17 March 2011

Windhover at Preston Bagot

...Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,        
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion        
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

- from The Windhover, by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

My week's 'lunchtime list' grew still further today with another stroll along the canal, this time back along the stretch from Preston Bagot towards Stratford.

First up were a pair of mistle thrushes, and then two infuriatingly elusive and thin-billed birds with very spotty flanks that just wouldn't show themselves properly (I just hope to God they were an obvious thrush species, even those same two mistle thrushes looking a bit too small in the gloom, rather than anything rare, because I never did nail down the id).

A raven flew low overhead shortly afterwards, and then I stood stock still to watch a pair of kestrels performing at close range around me for a good 15 minutes or so. It's far, far too long since I last took the time to watch these beautiful birds in detail, so I was grateful for this opportunity.

Bird of the Day: Kestrel (Falcon tinnunculus) - Gerard Manley Hopkins 'windhover' is a beautiful creature that should never fail to stir the heart. When I were a lad it was Britain's most common raptor; after 30 years of slow decline I suspect it has been long overtaken, round these parts at least, by the buzzard.

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