Years ago, I read an enlightening article about how the continual shrinkage of natural bird habitats has made it sensible to feed the birds all year round.
I have been doing this for more than seven years now, and as a result, the garden is home to a very large flock of sparrows along with the usual chickadees, nuthatches and blackbirds.
While sitting by the fish pond after lunch yesterday, I heard the sparrows start from the feeding place into the trees in a manner much more abrupt than usual. I got up and walked around to see if perhaps a neighborhood cat had startled them and was astounded to see a sparrowhawk sitting in the grass about a meter from me, his back turned.
I let out a loud yell and he took flight. When I saw that he was empty-clawed, I breathed a sigh of relief. The sparrows, which had all fled into the fig and apple trees, sat motionless, not making a sound. It wouldn’t have been the first time that a sparrowhawk got one of the sparrows – I’ve witnessed this on more than one occasion, watching the hawk fly away with a screaming sparrow in his claws.
I returned to my seat and was overtaken by a bad conscience almost immediately. It occurred to me that what I had just done probably stood in direct contrast to some sort of (probably eastern) religion or belief, as I had intervened in the natural course of things and actively prevented the sparrowhawk from getting a meal. I found myself feeling sorry for the sparrowhawk.
On the one hand, I’m not feeding the birds to provide meals to other birds.
On the other hand, maybe just letting nature take it’s course would have been the right thing to do.
I’m really on the fence on this one.