Tuesday, April 21st, 2009


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For birds, real estate is everything,

that and grooming, of course. 

But then, the two frequently go together;   

good feathers so often  make for the best houses

 

He’d found the perfect situation;

wonderful views, just off the flyway,

a ledge that extended improbably outwards

like a beak from the face of the cliff.

 

Concave in profile, a shallow groove,

that held his body like a spoon,

lead-lined, with space enough for two   

and the eggs wouldn’t roll off. 

 

Head to head and groovy, they preened,   .

locked beaks, they churred, they chuckled,

but passion always ignores the detail,

and the devil lurks in the detail

 

Water problems; it wasn’t so much rising damp

as a tumbling torrent.  One summer storm

and nest, eggs, chicks the lot would be in the sea,   

but they were in love, and love is always in denial           

 

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Hope comes with the dawn,

the fist liquid trills of the Robin,

the Blackbird in his echo chamber in the wood,

the thrush from his pulpit,

the tumble and spill of the chaffinch,

the anxious catechism of a furtive dunnock.

the fierce wren by the wall.

the confident notes of the chiffchaff. 

 

The birds enhance the mood, the greening mist,

lends frisson to anticipation 

in the enquiring whistle of the Nuthatch,

the tinkling chatter of goldfinches,

the yaffles that laugh under the oaks,      

the distant growls of treetop rooks,

the musical honks of passing geese,

the last croak of the heron.

 

While jackdaws chuckled wickedly around the spire,

I left the night of my sad cottage,

and, glasses tucked into my belt,

ran over Thomas Paine’s mellow bridge

to the park where last year’s foals twitched their pretty tails

and a summer dabchick, brown head, high tail, short wings,

smart and compact as a new car,

disappeared above the weir. 

 

No more time for singing, wherever I looked, they were at it.  

No longing, lingering, sensuous love this , 

but a frantic, precarious flap and flutter,

to get the job done and

remain in balance at at all times. 

You’d think it might be easier to clinch the deal 

face to face, but such intimacy

is strictly not for the birds.  . 

 

So blue tits flutter on the wire. Goosanders splash by the bridge,

the tufted dam half drowned under the ardour of her mate.

Woodpeckers play chirruping tag in the old oaks.

A pair of rooks flap briefly in the grass, then fly off

to their attic in the trees.  An oystercatcher springs

onto the back of his mate – wings flap, tails twist,

then his package delivered, alights to probe some mud

while she just stands, a-quiver. 

 

A week later, a woodpecker drums a tamponade

on the top of a broken tree, he backs down and continues 

to excavate his hole then calls to his mate.

Come and look how far I’ve got.

The rooks are building high, the summer will be good.

Jackdaws carry moss and sticks to the saints in the tower.

The beaks of titmice are stuffed full of wool and

Coots construct Kontikis in the mud.    

 

And all the while a solitary buzzard 

sneezes by the hole in the rotten oak.  

Soon swallows, blue as summer night, will return

to their ledge above the bins.