A few years ago I hired my neighbor to install a fence in my yard. He is a burly Irish bloke and I was in awe to see how fast he mealed out holes in the ground with a shovel and slammed the fence posts sturdily in. When he came around to an area that had a small pine tree "in the way" he began hacking at the tree, chopping bare all its back branches. When I saw this I pleaded for him to stop, and he laughed at me. He said "Its just a tree, why don't you just get rid of it?" I explained that I liked the tree where it was, and so he managed to work around it...or I should say, what was left of it.
A year later, I noticed a man on a ladder at said neighbors house and a van in the driveway that said "Bird Doctor." I asked the technician what he was doing, and he said there were birds' nests in the eaves that he was blocking off. I guess the technician saw the look of concern on my face, and he assured me that if the nests had eggs or babies in them he would have to leave them and come back to seal off the eaves after the fledglings left.
When I came home that night I saw the eaves sealed off, and the adult birds trying to get in. It was sad to see them so confused, but I assumed the technician found no babies and the birds would just have to build another nest in a more welcome environment. Well, a few days after this, I saw my neighbor himself, and he jokingly teased me about being so concerned about the "little baby birdies." When I asked him what he meant, because I didn't think there were little birdies in the nest, he laughed and said, "Jen don't worry about it, the babies took only a few days to die. What's the big deal?"
So there were in fact baby birds in the nest and the technician, with my neighbor's approval, sealed them in to slowly dehydrate and starve to death in 90 degree weather. When I found this out I was furious. I don't know what made me feel worse, the babies dying such a horrible death, or the mothers trying to get to their offspring in such desperation. All I could do was make calls: I called the company- the Bird Doctor in Paramus, NJ- I called the NJ Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife, I called the Audobon Society. I wrote to Animal Rights groups, and I wrote bad reviews anywhere I saw this company's name online. But nothing legally could be done, I was told, because the birds were sparrows, and sparrows are an invasive species from Europe and have no protection here. When my neighbor's wife heard from the Bird Doctor company of all my protests she contacted me apologizing for her husband's insensitivity about the birds. But he was not to blamed she told me. He grew up on a farm in Ireland and he has witnessed "a lot worse," in her words.
Today, a few years after this incident I still cannot bear to talk to my neighbor whom I was once very friendly with. We even used to take walks, have lunch or tea together- and I cannot even look at him now. He and his wife had a baby last year and all I can think is how would they feel if someone prevented them from getting to their child, because I do not think a bird parent would feel any different. The sight of watching those birds trying to get past that barrier to get to their young is something that still haunts me....until yesterday, when I made a discovery that brought me some reprieve.
I went behind the little mangled pine tree that never recovered from the crude "pruning" job, to where I keep a stack of tomato cages, and to my surprise an angry little bird shot out of the tree and went to a higher up tree and continued to scold me. I looked into the little tree and found out why I was being scolded. I was too close to a nest. A nest that is full of eggs!
So there is a nest in this tree that my neighbor tried to kill, and I like to think that it is inhabited by the same sparrow whose babies he did kill. And I like to think that both the tree and the bird are defiantly surviving in the face of the attempts of an ignorant human who did not respect their lives. Who did not see that they are living things with as much a right to life as any of us. Who are here, given life by the same power that gives us all life. Why is it that some of us feel so much more entitled to this life than other living things?