Nature Notes


The red-winged blackbird treesFor years we would travel up to Oysterville in the spring for the sole purpose of listening to the huge flocks of red-winged blackbirds sing their wonderful watery musical songs from high up in the branches of the giant towering tree across from the church.

Last year, the folks that owned the tree that was on their property directly across from the church cut that spectacularly beautiful old-growth tree down. Read cut down. No ceremony, no respect.

The songs of the blackbirds, numbered in the thousands, songs that were carried on high in every direction and were a source for serious smile food, songs that were the soul of the birds themselves; the very body of happiness and of all things good in this world, are now silent, and the birds have taken their music elsewhere. What a loss. And for what?

Same, too, for the huge old trees on the southwest corner of Sandridge and Bay over near Nahcotta. Big huge and healthy old-growth trees that people have protected from the heartless saws for generation after generation, are now dead and piled up as carcasses waiting to be hauled off. What a dismal, ignominious end for these gentle giants of the Peninsula.

The owners of that land will never be sung to by the red-winged blackbirds. Those most special birds will take their songs to a place where people care for their trees. It is these people who care for the trees that deserve the wild songs of the blackbirds.

And all of this destruction is for what? For a nice, clean sterile lot that someone can pull in yet another cardboard and plastic house on wheels and plant some baby trees that will not see a nesting blackbird for 20 or 30 years? And who owns the songs of the wild birds?

But you see, it's all about the air we breathe. It's the trees, not grass or shrubs or flowers, but live, healthy, mature trees producing the oxygen we all must have to survive. Oxygen does not magically appear. Trees produce oxygen, and we need trees. It's as simple as that.

The nay-sayers among us poo-poo the notion that we desperately need to conserve trees on this blue sphere we share with all other life. They say with their usual flair, "So what's a few ol' trees matter to anyone anyhoo. ... Com'on bubba, fergit them trees, let's go for a drive on the beach..." or something.

So today, as I sit across the street from the church in Oysterville on the flat broad stump of what was once one of the biggest and most beautiful old trees on the entire Peninsula, I watch some folks slowly get out of their car, and they hack and cough and cough some more, and I think to myself, what a shame, lifelong smokers probably.

I watch them peer up into the bright, white-blue sky and squint into the sun where the giant tree with its protecting arms of shade and abundant oxygen used to be, and the silence of the red-winged blackbirds is deafening.

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• Craig Sparks is director of NAWA, a filmmaker, freelance writer and wildlife rehabilitator.

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