Although I watch almost no television (I'm not sure why, but I've lost my taste for it), Robb and I are big fans of lush, epic nature documentaries.
There's one convention in those shows that drive us completely insane: The Phony Hunt. Surely, you've seen this. The hushed voice of the Narrator sets the scene as the adorable and apparently unsuspecting bunny or gazelle or other doe-eyed creature goes about its business. Then, the the camera cuts away to the lurking predator. Then back to the oblivious cute critter. Then the camera laboriously tracks the predator, as it stealthily advances in the apparent direction of the fuzzy bunny. Then you see the bunny (or gazelle or whatever) munching grass, then the advancing killer. All the while, the narrator is building tension. Until, miraculously, at the last moment, the little bunny hops away, and the slavering predator is left to hunt elsewhere for supper.
Here's the thing: as far as we're concerned, these "hunts" exist only in the minds of the video editors.
Robb and I both get a perverse amount of amusement out of observing how the two protagonists in these life-and-death narratives never appear in the same shot. The camera shows the prey, then the predator, then the prey. But you never see them at the same time. The whole hunt is as fake as the covers of supermarket tabloids. The gazelle in the film isn't being stalked by the crocodile. And Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston aren't glaring at each other, as Brad Pitt wanders past, oblivious to the danger.
Fake, I tell you. Fake-Fake-Fake.
Of course, there's some truth to these stories. Predators do chase (and often catch) prey, even the camera doesn't always catch the critical moment.
This morning, I was drinking coffee, and trying to blink the sleep out of my eyes, when I heard a terrible sound of birds screeching. I jumped up, and ran into the back yard, and saw the feral cat that we call Cardigan, with a baby Scrub Jay in his jaws.
I thwacked him on the back of his neck, and he dropped the bird, and then before I could formulate a plan, he grabbed it again. Smack! And the baby bird was on the ground.
I needed to catch the bird, and quickly. And I knew that the safest method would be to cover the baby bird with some kind of cloth. Without hesitation, I ripped off my shirt, and caught the little fellow.
(Hi Neighbors! I'm a Crazy Nature Lover! How do you like my bra?)
I ran inside, set the bird down on the kitchen counter, dragged our kitty Linguine outside, and hooked her to her leash. I found a cardboard box, and some more shirts, and made a safe, dark enclosure for the little bird. I tried to wake Robb, snapped this photograph, called the nearest wildlife hospital, totally failed to get a shower, and still made it to work on time.
Robb drove the little bird to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum's hospital when he woke up.
I know some people are going to have things to say about having cats outside, and others will express their disdain for jays. Even that's complicated.
According to our neighbors, the cats were abandoned by their owner, when she moved out. They've been living as strays in our back yard for who-knows-how-long. Robb and I would dearly love for them to move inside with us, where they could snooze on sofas and leave the wildlife in peace. But the cats are way too terrified of us to make this anything more than an idle dream.
So, we're stuck with predators and prey, playing out their dramas in our back yard.
And when we can, we'll try to step in and save the baby birds.