All over the Earth, birds – symbols of freedom and joy – have been disappearing, and unless we stop killing them, they will never more enliven our skies and imaginations.
They are terns, seagulls, avocets, gannets, skuas, guillemots, puffins, oystercatchers, ducks, geese, godwits, pheasants, magpies, sanderlings, storks, cranes, pelicans, herons, swans, loons, sparrows, pigeons, red-winged blackbirds, owls, cormorants, grebes, dunlins, crows, ravens, bald eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures, all of them vanishing from the landscapes of our homes, forests, sea coasts and minds. It rarely makes the news, and a world grown accustomed to ever-dwindling resources and diminishing life has not been paying attention.
The warning of a Silent Spring, sounded sixty years ago like a trumpet’s blare, has shrunken from a year-round emergency to the almost-meaningless ritual of Earth Day, celebrated just once a year.
But last spring, during May and June, the world was awakened to shocking tales and heart-rending photographs of dead seabirds littering their breeding grounds all over the Northern Hemisphere, nowhere so vividly as in the De Petten Nature Reserve on the island of Texel in the Netherlands, where the corpses of Sandwich terns littered the ground as if they had fallen dead out of the sky in mid-flight: