When we came to the UK from Africa, I was under the mistaken impression England was full of beautiful cuddly animals all living in peace in the gentle countryside we saw all about us. Savage animals were confined to Africa. Here it was Peter Rabbit, The Famous Five, Pooh Bear, Wind in the Willows.
This delusion soon evaporated – England is NOT Enid Blyton’ish nor does it contain any other aspect taken from literature of the past. It’s unique to itself, a hodgepodge. This left only the idea that African animals were savage and scary, English animals, gentle and safe.
Until, one night, I was sitting at my computer next to the window which looked out over sheep fields and a little copse of oaks. Suddenly, a small sparrow that nested in the ivy under the window, beat itself against the glass of the window, seemingly desperate to get inside. I asked Mr Furlong what I should do for the poor little bird. He said “Let it in”. I stood up to open the window, facing it.
Silently, amazingly, I found myself looked at the mottled underside of a very large bird whose claws were extended at my eye level. The wings were stretched across the whole window, on an open beat. They folded quietly to scoop up the tiny sparrow, and swerved away from our window. In a second it was over, and the Tawney Owl returned to its tree across the road.
It was a profoundly intimate and beautiful experience that left me stunned. And the illumination came to me, that nature everywhere is “savage”. Only, in Africa it is more visible with bigger kills and larger predators.
In the drama of searching for food, should I feel sorry for the sparrow or pleased for the owl?
(Interesting article behind image)