Well, crud.

Nature just took place in my yard–the real kind. If you like happy endings, read no farther.

Robins have been nesting in the hedge, and a crow reached in, ripped the nest out, and flipped it onto the lawn. The robins mobbed the crow, the crow took off, and a small bird lay helplessly on the lawn, looking baffled.

I went out to see if it was alive. It was.

The robins mobbed anything that came near it, including the towhees, who were going “What? What? WhatdidIdo?” and fleeing. They quit the field when a human came around, though.

I went inside and checked the internet. The sources said, uniformly, to leave it alone, except for one that said if I absolutely, positively had to bungle my way into the situation, I could stick nest and bird into a small berry basket and hang it back where it had been. Being a first class bungler, I went looking for a basket.

Then I heard more shrieking. I ran for the front, and the crow had returned. The robins were mobbing him like his kind would mob a hawk, but unlike the hawk, he was ignoring them.

I’ve always found crows attractive, somewhat clownish birds, I am beguiled by their high intelligence and tool-using skills, but here he was, a sleek, powerful, not-at-all amusing predator with a beak like a javelin, holding the bloody robin fledgling, who would not now be inhabiting berry baskets or anything else, except perhaps the inside of a crow.

I charged. This was bad of me. I admit that freely. I should absolutely have let nature take its course, but I wasn’t particularly thinking at the moment. Maybe I was hoping he’d drop the fledgling and it would still be alive. Mostly I think I was reacting to those dozen panicky robins who were screaming in the way that transcends species boundaries “For god’s sake, somebody do something”!

The crow, however, if he wasn’t swayed by a robin mob, was far less interested in a primate who couldn’t even fly. He took two contemptuous hops and was airborne, fledgling dangling bonelessly limp from his beak, and was gone. The robins followed, still yelling, in a tight and useless formation, and the whole lot vanished down the street and out of my vision.

Well. Better into a crow than into a stray cat. And I realize, of course, that it is not the loss of a robin that particularly bothers me–millions of young robins die yearly, and they continue to breed like arial rabbits. I could even have watched the crow eat with relative aplomb. The baby robin had all the allure of a mud pie with pointy bits.

No, it was the furious, futile assault of the other robins that was painful to watch. The crow was just a predator, and I’m just a fool with a birdfeeder, the fledgling was probably dead the minute the crow gave it a quick shake, but those poor gallant robins throwing so valiantly and uselessly at the foe was agonizing. It’s not the death that hurts to see, it’s all that wasted courage by the adults.

Their brains are tiny, and they’re wild animals, who have largely had moping selected out of them, so I doubt the robins will experience much mental anguish once the actual assault has ended. They’ll forget about it and raise another brood next year–maybe even this year, if it’s not too late in the season to start again. Hopefully they’ll pick a better nest site. And young crows somewhere will get a good meal, so they can be pleasant, clownish, tool-using birds in years to come. And the primate will have learned yet again not to get emotionally involved in nature, and will probably fail spectacularly to learn from this lesson, yet again.

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