Observations of an ornithologist

Grey Heron

He sports a neatly tailored coat of mouse
pelts, his legs are fragile, like a feather-
weight’s in the ringside glare, or the windscreen
wipers of an omnibus in the dry
season. He keeps to himself like some poets
and, like some poets, he refuses to wear
a tie, though he will sometimes fold his neck
as neatly as any odd stocking. He
surprised me today, as motionless as
a guerrilla in an ambush, bill poised
for the kill. On one leg he conjures up
a notion of contemplation. He roosts
at Borrow Street baths on the very edge
of the colony. Phoenix bird, don’t perch
on my house before I’ve had it re-wired.

Grey Louries

They look hand-made,
each one slightly different;
misshapen as free verse;
collectors’ items, perhaps.
They fly like paper aeroplanes.
Their raucous call is how
I imagine pterodactyls
may have sounded
millions of years ago.

Go away yourself!
Shoo! Stop
gorging on the candid
blossoms of my apricot tree.

Cape Turtle Dove

I’ve seen you do it on the road,
I’ve smelt you turning on a spit;
I understand the twitcher’s code…
but that’s not it.

I touched you once, your bobbing head,
observed you sorting seeds and grit,
noticed that your eyes aren’t red…
but that’s not it.

An open woodland takes your shape,
near water, where you love to sit,
shades of lavender on your nape…
but that’s not it.

Your noisy flap, your half-ringed neck,
your gentle manner – not a bit –
your warning rasp, your vicious peck…
but that’s not it.

Your song. Your distant, haunting call,
like well-loved landscapes lately lit;
three syllables that rise and fall…
and that’s it.

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