Red in tooth and claw

Facebook is an irritant – a necessary one.  I have friends all round the world and across the country and I’d never otherwise keep in contact with most of them.

One thing that particularly annoys me about the website – or to be more specific, its users – is that perfectly sensible, intelligent people insist on posting cute pictures of their babies, cute pictures of baby animals, and motivational messages of various types.

Each to his own, certainly.  But why bombard your friends with such tripe?

It is weird, but there are far more cute animal photos than anything else on there.  What’s more, I feel that Nature doesn’t do cute.  Nature does eating cute animals, maiming cute animals and generally causing death and nastiness everywhere.

Not that I don’t love Nature – of course I do.  I appreciate it every time I walk out into some hills to see the landscape stretching out and through the horizon.  I love to hear the crickets buzzing and the birds singing and the occasional bark of a fox.

But what the cute pictures brigade forgets is that Nature in all her glory isn’t just represented by a bear cub picture, or a baby penguin.  It’s also represented by bears fighting each other for territory.  Crows mobbing a cat, or a kestrel.  A fox entering a chicken coop and murdering all the birds for the sake of it – not because he wants to eat them.

The best thing I saw recently couldn’t be captured on a photo, and it certainly wasn’t cute.  I was sitting near a cairn at the top of a large hill in the Lakes, eating my sandwiches and wishing I had more.

I heard a peculiar squawking and shrieking, and then a lot of rustling in the nearby moorland undergrowth.

A magpie – we see these in big towns and cities in huge gangs, but there aren’t so many out in the countryside – was flying low over the bracken, squealing and chattering and making a huge racket.  A fox emerged from the undergrowth, headed directly towards me, as the bird above it continued to fly with it, diving at it and trying to hit it.

The fox had another magpie in its jaw.  It hung on to its victim, and veered off round the cairn as it clocked me, the second magpie in hot pursuit.

That was a drama which no-one else saw.  No photos recorded it, but it will be seared into my mind for many years to come.

I love Nature.  Not Facebook’s version of it, but Nature, red in tooth and claw.

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