Seeing the beauty in the bigger picture
The cute, cuddly, sweet and vulnerable chick is obviously so appealing. So to see its life ended so brutally before it has even really got started is something which obviously appals many people. The blue tit youngster being fed to the kestrel chicks and the jackdaw pre-empting the fluffy emergence by eating the egg of the little ringed plover are two recent Springwatch cases. And last week, Simon's swan chicks were also disappearing without direct explanation but clearly as a result of some predator's attention.
I'm sure most viewers realise that in many ways death makes the wild world go round, that predators have to predate to survive themselves. Well, most but sadly not all... A few people still seem to react with prejudice to the natural and entirely explicable actions of species such as magpies and sparrowhawks, which they suspect are responsible for the significant declines in some songbird populations.
But repeated and thorough research demonstrates this is a flawed thesis: predator populations are necessarily self-regulating and none can eat its prey into such paucity that it threatens its own extinction - thus the black and blues and the dashing missiles are just scapegoats. Songbird decline undoubtedly has its roots in habitat decline, and for the migrant songbirds there are also problems in their wintering ranges.
But some still feel that what they do to survive is 'not very nice', that 'it's cruel' or that they are 'nasty birds'. They are not, they are as near perfect as every other living thing (bar us) and what they do is part of nature's bigger picture - a bigger picture that is perhaps the most beautiful thing we can learn to see.
When we watch all the species we do, in the incomplete way that we do, it is very difficult to join all our experiences and brief insights into a joined up map of inter-relations. We can go to a basic ecology text and look at pond food webs, read about tropic levels, grass, antelope, lion... but the fact is that everything we see, in our gardens, down the nature reserve, is connected and, given a chance, it is functional.
That functionality is a form of perfection and perfection is beauty. We mess it up and interrupt and thwart its progress, but nature is tenacious. And on many levels it overcomes our clumsiness and still glows in the purity of its dynamic perfection.
That perfection is fuelled by the balance of predator and prey, the necessary cycling of nutrients, carbon and water, through the complexities of the bits of the world we glimpse around us. That's why the tiny, pretty, baby bird being torn up and eaten by another is actually a thing of beauty. Think about it. Reality is true.