Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Image Left: A stray sunbeam on the Street
Location: Isle of Erraid, Mull, Scotland

The Sparrowhawk

I step out onto the street dodging the collection of footwear that has accumulated on the doorstep; ,Wellingtons, sandals, clogs, different shoes, different jobs. A little way down the street, perched below the railings of the garden wall, a female sparrowhawk is waiting. She is close enough for me to see the detail in her eye stripe and the olive green plumage that extends like a cape from her crown to her tail feathers. There is a pause, as if in the moment before a car crash, when the inevitability of an impact dawns. First the crouch and then she pushes low into the air, extending her wings and breaking the connection with the ground. Her legs trail, useless and ungainly, their weight swinging as her body arches through the wing beats that bring her to flight speed. Now the glide, the broadness in her wing allows her to draw out a cushion of air. Three more wing beats and another glide, she runs below the copping hidden from the finches chattering in the neighbouring garden. Three more wing beats, she swings over the wall sending up a cloud of small birds. I am left in the wake and already the details have begun to fade, I try and hold on to the colour of the plumage re-sampling my memory but the image that comes is out of a guide book, generic.

I suppose it ought to mean something in the scheme of things but not everything is a harbinger and neither should every second be pressed into the service of announcing the next. I walk the island this afternoon with a jumble of feathers and other minutia for company.

Later in the boatshed I brush up sawdust until it gathers in the slots of sunlight and the cupped hands of empty swallows’ nests.

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