Friday, 3 February 2012

The thing with feathers

I dislike driving to Norwich; I prefer to take the bus. This is on environmental grounds, naturally, but also practical. Driving along the Wensum valley on a clear winter morning is a martyrdom of horizontal sun in your eyes. From the bus, though, I watch the sun rise through Hadean silhouettes of trees, in the bus I dream, in the bus I scribble notes in pencil on whatever scrap of paper I have to hand. Always pencil.

Today, however, I was meeting a friend in Norwich after work, so, the bus being out of the question, I drove. In Lenwade, where in a few brief weeks' time common terns will sit atop the streetlamps, a powerful, dark shape sliced across the road and I knew it at once to be a male peregrine.

During my childhood in Norfolk I saw not a single peregrine. Now we see them commonly in winter and at least two pairs attempted to breed last year. In these days of environmental catastrophe, of rampant habitat loss, and of biodiversity apocalypse, it is important to celebrate the comebacks, the successes, the returns. Hope is the thing with feathers.

This evening a muscular female peregrine cut shapes in the sky around the spire of our cathedral where the Hawk and Owl Trust and the Dean and Chapter are working together in the hope that the resident pair will raise their first Norwich chicks this year.

Welcome home peregrines. Welcome home.

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird –
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of Me.

Emily Dickinson
Hope Is the Thing with Feathers

Falco peregrinus

2012 Totals
Mammals: 10
Birds: 120
Reptiles: 0
Amphibians: 0
Fish: 0

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