Friday, 13 January 2012


The distant Golden Plover are nervous, rising to the air as a pulsating mass that flashes white and then gold as if these were the only two states of a dichotomous existence. The switch in colour that ripples across the flock comes about as the birds twist and turn in the air; one second it is the golden brown backs the show, the next the white underparts.

This flock must hold more than two thousand individuals, a decent size and one of the largest I have seen on these marshes. That they are so flighty suggests that a Peregrine has been through or is, even now, somewhere in the cold brightness of this winter sky. As I scan with my binoculars I pick out the distant smudge of another plover flock but there is no sign of the Peregrine.

It is not until a few minutes later, scanning the back edge of the marsh beyond the grey forms of wintering geese that I chance across the Peregrine. It is perched on a pile of earth next to one of the ditches that criss-cross this watery landscape. It sits with an upright stance, the head turning with irritation to stare at the two crows seeking to drive it away with swooping strikes. Every so often it has to duck to avoid a glancing blow. The crows eventual tire of their game and begin to feed nearby, though still watchful. Even on the ground there is a powerful presence to this our most majestic of falcons.

There Peregrine seems fairly settled and my attention drifts elsewhere; when I look back the Peregrine has gone and the plovers are, once again, a pulsating mass of white and gold.

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