But I know that’s not the answer. Doesn’t make it easier to watch, though.

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    • Exactly how I feel when I watch those shows too. I keep thinking why don’t they DO something. But Bulldog’s comment is right on. We want to interfere but it’s best that we don’t. But it is hard to watch. There is so much in nature that is cruel, by our human standards, but life and death have to happen, and it’s survival of the fittest. It’s been that way since time began.

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  4. OMG, this is so sad. I found a dying bird (I think it was a mocking bird) on my front walkway once. I thought the cat I had at the time might’ve gotten it. It broke my heart when I saw its mate pushing at it to get up and fly away with him. It was so sad. I had a neighbor help me bring it to my vet, who said it wasn’t going to make it. 😦

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  5. Very beautiful pictures!!!! And a sad story. This merlin was not sorry, he was mad that he couldn´t get to his meal. One of them took a little bird which was flying into the window and sat just at my feet a bit groggy. I was going to set it in a safer place but as I reached for it a merlin dove down very fast and grabbed the little poor bird and flew away with it. I had no chance, he was too fast. I was crying after that.

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  6. This really was so sad, Anneli! You know what a fan I am of birds. . . I got teary eyed, especially since one of your favorite birds was the prey. How bittersweet the lonely call of a mother would be, the pretty feather a symbol of its beauty.

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