11/9/2018 It is the first time in my life that I have been given a fright by a tiny ball of fluff.
I put out my hand to turn on the kitchen tap, and pulled back in alarm. There was something behind it, moving ever so slightly. It was spherical, and for a moment I couldn’t tell what it was. Then I saw a few tail feathers sticking out at one end and realised it was a baby bird.
But it wasn’t any baby bird I had seen before. Part of my confusion as to the identity of this apparition was caused by a bright yellow-orange streak amongst the grey, gold-green and black. Indignant, it took its head out from under its wing when I picked it up, and I saw that the colour was on its head. It was almost weightless.
I was in the middle of preparing supper for friends, so my curiosity as to the identity of my visitor had to be put on hold. I put it in a towel-lined container with a bottle cap of water, and left it to rest. It was dark outside and there was nothing I could do till morning anyway. When my friends arrived, they started looking up photos of baby birds to try and identify it, with no success. After supper, on a hunch, I searched for ‘baby goldcrest’ on my phone, and up it came. It was male: their cap is flame coloured, compared to the females’ yellow one. I knew from childhood that goldcrests were around in the garden, but I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen one, and I was astounded by its beauty.
When I came downstairs in the morning, I half expected to find it dead. When I lifted up the towel, it was in almost exactly the same position, except that its beak was now showing. I felt a small surge of hope; but when I put out my hand to check it was warm enough, I realised the little body was lifeless.
After holding and stroking it for a few moments in sad resignation, I indulged my fascination with the tiny creature. I weighed it: 4 grams. At least 3 grams heavier than I expected. I looked closely at the colours on its head – yellow and bright orange-red, not done justice by a camera – and thought how I’d never seen anything so exquisite.
In that moment I was more in love with nature, more in awe, than I have ever been. Being in love with something so indifferent to one’s existence is an interesting conundrum, but perhaps it is the ultimate in unconditional love. Nature may be cruel, and care nothing for whether we live or die, but this little bird’s life wasn’t in vain. It enhanced my life immeasurably, and I loved it for a few short hours. Perhaps, in the end, that is the meaning we all hope for.