I listened to, and watched, skylarks at Corbridge on Sunday. Along by the River Tyne.
I set off with a sack of cares upon my back;
though the sunshine bathed my face with warmth;
and after spotting goosanders in the river
ended walking an inch above a sandy track.
I started out in bright sunshine
my mirror-mind besmirched with black.
My mood began to lift when I heard a tune:
a skylark singing a song I knew was mine.
My distant uncle heard the self-same sacred word
cut down in youth along with many men;
he answered another’s call but to his cost;
a soldier who sang about a wonder bird.
As I watched the dark envoy soar
I made a vow to John there and then:
to live my life in homage to his memory,
and to aspire to reach the other shore.
Winter sun bathes the bricks, white
tailed bumble bees tumble from
their winter bunks, stagger towards
ivy florets, the hinterland between
park and street – a refuge from exhaust
fumes and a thousand hurrying feet.
Rush hour and darkening sky
heavy with manic murmuration
starts a panic among the beetling crowds.
Upturned faces –
Sudden cessation of shriek –
Like a giant bat’s wing the flock
shrouds the city wall and hangs –
silent above the footfall.
Twenty or thirty years ago huge flocks of tens of thousands of starlings roosted in cities. They no longer roost in such numbers here in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Shibdon Pond is a reedbed pond four miles from where I live. In the summer common terns nest here and in the winter large flocks of waders congregate and feed. This week there have been hundreds of lapwing, four common sandpiper, six- eight black-tailed godwit, gadwell, redshanks, one juvenile dunlin, seven (visible) snipe and of course grey herons, cormorants, gulls and mallard. It is a place you never tire of visiting and it is only a mile or two from one of the biggest shopping centres in Europe, the dreaded Metro Centre!
A friend kindly gave me a telescope for my birthday and this has opened up another dimension (literally) to my birdwatching. If you have children who are interested in wildlife you can’t start too early; don’t give them toy binoculars or telescopes! Get them good quality optics and they will thank you for it!
two immaculate greenshank
painting their upside-down selves
in the still water
+ + +
I follow a strutting snipe
magnified forty times
its straw-brown camouflage
doesn’t fool me!
+ + +
and four hundred lapwings
shimmering in the still mirror
I went to a poetry workshop yesterday – the theme was nature. One of the exercises was to include a man-made structure, an animal and time. I wrote this poem and this is one of my paintings I did a few years ago.
At the viaduct
The viaduct floating
in early morning mist.
A single figure with a dog
emerges from the drowned
stones. A staccato of barks
echoes under arches.
A thrush sings his three
time song, sudden wing of
burnt sienna – red kite towing
I’m working on a longer eco-poem about red kites. In the meantime this one was inspired by one of Ted Hughes’ where he personifies/anthropomorphises a hawk.
Red Kite on Pylon
I sit on a strut of a pylon,
on top of a hill,
scanning the ground.
My kind rarely kill;
we scavenge for corpses; bits
and pieces of flesh.
This is our life most days.
It took a billion years
to perfect my amber eyes,
my brown forked tail,
and my scavenging ways.
I spend a fair part of my time walking in moorland where I can enjoy such sights (and sounds) as curlew, golden plover, lapwings, buzzards and hobbies.
My feet squelch as I stride
in slow motion over and into
the dark peat, purple
and green earth.
One woman’s up to her knees,
but she’s got short legs so it’s a bit of a joke.
We pull her arms and she gurgles
like an emptying sink!
All this commotion stirs up
an ancient smell of carboniferous trees
and prehistoric smoke.
I was staying with friends in France last year and every day this warbler sang its heart out from the same bush. It didn’t seem to have a mate.
you were there,
pouring out your declaration;
your scratchy melody,
primed by a million year urge
to bind another
to your breast.
Perhaps your diligence
was in vain that summer –
no mate fluttered
to your tree-top throne. . .
Yet your musical offering
with each new dawn,