Nature bright with gladness

2 Nov 2015

We took those photos back in June. I forgot all about them until we synced the camera to the computer last evening. They reminded me of the following paragraph in the Origin of Species:

We behold the face of nature bright with gladness, we often see superabundance of food; we do not see, or we forget, that the birds which are idly singing round us mostly live on insects or seeds, and are thus constantly destroying life; or we forget how largely these songsters, or their eggs, or their nestlings, are destroyed by birds and beasts of prey; Charles Darwin, page 78 in The Origin of Species, 6th ed., P. F. Collier & Son, New York, 1909.

By "we" Darwin refers to us, humans, who through the devices of civilization have mostly managed to escape food shortage.

I first encountered this paragraph in Stephen Jay Gould's Dinosaur in a Haystack; in the final essay of that book, titled "Four metaphors in three generations". Reading that essay is what finally compelled me to go and read the grand old bearded one, after it had been on my TODO list for far too long.

We could clearly see the squirrel eating something inside the bird's nest. Were those the eggs? In that case, where was the nesting female? Perhaps it was chased away, and the attacking bird was the male coming back to the nest to find it had been violated by the trespassing squirrel. Or was the squirrel eating some previously cached food, and the birds just happened to build their nest in its food cache?

(Photos by Cristian Seres. Copyright © 2015 Cristian Seres. Released under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v4.0 license.)

An inquisitive red squirrel is climbing up the trunk of a tree.
red squirrel on trunk of tree with lawn and lake in background
There it finds a hole in the trunk. Perhaps a former food cache or potential real estate to turn into a food cache.
zoom in on red squirrel holding onto the trunk of a tree
The squirrel sticks its head into the hole in the trunk.
red squirrel, its head inside hole in tree trunk
Remaining vigilant, it occasionally peeks out to check the surroundings.
red squirrel, on trunk looking upwards
However, this piece of real estate has also been claimed by another creature. A bird comes back to its nest to find the trespasser. (The species is Parus major, great tit in English, which is known to be a cavity breeder.)
red squirrel tail peeking out of hole, great tit in   flight toward hole entrance.
The bird tries to chase the squirrel away.
Bird seems to attack the squirrel tail, wing spread in   flight.
Trying to devise a plan of attack.
Bird, wing spread, near entrance to hole in trunk.
And going at it again.
Bird attacking again, wing spread in flight.