A Community Network for Bowes Park and Bounds Green
A mass of granite thrust up
Through the schists and gneiss of lower hills;
Planed down by the ice cap;
Split, shattered and scooped
By frosts, glaciers and the strength of running water.
Its strong flight haunts not precipice, but plateau –
One summer day, your ear catches the plover-like cry –
You pause and watch – no bird is there;
You move softly towards the sound,
And in a moment, one bird, then another,
Rises in short low flight,
Comes to earth again, and runs,
Crouched to the ground like a small grey mouse:
The unassuming dotterel.
Another bird nests on the high plateau,
No flights to Africa for him.
Through the most ferocious winter
He stays where he was born
And dressed for winter by the changing colours of the snow,
The ptarmigan has power in his wings.
In startled flight, his wingbeats are so rapid
That the white wings lose all solidity:
They are an aura of light around his body.
Very near the summits, on the most stony braes,
Nest the snow buntings.
These small creatures have a delicate perfection
Enhanced by the savagery of their home.
In the loneliest and most desolate crannies
Where imagination is overpowered by grim bastions of rock,
A single snow bunting will sing with incredible sweetness.
When the sun has just drawn up the morning mists from the corries,
The ground comes alive with small forms, like flakes of stone,
Blown, eddying upon the air,
A vision like the pleasure of an epicure.
Ranging the whole mountain mass are the hoodies –
Black and grey mountain scavengers.
Wheatears bob and chuckle on the boulders,
Or flash their cheeky rumps
As they fly to another stone.
Living encounters, where moments of their lives
Have crossed with mine:
In the burns of the highest corries,
The white-dickied dipper plunges beneath the water;
A lonely song by a solitary burn
Reveals the golden plover;
The cry of the curlew, sounding over distances;
The thin silver singing among the last trees
Tell me the tits are there.
In a fold in the hills, a pair of long-tailed tits
Flash, and are gone, and come again.
A bitter frost, and a dozen tiny tufts
Disproportionate and exquisite,
Tumble from a tree beside a frozen stream.
The mating ecstasy of the kestrel;
Two woodcock follow each other, night after night,
Low over the trees;
One morning, in a clear place among the juniper
The fighting blackcock are suddenly discovered.
Some way off, down the stream, a bird so huge,
I could only stare.
It wheeled and vanished:
Two enormous wings with a span I couldn’t believe,
Coming back upstream now,
Two great wings joined by nothing.
And then I saw.
Two great wings were a duck and a drake
Following one another in perfect formation,
Wheeling and dipping, and rising again,
With an unchanging interval of space between them,
Each following every modulation of the other,
Two halves of one organism.
Wild geese are only passers here.
One blustering October day, arrow-head of them,
Twenty-seven birds in perfect symmetry,
Flying down the valley, near the head of a deep glen,
The watershed steep above, the wind ferocious.
They broke formation.
Birds flew from one arm of the wedge to the other,
The leader hesitated, another bird attempted to lead,
Their lovely symmetry became confused.
It seemed as though the winds were beating them back,
For the whole line, blunt-headed now, edged round,
One bird leading, then another, till they gradually rounded
The top of the glen, and flew back the way they came.
A cinder-grey cloud, in an undulating line,
Like the movement of fish under water.
The dark line melted into the darkness of cloud.
These are mountains, not a shattered plateau,
For they are peaks piled on peaks,
A majestic culmination.
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