Three Paragraphs of Bug Hunters


It’s the rainy season in northern California but we haven’t seen a drop since November. The nights are cold with occasional frost. The days are bright and warmer than they ought to be. This is the season, most years, when we guiltlessly spend our weekends indoors with books and board games. Instead we’re obliged to be outside. Saturday we hiked to a little farm in the hills and along the way found a spotted towhee hunting through the underbrush.

In the first chapter of The Peregrine, J.A. Baker recommends discarding any simple notions that would make small colorful birds mere accessories of the landscape. “Consider the cold-eyed thrush,” he writes, “that springy carnivore of lawns, worm stabber, basher to death of snails.” If we have nothing to fear in him, it’s only an accident of scale.

Our most common thrush is the American robin. One evening last week my daughter and I saw fifty of them in the greenbelt behind the house, that apparently inexhaustible nursery of insects and worms. They marched in alert formation, evenly spaced, eastward through the grass. What must the plodding beetle feel to look up into the bright red eye of the towhee or the robin’s depthless black?

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4 Comments

Filed under Three Paragraphs

4 responses to “Three Paragraphs of Bug Hunters

  1. “What must the plodding beetle feel,” you ask, “to look up into the bright red eye of the towhee or the robin’s depthless black?” I think of William James: “To the grub under the bark the exquisite fitness of the woodpecker’s organism to extract him would certainly argue a diabolical designer.”

  2. Ian Wolcott

    That explains why all grubs are Gnostics.

    I once heard a monk asked why God had created mosquitoes, given all the death and misery they’ve caused humanity. “I don’t know,” he said, “apparently God loves mosquitoes too.”

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