A Bird Bulletin

In a lavatera blossom in my front garden, I noticed an unmoving bee. Looking closer, thinking I might bring it inside to draw if it were no longer alive, I found the unsuspecting bee trapped in a spider’s sticky webbing.

Leaving things to proceed in nature’s way – the petals of the lavatera will close up around the bee and the spider, and the blossom will fall. The spider will eat the bee and lay her eggs. That sticky death seems as it should be.

I went inside to eat lunch and was stunned to read Jonathan Franzen’s article “Emptying the Skies: Bird Slaughter in the Mediterranean” (“The New Yorker” July 26, 2010). I almost couldn’t make it past Ralph Steadman’s illustration “Songbird Serenade au Gratin.” Franzen tries to write as a dispassionate journalist in the article, but it’s hard. He only has to state what he discovered.

Like the spider, hunters in some of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean employ a sticky material on “lime-sticks” to catch (unsuspecting) birds when they land to perch. The poached birds are a delicacy in some restaurants. These songbirds cross the Mediterranean in their migrations, and “…every year as many as a billion are killed deliberately by humans.” Franzen writes: “Spring in the Old World is liable to fall silent far sooner than in the New.” And yes, it is against the law.

My clever friend, with a really big heart, has a rule of thumb: if things in the larger world appear overwhelming, it is ok to retreat to what you can make a difference about close to home.

The Mediterranean is not close to home, but songbirds are close to my heart. Some of the countries involved rely on tourists, and during the countries’ application to the European Union, poaching diminished because of enforcement. The podcast and link to the article abstract are here: http://newyorker.tumblr.com/post/836821962/this-week-in-the-magazine-jonathan-franzen

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