Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Last Song

Breaking away from my traditional close-up bird portraiture, here's a lovely digiscoped photograph of an Eastern Meadowlark surveying his domain at a field near Airport Road in Middleton this morning. When I was born in 1966, nearly 25 million of these gorgeous black, brown, yellow, and white grassland birds graced our fields and prairies, singing their sweet melody of notes. In just my lifetime their numbers have plummeted over 70%. The meadowlark in this photograph will sing throughout spring, establish and defend a territory, pair up with a mate, and with a little luck they'll bring forth their progeny into this world. But to what end?

Mortality is high for them and their young will probably never experience their own spring migration. Our greed for commerce and land may have already sealed the fate for Eastern Meadowlarks. With little mercy, our veritable national motto “bigger, better, faster, more” is pushing this species toward the brink of impossible recovery. Through no fault of his own evolutionary makeup, he can't possibly know what's coming and what we're planning. With regret and no one else to blame, the last paragraph of the final chapter on Eastern Meadowlarks seems to be written.

The common bird isn't as cherished, but we should reverse this unwise tendency of our character. In no way would my sense of value for this species be diminished if their numbers were as high today as they were 40 years ago. The meadowlark pictured above is telling us a story through his melodious song. He sings how he, and unseen millions of his brethren before him, once dominated North America's grasslands … for tens of thousands of years. That such an incredible legacy across a huge expanse of time can cease to exist so abruptly should serve as a warning, but I'm fairly certain too few of us can be bothered to be away from our televisions long enough to listen to a meadowlark's song. The last Eastern Meadowlark will look just like this one. The bird of the future will sing the same song, but then there will be no answer.

© 2010 Mike McDowell