Monday, January 16, 2012

Evolution of Pursuit

Only remnant image of many weeks of wind and rain and dark morning starts is of the farm track gleaming grey and wet in the darkness ahead, a white form billowing over; call like squealing brakes as it drifts downhill into blackness.

Moonlit frosts and clear blue skies are welcome; white-bellied Great Crested Grebes and shorter necked Red Throated Divers now visible amongst parties of black Common Scoter scattered across a calm bay; stillness allowing incessant soft mewing of Scoter to drift over dunes to fields and estuary beyond.

Stopped on the causeway looking for Hen Harriers, the road ahead is submerged, waters still creeping inexorably up the tarmac: no brown shape quartering reed-beds; no upright forms atop fence posts or landing lights or on road markers projecting from waters ahead; nevertheless enjoying this twice daily cycle of inundation and draining of a wide, flat, winter landscape.

Peregrines are magnificent in their power and speed directed at killing; Redshanks are common on marsh and estuary, calls ringing across the water, as perfectly adapted for flight as the Peregrine for pursuit. Everything about them is slim, from thin, red-tipped bills through narrow, elegant, silver and white plumage poised delicately on eponymous long lipstick crimson legs. Always active, probing for food in shallow margins; always alert for danger, signalled by long, narrow wings lifted high to expose white undersides; bright white rump and wing panels and loud, ringing calls advertising flight.

Watching them speed away, hurtling wide across the winter landscape, jetting down to skim low and fast over the water on thin, swept back wings to alight in safer shallows enhances admiration for any raptor that can take them in flight as well as a greater understanding that, given fitness and vigilance, these birds are probably safe until these qualities fail.

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