Sunday, 25 December 2016

christmas presence.

The sea.
a sheet,
edge frayed.
cut by the razor clammed
shingle sand.

Seaduck spatter
raft of slick, oily paddling
diving, mussling on the drift.

They spread,
then fly,
then skid on the broken sapphire surface,
head up,
tail up,
chest up,
wing flap, 
passions rising on the ebb tide.

Sitting back in the water, the males nibble at their breasts then jerk their heads upwards, initiating the chase.
For now it's tentative, a chance for the younger birds to join and learn.
In an instant a harried female lunges forward and is airborne, followed by three or four males, fleeting up and down the reach before landing unceremoniously with a spray of icy water.
The males now parade against each other, each one trying to force his rivals away from the female.                                                

Before long the Old Squaws are swept away by the streaming Blackduck- white and chocolate highlights in the dark shoals.
Every now and then, bold white wingbars stand out, Velvet among Common Scoter, their heads flashing pale thumb prints on cheek and ear. The flocks are made up of mostly female and young birds, the odd young male stands out with the first glossy black feathers emergent.
Further along the coast at Holkham, a lone scoter sits just offshore. It is close enough to see the ragged buffy fringes on its chest and flanks. This unfortunate bird is injured, and struggles to move its wing. resigned to its fate, it buries its bill among its dark mantle feathers, and stares blankly as the shrill voices of the geese echo across the Gap.

The geese are heading inland to feed. Beet fields, recently harvested, come alive with the muddy-footed, busy-necked gleaners.
Bickering, chatting, shouting- pinks. And within this great throng a black and white and red breasted goose- alone in the crowd. quietly it steps through the arguments, its dazzling coat belying its modesty.

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