This is a series of journals recording my days in the Yangtze River Headwaters volunteering project. I will try to update every day but there might be delays in the days I work in the wild without the internet. I’m also trying to write bilingual if time allows. Like it? Follow my Instagram (@anar.chica.yichenguo) for updates!
Through observation of many kinds of birds, especially the two black-necked crane families, I feel more and more what we perceive ‘humane’ is the same in the other animals’ world.
An interesting finding is that, the more a species is close to the top of the food chain, the more efforts they endeavour to raise their young. For example, bar-headed goose which is at a relatively low level have babies that can feed themselves grass or insects without being taught by the parents. As long as they don’t get eaten, they can grow up healthily and happily by themselves. However, the black-necked crane at the top of the food chain need to spend lots of energy raising their babies. First they try to feed them tiny insects, so tiny that their long beak cannot even hold it steady. And then they give them pupas that are slightly larger. And finally normal food, which is other smaller birds or mice, etc. Today I saw them feeding the babies with a little mouse. But the two babies were not much interested, and the pieces are too big for them to swallow. So the parents then went to catch a very tiny slim fish from the lake for them.
The above is one of the black-necked crane family. The tragic ending of another one is already known to all of us but themselves, who are still holding on. They have been brooding for over forty days already, almost half longer than normal length. But the only egg they have still doesn’t have any sign to break. The baby should have been dead already inside the shell. I heard from the staff here that the destiny of this family last year was also a tragedy. First they lost a baby, and then they had another egg immediately. However, since the baby was born very late, when the window period for migration is finished, the baby’s feathers are not ready for flying yet. So the staff here thought they face two choices under this condition: to give up the baby and fly away, or to stay and the whole family die together. The result was unexpected. The crane parents didn’t leave their baby and fly away, nor did they stay. They took the baby with them and migrate from land, walking. Unfortunately, judging from the return this year, the baby eventually didn’t make it.
(I guess) this caused the infidelity of the female from this family. I’ve read in a book previously that one of the main reasons for the infidelity of the female bird of a monogamy kind is to get better genes. This female crane has been losing babies and the egg she broods now is not coming out either, which have given her enough motivation to find the male of the other family. And the male genes always want to reproduce as much as possible. Therefore we saw the female of the first family taking care of two babies, the male of the second family on duty brooding the egg, and both their partners came out to have a date at somewhere for example 50 meters from our station. Poor cranes, I busted them when they’ve just met today. The staff here also saw them together twice in the past. They become shy after being seen several times. They are especially diffident today and only dated for 3 minutes before going back to their own families. Also it was cheating that I ruined, somehow I feel guilty for that. After all, the anti-nature human society rules cannot be used to limit the normal situations in nature.
It reminds me of the argument in <The Thought-Reader Revolution> that the marriage system is based on ‘thought cannot be seen’. ‘Thought cannot be seen’ has made infidelity a possibility. Therefore, except for law, a man-made ideology, marriage is meaningless. If thought is readable, what changes would there be in human society?