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!
While patrolling the big island this morning, I saw a great crested grebe swimming quickly with some grass in its beak. It must be nesting. The new nests we found recently are all too far away for a detailed observation, therefore I decided to follow this one and see where it went. But unexpectedly, I saw something that’s unable to relieve.
It swam to the lake bank, where another grebe is already sitting in the next. We exclaimed that the birds are finally learning to be smart, that they are forced to evolute to nest by the bank! This is much more durable than the ones on the surface! We were relieved to see them mating in the nest and saw two white eggs already in the nest when the female bird stood up. This is not a playground but a real home for them. However, the joy didn’t last long. When I was happily expecting to see a nest of grebe babies hatching, the top-of-food-chain black-necked cranes suddenly appeared in sight. It was strolling gracefully, slowly and confidently with its two extremely long legs, while our hearts are bouncing in our throats. This killer is very cold.
It walked down the slope into the water towards the direction opposite to the grebes’ nest. We thought maybe it would leave them alone. But we are too young, too simple, sometimes naive. Recently almost all eggs on this island are hatched, so the cranes have not eaten fresh eggs for a long time. Of course this stone-hearted killer will not miss the feast right in front of its eyes. It turned around, walking to the nest in big steps. The female bird straightened its back, opened up its beak to cry out. However both the sizes and strengths are too different. While the killer was two meters away from the nest, it finally couldn’t bear the pressure and jumped into the water to escape. It’s a piece of cake for the crane’s long pointed beak to break the fragile egg shells and pick the unhatched baby birds inside them. It swallowed them in whole, without forgetting to suck up the remaining blood and egg fluid.
’What a shame!’ Anger spread in the observation station.
I believe what we witnessed is a process of natural selection. Nests built by the bank are easy to be attacked, which explains the evolution of floating nest. However, unorthodox is doomed to be punished. Nests built by the bank are not easy to stay, but built on the water are not easy to fight climate change. What would the grebe’s future be like?
The crane went back home satisfied after the feast, while the grebe couple lingers around the nest a few meters away for a long time. Although the crane’s ruthlessness was known for long, witnessing this scene with my own eyes still made me sad for a long time. I asked myself why. Not because of the crane since it is the law of nature. Is it because I lost an opportunity for good shots? Maybe a little (but from the videoing point of view, this scene is amazing as well). Is it because climate change has brought catastrophic influences? Of course. But for the most part it is natural causes. Humans are accelerating this process and amplifying its effects, but the trend is doomed. Or maybe it is more because of the fear of death – to see life disappear so easily, while the ones who still have their fragile lives don’t cherish it but instead live their lives as walking dead, and by the way destroy those of other people or other species.