Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Is it safe?

The unused power line that crossed the prairie on the north side of Pheasant Branch Conservancy will never again cause the death of a bird, as it was recently removed. You might remember my blog entry about Jim O’Brien’s discovery of a freshly deceased sora below a power line with bloodied face and bill - presumably the bird collided with it. Sadly, the rail was only a few hundred yards from lush marsh habitat. I sent an email inquiry to a few contacts and I’m sure Jim sent missives of his own for the removal of the wire. Having birded there for years, I only wish I had thought of it before the discovery of a dead bird along the trail.

Imagining the sora’s final moments on Earth – experiencing life from its perspective – with wings cutting the cold morning air as it flew over rolling farmland fields against a dawn skyline. It doesn’t take much to imagine its rapid breathing, racing heart…the sensation of flight. Was there an elevated sense of urgency when the bird spotted the wetland below? I wonder if it banked and descended in the direction of its destiny, unaware of what was to come from over the hill it had flown over.

Then it all abruptly ended – the picture tube went out as its lifeless body fell to the ground. The unnatural power line had little to do with natural selection…almost like a cruel joke played on the sora’s innateness.

Experiencing the natural phenomena of spring migration often evokes a similar sense of sadness along with more typical feelings of elation and excitement. In the field I try to appreciate in all birds, from Chestnut-sided Warblers to Broad-winged Hawks, the untold millions that perish from collisions with wires, towers, buildings and windows.

For the living ones, I privately wish them well as I observe, but I know that for some I may be watching their final day here. There is an innocence quotient regarding birds – the certainty of their mission – they fearlessly continue their incredible journey and reciprocate no such notions like these sappy sentiments of mine.

For many spring migrants, Wisconsin is home or close to home stretch. For other birds, our state is merely the halfway point. I think there is a lesson to be learned form this experience, and I’m encouraged to look more closely at the areas I go birding at – is there a simple way it can be improved? Manmade structures we may take for granted can create an immediate danger for birds. A power line I must have walked passed hundreds of times went completely ignored until the sora.

Sora image © 2006 Mike McDowell

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