Inspired by the crescendo of the springtime dawn chorus I decided that I wanted to find out more about the woodland wildlife that inhabits and passes through my back garden. Some of the calls of the small birds proved difficult to identify, but my gaze became increasingly drawn towards the large number of wood pigeons who consider my garden to be their primary residence.
As I began to study these grey creatures, I soon realised that I had been harbouring a high level of prejudice against them. I looked down on them as unattractive, clumsy, slow and a bit of a nuisance. That was until I began to find out more about them and to really get to know them. The more I studied them the more my respect and appreciation of them increased. I discovered that the common wood pigeon plays a vital role in the ecology of these North Downs woodlands and, indeed, Culverstone owes its name to them, as ‘culver’ refers to a dove or pigeon. I began to see them not as ugly and cumbersome but as interesting and sensitive beings. As I spent time watching them and finding out more about them, I began to really enjoy and appreciate them. They now make me laugh and I find them so interesting to watch.
This reversal of opinion about the wood pigeon has made me think about my prejudice and ‘unconscious bias’, not just towards animals, but towards people. Pigeon watching and my change of mind about them, has made me reflect on the way that my judgements and prejudices blind me and make me unable to see, appreciate, enjoy and value the presence of any being who doesn’t fit in with the way I see things, or think they ought to be. Jesus made a habit of challenging prejudices, especially religious and cultural ones. He saw people as people, persons rather than cultural stereotypes. He was criticised for crossing cultural boundaries to meet people who were different or considered as outsiders.
People prejudice is a constant challenge, but if we are prepared to take the trouble, we can start to see our pigeons in a totally different and more favourable light.
Rev. Dr. Christopher Noble – Rector
St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo