Thursday, October 12, 2006

Autumn Watch

I was an avid devotee of BBC's Springwatch and so now try and watch Autumnwatch whenever I can. It's a brilliant programme but mainly for observation of John Ruskin's '...nature red in tooth and bloody in claw' than for the beauty of creation all around. It's a different type of beauty this. Take, the rut, for instance.

This time of year the stags start to round up the females and try and keep them on the 'rutting slopes' so that they are ready for that brief moment when they become 'in season.' (When the moment does come it is all over rather quickly).

Whilst waiting for this time the males wander around covering their antlers deliberately in grass, roaring (which is what the word rut means in latin) and having head to heads with challengers. I wonder if this is where the expression 'feeling horny' comes from?

These head to heads are vicious, ending with broken antlers and bloody faces. The losers look worse. All this ensures that only the fittest males get to mate.

Down on the beach the male seals have similar problems. Only they have no antlers so they compete by biting chunks out of each others necks. When the winners - the biggest, fattest, toughest, blubberiest males - get to mate it is once again time for neck-biting, which has to be sore by then.

And all this ensures that each species continues because only those deer and seals which can produce young with a top chance of survival get to bonk. Respect to one, particularly ugly stag with only one antler, who nipped in and tried to score while the tough guys weren't looking. It's a technique I was proud of in my teens.

'But why are people important to you?
Why do you take care of human beings?'
(Psalm 8:4 New Century Bible)

The psalmist asked great questions.

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