Monday, October 15, 2007

A Sparrow's Life

I have a birdhouse in my garden, a nice little house at the top of a pole, with twelve tiny flats, perfect for the families of house sparrows who used to nest there every year. In winter, they used them as shelters and there were many of them sharing the grains with pigeons.



"Used" is the word, because they’ve all disappeared two or three years ago. And not just in my back yard but in those of my neighbours’ too. The hedges were teeming with these cute noisy birds, and now they’re silent. I haven’t realised there was something going on at first; when I had the sudden revelation of this silence, I was intrigued and saddened.

Then I came across some articles on the Internet. I was surprised to see that the disappearance of the house sparrows was perceived as a growing phenomenon in Europe and that some people have started studying it. Among possible explanations are: predators, pesticides that have destroyed the insects upon which the chicks need to feed during their first week if life, mobile telephony, and harmful by-products of unleaded petrol. Researchers are still working on this.

I don’t know what the cause is. I’m tempted to say that it’s something we humans are doing, some uncaring selfish act that will increase our “comfort” and momentarily appease our greed at the expense of fellow dwellers of this planet. But maybe it isn’t, maybe it’s just nature, rearranging itself. After all, there were many sparrows in Cuba…

After they cut the forest not far behind my house to build those half a million dollar homes that make our "nice" neighbourhood, there was a little red fox I could sometimes see at night, on the street, probably visiting the dustbins. I’ve seen it for a couple of years, maybe, and then, it too, was gone. And one year, there was a hare in my garden, and the next spring I spotted it in my front yard with three (!) babies. They, too, have vanished now. What is a fox’s life, or a hare’s, or a sparrow’s, compared to our "needs" as "masters" of this planet? Nothing… How ironical…

So, are we entirely guilty? I really don’t know.

What is certain though is that my little birdhouse is empty…

19 comments:

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

This is such a strange phenomenon. We too used to have so many sparrows, as a child, I used to sit on the lawn and feed them. Now you seldom if ever see any and those one does see, are tattered and unhealthy looking little creatures. It breaks my heart. Fortunately we do still have other creatures with us - I have my guinea fowl, too many doves, the squirrels and yesterday we saw two baboons foraging in the soon to be felled plantation just along the way from our house.

Bernita said...

We had an unusual number of blackbirds invading our property this year and I noticed my sparrows have retreated to the back.

Ropinator said...

We also have this bird house and we put food inside it but they destroy the grass instead.

jason evans said...

I was just thinking about life being in balance and harmony. We sometimes think that's the state of nature. The truth is probably more fierce and chaotic. Life is an invasion. If one life form is not held in check by other life forms, or the environment, it takes over until it crashes under its own weight. That's our destiny unless our consciousness can avert it.

Taffiny said...

I am sorry for your empty bird house, I hope soon, it is filled once again. I hope the sparrows are not gone, but merely elsewhere.

I don't notice creatures disappearing around here. (well it did seem there were less bees, at least till July). What I do notice is different years I see different critters. This year we had a lot of yellow finches, and mockingbirds, now I don't see them, but the blue jays seemed to have moved in. We don't usually have rabbits, but this year till August we had lots and lots (too many).

I used to see blue birds, and an opossum called Fred. But I haven't seen them at all this year.

For the first time this year, these white geese (like small swans) came through here on their way elsewhere. I don't why their path had changed, but I loved seeing them.

I can't bear to think of your sparrows as dwindling. So untill I know otherwise I will choose to believe, they are just elsewhere. (do tell us if/when you find out what is happening to them).

(my goodness, a phone call from my mom, some yard work, and packing up husband's lunch, all happened before I could finish this comment and hit publish. I must have started well over an hour ago)

Aine said...

I think we have all the house sparrows over here, on this side of the pond :)

Jason made an interesting point about life itself being an invasion. And, that nature may be more chaos than balance. I think nature strives towards balance though. Life cannot exist without an environment of some form, so there are always environmental limitations. Only a species which can transcend the environmental stresses would be able to crash under it's own weight. I don't think we are entirely guilty of tipping the balance, but I think we are guilty if we don't pay attention to our unnecessary transformation of environments and the harm that follows.

Ello said...

It is a beautiful birdhouse and I hope it is full again next year. Perhaps this is just a seasonal occurrence. There was a growing phenomenon in the US of the disappearance of small birds and it being linked to house cats being let out. The cats were killing all the birds, leading to huge insect infestation problems. NWF and other environmental organizations put out flyers asking people to keep their house cats inside. After all, they were not killing for food but to hunt. And we simply have so many more cats than wild birds. I wonder if that might not be an issue too.

But then again, the worst tragedy that we humans do is to destroy nature in our quest for more land to put up houses, buildings and malls in.

The Grocer said...

The point about cats is a good one, obviously the cats are an artificial introduction as they would not breed so successfully without all the food provided by humans. We are therefore indirectly responsible for this cause. One of the other theories is related to changing in farming practice with better practices resulting in less spillage for example which was a major food source for species like sparrows. Also less grassland and therefore less grass seeds mean less food. The decline is probably as a result of all of these factors combining to put pressure on the species. In the Uk we have the additional problem that new houses have less roof spaces in which they can nest and old properties and barns are almost non existent as a result of development.

Wilf said...

We are lucky enough to still have quite a few sparrows and wrens in our garden, especially since our cat died.

Vesper said...

Vanilla, oh, I'd like to see those baboons! How exotic this sounds for me!

Bernita, yes, blackbirds come here too. In spring and in autumn, there are days when they darken the lawn.

Ropi, can't expect them to behave exactly as we'd like them to... :-)

How true, Jason. Nature does that well. I feel that we, humans, often consider ourselves outside and above nature and that's where the danger lies, for us and for everything else.

Thank you, Taffiny. You're right about the bees; I heard they're dying and the mobile telephony is blamed for this.

Aine, I'm glad they're somehwere!!! :-) (But we are on the same side of the pond, you know.)
Thank you for visiting!
You're right, we're not entirely guilty, but I think we have quite a lot of guilt.

Thank you, Ello, I hope that too. I'm sure cats are an issue too. But they're obeying instincts. We people build, build, build, without concern for the environment. And corrupt bureaucrats give building permits everywhere. Read Vanilla's article posted on the 15th of October at her blog, absolutevanilla.blogspot.com

Mr. Grocer, yes, it's always a combination of factors, but somehow all of them lead to something that we are doing.

Addy, I'm sorry to hear about your cat!

Aine said...

Yes, I realized my mistake after posting that comment-- we are on the same side of the pond. I got confused when you were talking about the disappearance of sparrows in Europe. My bad... ;)

Travis Erwin said...

I'm always sad to hear stories liek these. Although I am a hunter I appreciate all nature and when I hear the balance ahs been upset to the point animals are scare or gone completly is makes me sad.

Vesper said...

Aine, thank you!!! :-)

Travis, you're a hunter!... Oh, it would be absolutely impossible for me to do that.

Vesper said...

Aine, when will we see your blog? I'm looking forward to it. Right now your profile links to your husband's blog.

Mad Munkey said...

Mad Cow Disease? The poor bastert's.

Vesper said...

Maybe, Munkey, you can't rule anything out... :-)

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Following hot on the heels of your smile award, I've now given you a "sweet award" - over at my place :-)

Shameless said...

It's horrible to read about this ... and I was equally horrified to read about the loss of bees as well. I think we are in for some big shocks in the future. We have done so much damage to this planet. :-(

Vesper said...

Vanilla, you're spoiling me!!! :-) Thank you!

Seamus, yes, you're right, and it just doesn't stop. Greed is so much more powerful than reason and reason.