Below you will find a photograph I took many years ago. It is a sparrow who had the misfortune of getting caught in the mesh of a chain link fence – there to die.
It’s something you don’t see very often.
As much as I enjoy observing nature I’ve always found sparrows annoyingly nervous, quick, flighty, panicky, wary, or one might even say hysterical, and extremely difficult to observe in their more subtle interactions. I’ve seen them mate, feed their young, get snatched by cats, and engage in terrible dust-ups where one male goes absolutely berserk, chases another male for nearly a block and pins him to the ground, trying his level best to kill him outright, the rest of the flock following, seeming to cheer them on and taking side bets on the outcome. You can actually see the dust fly.
A flock of sparrows will panic and take flight for many reasons, or, seemingly, no (observable) reason at all. The might spot a hawk or another predator, or a cloud shadow passes over them, or one of their own number lands the wrong way or takes off in a suspicious manner. They take flight. They panic.
It’s hard to imagine, but a flock of birds in flight sometimes collide and even have fatal accidents. The birds in the yard rest or climb on the fence but they can’t fit through its one inch wire mesh fabric. In this case (I imagine) the flock panicked and this one took flight with the rest. His path was blocked by another bird; he turned but was blocked by yet another; he turned, all in an instant, lifted his wing and got both his wing and his head wedged in the one inch opening and could not extricate himself. How long it took for him to die is anybody’s guess. Damn the luck.
This could have been an essay, – an admonition – against following the crowd, or avoiding mob panic or personal hysteria, or even letting every little thing worry and vex you to your own harm; but what good is advice where pure luck is involved?