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Monday, April 24, 2006

Hard Lessons

Yesterday, as I gathered towels and topped off the cooler in preparation to join practically the entire student body of the girls' itsy bitsy, teeny weeny public school for their usual Sunday island beach get together, my three girls and a sleepover friend ran into my room sobbing. Shotzie and Lulu, the osprey pair who made a nest atop our power pole, hatched a pair of babies not too long ago. We first noticed the little ones, Tootie and Lola, April 1, and since then as they rapidly increased in size, we've been eagerly awaiting their first trip out of the nest. Only about a week ago, we could only see one baby. I calmed the kids' fears by stating I didn't think the birds would invest so much time and energy into raising two nearly fledged youngsters only to kill one off; it would have been easier to push an extra egg out of the of the nest, or peck a newly hatched birdie to death if they were incapable of caring for two. Maybe it had already flown off. But the distraught, tear-stained faces told a different story. They found a leg, a rather large leg ending in a curled up talon from a good-sized bird, and feathers, many, many feathers on the ground below. Did the baby fall out and our cat(s) got it? Did the baby starve to death as they concentrated on the dominant bird and then get pitched over the side to be eaten by our cat(s)? Did the birds attack and kill the runt?

I got them calmed down and we discussed the realities and possibilities. That's life...

And then after a long, hot day at the beach and showers and dinner, the girls snuggled in their pajamas to watch Nature: CLOUD: Wild Stallion of the Rockies. The delighted squeals that accompanied the birth of a tiny foal became concerned moans and shouts of encouragement as the wobbly little one tried to gain his feet, and as it became apparent that there was something wrong with his legs, groans, and finally horrified screams as the herd's leader came over, nudged the baby, and then bit, shook, and stomped it to death.

Sweet dreams, kids.

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