Tsk Tsk, arguing with a bird...

Yup, I know, should be below my dignity, but I had a serious beef with the Butch family (pied butcherbirds) yesterday.

After giving the Butch gang and the Mags gang some cheese, I went up to the front fence to call Larry and Harry (grey butcherbirds). But one of the Butch gang swooped on Larry as he came towards me, and Larry flew back into the bush. Well, that wasn't on, as far as I was concerned.

To me this is actually a serious philosophical issue, and I'd better explain why or you'll think I'm loony, arguing with a bird. (Well, maybe you will anyway, but...) You've probably watched a bit of Star Trek, and if so, you'll know about the "Prime Directive", which is to under no circumstances interfere in the affairs of less developed species. There seems to be quite a lot of faith in this principle, even outside the TV series. I remember watching a nature show following the fortunes of a small group of animals somewhere in Africa trying to find water. Most of them died before they did. But of course, the film crew could have put out a bowl at any time and saved the lives of the whole lot. But nooo, that would be to "interfere" with nature. Very noble I'm sure, but they don't mind "interfering" when it's a question of bulldozing forests for pulpwood, or building new shopping centres, and so on. This business of never interfering only seems to strike certain people when interfering might do some good. It's no coincidence because the Prime Directive on Star Trek is almost certainly intended precisely to be a homily on how we should stay at arm's length from the natural world. Well, I am a disbeliever in the Prime Directive. If I can help our birds through a tough winter and put out water bowls and get invited to visit their nests and be treated like an honorary bird, I'll darn well do so!

So I was very proud and overjoyed that Maggie, Butch, and Larry all invited Gitie and me into their circle of friends and family. As far as I am concerned, they are not "just birds", they are my friends and family just as much as some humans. And that means I'll have a row with them now and then, because I respect them enough to take them seriously.

And when you have a dispute with your human friends, if they are real friends, they won't walk out on you or run off, they'll stay and have their say and argue their case. And here's something quite remarkable: the same thing happens when you have a dispute with an animal friend. There I am ticking off Butch and gang for chasing Larry, but do they run and hide from the angry human? No. They stay right there and argue back by singing their song. What it means, of course, I don't know exactly, but it is abundantly clear that they are having their say. But I'm determined too, so I tell them that there's no more cheese until Larry has had some.

Now Larry is a smart bird: you think he came back for another go all day long? Not at all. He makes them wait until this morning before he comes back. No one tries to stop him this time, so it's "Bartender! Cheese all round!"

On another note, poor Sophie magpie, who lost her two bubs when her nest was blown away, now seems to have broken most of her tail feathers somehow and is having trouble flying well. We're not really sure how she did it, but luckily feathers grow back.


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