Tuesday, 22 July 2014


Elegant was the first word that came to mind. An elegant cycle of gulls, carving irresistibly
through the current of air up above the tower block roofs. There must have been over a hundred of them, black hairlines against a lumpy mass of grey cloud. I could see the birds stretching their necks out, apparently taking gulps of fresh air.

Flying ant day. Crawling in the cracks by the kerb a couple of winged ants remain earthbound; by this evening most were airborne. The gulls were a feeding frenzy, though frenzy is the wrong word entirely for an action where grace seems to replace effort. Starlings scythe over the street, momentarily filling the sky in their pursuit of the ants.

Thunder starts to rumble. The sky began to empty.

I remember flying ant day from my childhood. I remember cars cooking in the sun and the pavement beating heat back; and both carpeted in flying ants. An annual day of plague in the suburbs. You don’t seem to get those numbers anymore. It's almost cliche this nostalgia for the animals of childhood that are missing now.


His eyes were inscrutably dark, and nestled under a furrowed brow of his own intentions. He never turned his restless gaze from me, yet muttered quietly to himself. He was smaller than the female -- about a third smaller -- and resting on the borrowed glove over my hand. Simultaneously heavier than I'd been led to believe but lighter, much lighter, than you'd guess. I decided I liked him.

I have always preferred the company of animals to people. Sandy (he) was a Long-legged Buzzard, an elegant bird of arid places, and the rich colour of a desert sunset. With his dead weight in my held out arm, I found myself entranced by the agile power hidden behind those eyes, and those quick movements as it kept its head stable under my trembling arm. It stretched its wings, lightly brushing my face with its outermost flight feathers, as if with disdain. Human, know your place.

I was just another passing face at the falconry place, another awkward shuffling land creature like its master, but without the supply of raw chicken and rabbit. And yet…


From the crest of a rolling wave of Chiltern chalk you see southern England spread out before you in its summer browns. In the haze of this hot day it seems to stretch out endlessly, but I know this is nonsense. I mentally clone out the M40. Underfoot: scabious and vetch, a Pyramidal Orchid and a hundred other flowers I don't know. Beyond: a cloud of Chalkhill Blues and a Dark Green Fritillary, Small Skippers everywhere and a few Marbled Whites still. A place such as this writes it's own poetry.

Red Kites spiral above -- and beyond -- until passing out as specks in the haze. I found a Silver-spotted Skipper by the path, it's wings shut tight and proboscis rooting around the blue sun of a scabious flower. A new species for me, with large flecks of silver in its greeny orange underwings, distinguishing it from the other orange skippers, that aren't so closely tied to this habitat. It flits off, scudding low over the flowers, chases off a burnet moth and goes in search of other quarrels. A fun butterfly.

No comments:

Post a Comment