SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Learning from Others

I am fortunate to live in a most beautiful spot, on a ridge overlooking the Sussex Weald, and my writing desk has stunning views across our garden to a wooded valley, with Ashdown Forest in the background. Actually, I sit facing into the room, with the warm sunshine on my back, to avoid falling into view-contemplation every time I look up from my work! But nature is right behind me, nourishing and grounding me, and I appreciate this beauty every single day.
With doors and windows flung wide in this glorious June sunshine, the sounds of the garden and the valley form a delightful backdrop to my writing. Birdsong, bumble bees, pheasants and the occasional distant lawn-mower do not interrupt my work, although I am aware of them in some small part of my mind. Occasionally, a more intrusive or unusual noise triggers curiosity, and causes me to rise from my chair to investigate.
This morning, it was magpies. It sounded like more than one, and they were making a most agitated, repeated cry. This has happened a couple of times recently, when one of our cats has been stalking one magpie, and another tries to warn it, or chase off the cat. Slowly, to avoid drawing their attention, I approached the window, expecting a similar circumstance. I was prepared for the need to console Maya, who is easily frightened by birds (and a great many other things).
But she was nowhere to be seen. A young fox had climbed on top of the large run – hopefully predator-proof! – that my husband and son built for our two rescue rabbits. Three magpies were taking it in turns to dive-bomb the fox, squawking harshly all the time, and were driving it off the run. They didn’t stop until he had leapt down to the ground and over the ridge towards the woods in the valley.
I have previously seen our cats – even timid Maya – facing off a fox that had approached too close to the rabbits. I have also seen birds of one species trying to drive predators away from the nest of a different species: our cats have been chased from the hedgerow where wrens nest by blackbirds, and crows have dived at a fox that was threatening others’ homes. But this is the first time that I have seen birds protecting mammals – domesticated animals, at that.
I do know that this is not pure interspecies heroism. I do understand that any vulnerable creature will try to preserve their own environment free from threats, and that making it clear that a fox may not hunt here with impunity protects every being that makes its home in the vicinity.
Nevertheless, the magpies’ actions point to an instinctive understanding of the interconnectedness of life that we humans do not possess. Have we, in focussing on rationalising, explaining, and understanding the world around us, forgotten that we are part of the web of life, and that all life is valuable? In a world where genuinely treating even all other humans as our equals seems so difficult, I take inspiration from that group of magpies, and consciously plant that seed in my soul.