Loss

May. 23rd, 2011 11:19 pm
[personal profile] puzzle_me
There was a tornado that hit Minneapolis yesterday. It's been eclipsed in the news by the far worse tornado in Joplin, Mississippi. But, here in Minneapolis, it's a devastating reality. It hit the northside of the city hardest, which is about as far as you can get from me and still be in Minneapolis, so my house and I are completely unharmed. But two people on the northside died, one of whom was active in the local birding community. Several hundred people have been displaced from their homes.

I drive past north Minneapolis during my daily commute. There are large walls up for sound barriers, so it's easy to forget what's beyond them when you're going by at 60 mph. This morning, I noticed an unusual number of great blue herons circling. It's common for me to see 1 or 2 over the freeway, but I saw at least 11.

After I had gotten to work, a bird blogger I read posted that the North Mississippi heron rookery had been destroyed in the tornado. These herons were circling aimlessly because their nests were gone - in some cases the trees they were in had fallen or snapped in half, in other cases the nests had blown down. We're talking about approximately a hundred nests here, nests that have been on this island for years, just gone. I read firsthand accounts of several people who had gone to assess the damage at the rookery - they reported that herons were flying back and forth along the river, and circling overhead. Some were perched in the trees and on the ground.

I find myself wondering if herons feel the pain of loss that humans do. It's easy to anthropomorphise them; to see their aimless flying as an expression of their sadness and confusion. It's easy to see analogies between them and the residents who have lost their homes. But do these birds even understand what has happened? Do they mourn for their eggs and chicks? Do they mourn for their mate, if their mate died?

I don't want to minimize the sadness of the loss and devastation of human life and property, but it is the loss of the heron rookery that has hit me the hardest. This loss that I'm not even sure the birds feel.

Date: 2011-05-24 11:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] soundingsea.livejournal.com
The poor birds. Humans can be told what happened and offered resources - how do we help displaced birds?

Date: 2011-05-24 01:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] springbok1.livejournal.com
There's really nothing that we can do, I think that's why it hits so hard. With the human pain and suffering, I know what actions I can take to help. But these birds - they're large and have very sharp beaks, approaching them is a bad idea.

I only saw one fly over on my commute this morning. I wonder if they're settling into new rookeries elsewhere in the metro, or otherwise are less agitated.

Date: 2011-05-25 04:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inclementine.livejournal.com
I read a first hand account from someone who used to work at a goose farm about how when it was time for slaughter and they would grab a goose from the huddled, frightened flock that sometimes another goose, would stumble out fearfully, hissing and honking in an attempt to defend what was obviously their mate.

Animals aren't humans. They don't think the way we do, but it's really clear to me that they DO feel. I'm glad that the herons have your thoughts and your sympathy and hopefully your well wishes. If this is a just universe, strength and love that you send their way will be received.

Date: 2011-05-25 07:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] riotdorrrk.livejournal.com
a coworker's grandparents live in Joplin - he heard the tornado tore the roof off their house and sucked out almost everything in it

Date: 2011-05-25 08:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] phoenixredux.livejournal.com
Like humans, I suspect that they'll fly over, assess the damage, and try to put their lives back together. Perhaps they'll resettle in other trees, perhaps they'll pack up and look for new homes elsewhere. But they're alive, and that's the good news.

You're very sweet for thinking of them.

Date: 2011-05-25 10:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] auranja.livejournal.com
I agree on all counts.

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