Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The benevolence of birds

Mid-afternoon, July, and the air is clouded with flies and the heady smell of meadowsweet and honeysuckle. Beyond the margins of the village, the fields are fringed with hedgerows which cascade into colour. The first sloes dot the blackthorn; one or two carry a tinge of red, a promise of autumn and wine. A wren snickers amongst the fuzz of a coppiced hazel.
From one of the tall ashes, a buzzard croaks its thin, reedy call. A piece of shadow detaches from the tree as the buzzard unfolds into flight, still calling. We watch as a peregrine coasts above the hedges and swings higher to mob the buzzard. Another peregrine appears from the south, the two of them lazily jinking and turning at the buzzard, the rapid and powerful strokes of their wings contrasting with the insouciant flap of the buzzard. It is some time before they tire of the game, playground bullies who have elicited no response from their victim.

It is my first walk in the country for days. I have been away for too long, enduring the minor inconveniences of travel, the foul air of trains and hotels, the glimpses of summer sunshine framed by the tinted glass of meeting rooms. The sun on my neck and shoulders, the drama of the buzzards and peregrines, connect me again to this place I live and love.
We follow the curve of the field upwards towards the lane, an old hollow-way overhung with hawthorn and elder, fringed with cranesbills which glow pink in the westering sun. We talk of nests and territories, of the feeding habits of buzzards and peregrines. In the grass at our feet is a single buzzard feather, rusted brown in the sun. It is a moment of benediction, an offering from the bird whose high call still echoes across the fields.

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