Monday, December 1, 2014

The Price of Freedom

When riding my bicycle around Bentsen on Saturday, I was delighted to meet Helen and Don, riding their bikes with binoculars around Helen’s neck and a camera around Don’s neck.  Like me, they were birding the park.

As Helen, Don and I chatted we soon learned we are neighbors, in the same RV park.  I got a good chuckle when Don commented on my accent.  Me?  A Texan?  An accent?  It turns out that Helen and Don are from Nova Scotia. I could listen to them talk all day, so delightfully lovely is their accent.

As we talked of birding Don showed me an image on his camera—a bird I’d never seen before.  But as soon as he showed the photo to me, I knew it was an exotic that had escaped its cage, or been dumped by an owner.  Don said this Cockatiel was pictured in Sibley’s and that he’d taken the photo sitting outside his RV, from a grassy area that back’s their RV sight.

Saturday evening I looked in my Sibley’s and sure enough, this bird was listed alongside other Parrots and their allies.  My 2001 edition of Sibley’s casts doubt as to whether Cockatiels can survive as feral populations.  I’ve sighted colonies of Monk Parakeets in other Texas locations, but never this bird.

And so yesterday I got back on my bicycle for a planned short outing to Bentsen, taking my binoculars but choosing to leave my camera behind; my version of a day of rest. 

As I rode out to the front entrance of the RV park, some hundreds of yards from Helen and Don’s RV sight, I noticed an odd bird in the grass.  Putting binoculars on it I immediately knew it was the Cockatiel.  This sunshine-cheeked One was alive and feeding.

I debated my own set of ethics and values and whatnot; I could come up with no good reason to NOT go back to the RV, grab my camera, and get a photo.  And so I did:


The fact that the Cockatiel was a good distance from the location of Don’s photo makes me believe it has some ability, perhaps limited, to fly.  The fact that it was actively feeding seemed a good sign.  The fact that both sightings were on the ground leads me to believe that this escapee's living days are probably very shortly numbered.

I could have approached the Cockatiel, but that is not in my nature, as observing rather than impacting Mother Nature’s feathered Ones is my baseline goal. I could have reported this Cockatiel to someone, but if caught, it would again be caged.  And so I returned my camera to the RV, and rode on over to Bentsen for a quiet afternoon.

I can wonder about this bird’s day and can hope that his circle of life comes to conclusion due to a hawk or other non-feral, non-human, predator.  I know that there is always a price for freedom.  We the living pay daily for it; we fight for it. We must not forget to cherish it.
Returning to the RV Park after a nice time in Bentsen, I noted two Great-tailed Grackle’s giving chase to something scurrying around a parked car of someone’s RV sight.  The small object turned out to be a very, very young rabbit.  My immediate gut reaction was to cry out NO!—and to ride toward the hunt to chase off the grackles.

But I caught my cry and bottled it in my throat.  And I swerved my bicycle away from the chase, stopping my want to impact.  I knew that these two grackles were expert tag-team hunters and that this young rabbit would soon be their protein dinner.

The price of freedom is not too high for most of the living, on at least a few days of our lives; and the price of freedom is so very high on other days, until it is no longer an option for any of us. 

The Cockatiel, the baby rabbit and the two grackles remind me to cherish the vast complexities of what we humans call a life of freedom; and perhaps what Mother Nature would call no more, and no less, than a day in Her life, eternal.

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