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Loch Garten volunteer

“The birds will wake you up!” they said.

I’d doubted that, but yes, it’s true -

no sooner have the stars all fled

than osprey cries come piercing through

the speaker in the wooden shed

that guards the tree where they have bred

for many years, successfully bred.


This week I’ve more than filled my quota

of opening up the eyes of tourists.

Last night was my slot on the...

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How long will we have to wait?

How long will we have to wait?

We line the cliff top path.

Below, the breakers resonate   

and jubilant kittiwakes laugh.

We question one of the volunteer staff, 

“How long will we have to wait?”


“How long will you have to wait?”

She smiles and makes it clear:

yesterday it was ten to eight,

Thursday, not here -

or so they think - it didn’t appear!

“How long ca...

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albatrossbirdsbirdwatchingBempton Cliffsseabirds

My fantasy bird table

I’m putting out some food on my fantasy bird table 

hoping to attract my all-time favourite birds.

The first to arrive are the ones that used my first table:

robins, tits, and blackbirds that nested in the woods.


The flock that follows them are the best I’ve seen in Britain:

a ptarmigan, an osprey, a dotterel and a smew,

a bearded tit, a peregrine, a puffin and a bittern 


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The lure

Looping round till it’s a blur 

the falconer swings the weighted lure

beneath the bird, enticing her

to go into a stoop.


With hooking bill and crookéd claw 

and plunging like a meteor

she swipes the fakery to the floor

with a vicious slap of feathers.


Around the crowd, a communal gasp.

The predator’s grappling in its clasp       

the prize, but is the bird a...

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Peregrine Falconsfalconfalconrybirds

The minstrel of the meadow

The balance of life and death

rests on a dot in the sky

whose frivolous shivering breath

rivals the moths in its quivering

rippling hovering, high

and triumphant amongst the cumulus,

the twin-piping syrinx delivering

an opus more complex, more tremulous

and vaporous than any cantata.

The minstrel of the meadow 

sees the grasshopper climbing,

sees the froghopper fal...

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birdsskylarkSkylark Song

The shock of silence

A colony of terns concedes no paucity

of energy: the strident racket rising

in steep vociferous steps

envelopes your whole mind as if by sorcery. 

But one event might strike you as surprising:

now and then - untold by any augury

and with no cause - it stops.


A rigid talon grips the atmosphere 

and sound shuts down, as though there’s been a sudden

resetting of the wi...

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Sixty tonne of metal bellowing down the sky

assails the quietude

of reeds and muddy pools

where spoonbills sift through sludge and seagulls drift nearby.


The mouth of the Ria Formosa’s a birders’ paradise:

miles of salt pans hosting

birds of low-lying coastline,

in thousands upon thousands. It’s Eden beyond price


in every way but one: the fence of Faro A...

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Where Are The Skydancers?

I set off on a ramble through the Forest of Bowland

binoculars at the ready, a bird book to hand.

I hope to see some species that don't breed in the lowlands,

hen harriers and short eared owls, quartering the land.  

My list has pipits, crows and jackdaws,

grouse in surplus but no raptors.

I tick off golden plover, curlew and wheatear

but where are the skydancers? 


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birdshen harrierbirdwatchinggame keepergrouse

This bird

Look at this thing, this gruesome thing, this shake-off from the slick.

A car mechanic’s rag, a bag of bile, a doodling hand that drags

a biro clot of crudeness up the beach.

This foul-up. This bird. This broken component of our world.

Then look at that: a flesh gorged kite, circling

while cluster bombs slake a starving nation’s soil.

America’s pin puckered vein, the fight for th...

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