"The poet that beautified the sect that was otherwise inferior to the rest, saith yet excellently well: It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore and to see ships tossed upon the sea; a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle and to see a battle and the adventures thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage ground of truth (a hill not to be commanded, and where the air is always clear and serene), and to see the errors and wanderings and mists and tempests in the vale below; so always that this prospect be with pity, and not with swelling or pride."
― Francis Bacon
Pheasant Branch Conservancy
American Tree Sparrows arriving from the north continue to occupy the prairie parcel of Pheasant Branch Conservancy. There were only a few other sparrow species present and only in small numbers. I found just one Fox Sparrow, a single singing White-crowned Sparrow, a few White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. There were still three or four Swamp Sparrows near the retention ponds, but no sign of any Song Sparrows.
American Tree Sparrow
Have you had an interesting week? Well, nothing lasts forever. Not us, not Earth, not life on Earth, not even the Sun or our galaxy. I feel a profound sense of awe and comfort via a reminder from eminent biologist E.O. Wilson. It's this: After each of the five great extinctions that have occurred on Earth, where as much as 90% of biodiversity was lost, it took the natural biological processes of evolution only 5 to 10 million years to restore the planet's biodiversity. Given that the Earth will likely be able to support life for another 2 billion years, that 5 to 10 is but a flutter in deep time.
Nature endures. Just imagine the possibilities. New forests and prairies will grow. New lifeforms will emerge via descent with modification and differential reproductive success ― the struggle for existence will go on without us.
Fortunately for the American Tree Sparrows near the drumlin, a Northern Shrike was hunting hundreds of yards away in the dogwood to the south. But I know this bird can cover that distance in mere seconds, so the sparrows always have to be on the alert for danger.
Though I've covered this ground thousands of times, it never grows old. I'm a little older and grayer, but the prairie always appears as something new to me. To be sure, the sparrows I see today are not those that were present two decades ago. Though I can't discern the age of a particular animal or bird, somehow all the critters seem ageless and immortal as I watch them. Perhaps I'm taking their lives for granted. But every so often I come across a pile of feathers or entrails on the path serving a quick reminder of the ongoing struggle for existence while I'm elsewhere.
Imagine this beautiful planet ... without us, as it was throughout epochs of time before the arrival of modern humans. The picture in my mind's eye is one of peace and harmony, where life and death is judged by nothing; just prolific forms of creatures going on the best they can with their evolved natural traits.
I will go on with my hikes at prairies and woods so long as there are such places, and so long as I live and am able to do it. I will continue to document what I see, smell, hear, and feel and reflect on those senses and scenes of natural beauty through my blog and website. Despite increased pressures that will be placed on wildlife, I will do my best to be a positive force and embassador for Nature and her critters.
This is not doom and gloom ― far from it. I believe it's a beautiful depiction of life in the universe and I am so incredibly grateful to have had opportunities to experience it in the ways that I have. It's why I blog. It's why I document and photograph Nature. The undiluted joy has been a gift to treasure.
Do our worst, life will prevail ... without us.
Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Nov 12, 2016 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM
American Tree Sparrow
All images © 2016 Mike McDowell