Lesson #5 — March 2013
Predators do not waste energy. They would much rather lay in wait for their prey than have to chase it down. It’s not surprising to find predators at watering holes or along active trails and holes. Quite simply put, if there is food to be found then there are predators to be found. What do we learn from this? More a reminder than a lesson – human predators also go to the “food” source. Take child predators, for example. You’ll find child predators where there are children – at play grounds, in the Boy Scouts (what about Girl Scouts?), on sport teams, in organizations set up to help children in need. Pathetic but true. And this is why it’s so important to keep an eye on one’s children.
And this brings me to the courage shown by mother birds. Once my daughter, Ashirah, and I were fox walking silently as possible through a lightly wooded area when we came around a small hill and happened upon a turkey with her young ones. OMG – what a racket she made. Within seconds, the little ones that had been wandering around scurried under her wings. She took off running away from us for a short distance where she must have deposited the chicks with instructions for them to stay there and “shut up.” We didn’t hear another peep from them.
Momma bird was not done. She turned and began to run straight at us making a loud ruckus. When she got 30 feet away, she began to circle around us, still squawking at the top of her little lungs. When she had circled half way around us, she started away from us. That’s when I suspected that she was trying to divert our attention away from where her babies were hiding. She wanted us to come after her. Instead, we ducked behind bushes and also became totally silent, barely even breathing. In less than a minute, momma turkey had returned and it was clear she was trying to find us. When she concluded that we must have left, she let out a bird call and headed back to her chicks that again became visible.
I was totally stunned by her courage and had the opportunity only once more to witness something like it. I was walking behind the old flagpole at Camp Alonim (now a new dining room), when I spotted what looked like white rocks with black spots on them. They looked very similar to the rocks lying beside them – except much larger, egg size. And it turns out that this is what they were. I had only taken a few steps toward the eggs when a bird flew out of a bush and landed a few feet away from them. She began to make an odd sound and limp and drag one wing on the ground. By all appearances, she had injured her wing and was unable to fly more than a few feet in the air.
I’ll admit it. At first I was totally, 100% fooled. I truly thought she was injured. Each time I approached her, she hop-flew a few feet further from me. I could not get closer than 10-20 feet of her. After a few minutes, I realized that she had lured me away from the eggs, now 50 feet away. That’s when I realized what was going on, the infamous “Broken Wing Ploy.” Momma bird pretends to have a broken and wing and not able to fly so that any predators going after her eggs will come after her instead. I “chased” mom for 15 minutes before I had to get to where I should have already been. She took me away from the flag pole, behind the art building and up a small hill toward the horses. When I finally stopped, I was at least 100 yards from the eggs.
Then I am struck by the way human mothers watch over their young. Grant you, many do and there’s no problem with that. It’s the ones who don’t that need this reminder. I was with my grandchildren for several weeks during which time we went to 2 indoor play areas and 3 outdoor playgrounds. Typically, parents sit on the side and pay attention to THEIR CELL PHONES. I don’t. I play with the kids (as grueling as that can be). So what happens is that at least 3 other kids will come up to me and say, “Will you chase me too?” I tell them “no, or your parents will have police chasing me – and don’t talk to strangers.” Not once did I see a parent watching. Had I been a predator, well, good thing I’m not.
And keep your eyes open. Predators of all kinds are excellent at camouflage. Don’t look for the scuzzy guy wearing a large overcoat ready to flash someone. Correct that – if you see someone wearing a long raincoat on a sunny day – be on your toes. But, all you have to do is watch the Date Line NBC sting operations of men seeking out underage girls for sex to see that predators come in all shapes and sizes. Can we spell Jerry Sandusky?