Intervention is a funny word, there’s a hint of positivity in it, as though you are somehow nobly going to the rescue, preventing something by your action. Yet intervention is a dirty word. You should never intervene in nature.
But like most things in life, it’s not that black and white. Man has a certain responsibility, a duty of care, I believe and besides, Man has already intervened. Much of what we admire and assume to be natural in our local environment has already been altered by hundreds if not thousands of years of human activities. If nature has already been intervened with then we have even more responsibility to step up, to aid and to care. After all, few other creatures can have such an extreme impact on an ecosystem.
Choosing to step in, to take an action is sometimes instinctive. We act but there are always consequences. It is afterwards that we stop to reflect, perhaps not always the best order of events. Should we have done what we did? Should we have done something differently?
We tried to do things by the book, following the appropriate protocols with Baby Number One. We were thwarted by the attitude of the vet and then the time of day, we chose to take a different course of action with the subsequent babies we found. But should we have acted at all?
Nature is not always a pastoral idyll. You know that. I know that. We know that.
We acted because we cared and the way we acted was decided by the above factors. We were also inspired by a previous case. When I was very little, probably even before I started school, a friend of my family somehow came across an abandoned or orphaned nest of blue tits. I can’t remember the particulars but I do remember those baby birds. Our friend built them a nest in a margarine tub and that margarine tub went everywhere with her. She fed them worms. She got them to fledge successfully. If she could do it back then when there wasn’t as much information around, we have been fortunate to be able to research things on the internet, then we felt that there was a possibility that we could too. She was successful.
When you stop to think, many of those personalities of the rescue world and the smaller charities, well they started as an individual who cared, who stepped in and up, who intervened and it grew from there. I don’t plan to go much further in my career with wildlife, I’m not the biggest fan and I need some rest but the point is you don’t have to be an expert. It seems to be a modern thing this need for an expert; there is this view that only an ‘expert’ can handle a matter correctly. What makes an expert? A piece of paper or experience? I don’t know; maybe it depends. Maybe it depends on how loud you’re prepared to shout too. Even the big national charities, well they started many years ago with someone who cared, someone who wanted to make a difference, someone who intervened.
Therefore, we, as mere individuals, can make a difference. We can choose to care and we can choose to act. We may not be experts but we can research and we can inform ourselves. That’s the almost scary miracle of the internet and other modern communications.
But it still doesn’t answer whether intervention is the right thing. I don’t know if there ever will be a clear answer to that question.
If we hadn’t of stepped in and rescued the babies then they would have died. That is a fact. That is nature. Nature was disrupted by them precipitating into our bathroom. I’d rather things didn’t die in my bathroom. Nature had previously been disrupted by the parents choosing a rather daft and very unnatural nesting site. It is one thing for babies to fall out of a nest in a tree, that is the natural way. But this? Nature was disrupted, had already been intervened in. By the birds themselves.
Once you choose to step then you have responsibility. Once you have those birds in your care then you have a duty of care. Otherwise, you are guilty of neglect and even perhaps cruelty. It’s a lot to live up to. By choosing to intervene, you can further disrupt Nature by increasing those baby birds’ chances of survival. You are often able to improve upon the variables that naturally occur, for example, you can control the amount of food available whereas Nature can be fickle with changes in the weather and the insect population causing many young ones to be lost.
Then there’s the runt. The runt rarely makes it; that is how it is in Nature. You may not feel that is a good thing but whether that is wrong or right, well that’s a much more difficult issue to pick apart. By helping such a weakling to survive, are we doing right or wrong? What if he can never fly? The duty of care, the responsibility remains. Should we have intervened?
I don’t think I can offer any answers, just share some of the ponderings that we are facing and discussing.
We had sad news yesterday, brace yourselves. We borrowed a car and travelled up to the sanctuary where Baby Number One went because they were holding an open day and we’d rather go to the effort of travelling that far than phone. (It makes perfect sense in our world). He didn’t make it. Perhaps the two journeys and possibly a delay in appropriate care and feeding compromised his chances.
We were sad because we had tried to do the ‘right’ thing. We were sad because we both feel loss so keenly.
But that brings those questions and issues back to mind. By choosing not to follow the protocol, by not going with the System, have we done our other birds a favour? Did we somehow improve their chances of survival and success? It’s hard to tell, it’s definitely full of what ifs.
Did you know that only two babies are expected to survive out of each blue tit brood, that’s all Nature needs at the very most? And they can have broods of thirteen. The loss seems unacceptable in human terms yet should we do all we can to prevent it? When is it right to intervene?
Tonight our biggest four were wheeling overhead in the sitting room, confident and strong, itching to get out into a much bigger space. They are ready. Or as ready as they ever will be. Perhaps I risk offending some in this big, internet world by comparing hand-rearing birds to parenting children but I find the lessons interesting and it deepens my appreciation of the efforts and challenges of parenting. They seem ready but I don’t know if we are. I worry about everything, as you know. And I know just how many dangers are out there. When is it a good time for your children to leave home? And can you protect them when they do? Or do they not need your protection anymore? There’s a certain amount of letting go, their lives are in their own hands now. Or wings.
We need to check a few legal obligations first but we are looking for them to fledge in the next couple of days. We need some good weather though and it looks as though our summer is already over, so we’ll have to see how that goes.
Then there’s Manky. Manky is at least five days behind now. He did a spectacular ‘falling with style’ from the back of the sofa all the way down to the ground this morning, if it was just falling then he would have landed on the sofa seats. He is feeding himself more, especially when it comes to gorging himself on melon and he hopped into the tub of mealworms this evening to pick one up but he wasn’t quite sure what to do with it after that. His feathers are still a disaster, which is probably the reason why he hasn’t got any further. It’s hard to know whether he’s just slow or at the limits of his progress. There are a lot of questions but no easy answers. Time, time will tell.
- Blue Tit Babies
- Release of Casualty Garden Birds etc (Small Passerines) (external link)
- Wildlife Casualty Release (external link)