Speech of the birds

So the bird song has almost come to an end and the arias of blackbird, robin, thrush and chaffinch are no longer trilling out across the garden, only the cheeping of sparrows, an occasional sparkling cadence from the goldfinches and the twitter of swallows. But even they seem to have taken to the moors and we don’t hear them so often now their young have left the nests.

But the nightjars arrived about 10 days ago or so, judging by the frantic activity that greeted me at dusk about 9 days ago on the edge of the once clear-felled woods where they have been in residence for some years. The stumps of the pine trees have turned into strange young trees with wiggly tops that make them look like a coven of witches in the gloaming. The nightjars choose to bed their nests on the ground in the middle of this crowded amphitheatre and the sharp spikes of the conifers must give them some protection.
At dusk the first sound is a shrill kee-wick, an alarm call. Then comes the unearthly sound of the male nightjars’ churring that fills the air. On a still night the sound carries quite a way.

About 9 days ago the midges were out in force and it’s hard to photograph a nightjar, not only because of its speed but because of the wonder of it!

Last night (no midges)we felt blessed when one of the nightjars flew uncannily and silently round and round our heads, hovering in the air with a V shaped wingspread as if the air is a liquid and holds the bird in suspension. Its flight is like a moth’s which is what it eats on the wing, mouth open. Its silhouette is like a small hawk and it can flutter and soar and drop like a stone. The journey from Africa may be long and arduous but you can see how this bird is created for air.

In last night’s strong moonlight the churring continued and the birds were churring and flitting about in their territory.

I am  interested in why I love birds so much as it isnt a new thing in my life. I wonder what it is they mean to me so I try to work that out in my many bird poems. Today I found this beautiful Islamic text:

the speech of the birds

and this lovely website: https://aspeechofbirds.wordpress.com/

where there’s a quote from Sharon Olds that interested me:

“… to a poet, the human community is like the community of birds to a bird, singing to each other. Love is one of the reasons we are singing to one another, love of language itself, love of sound, love of singing itself, and love of the other birds.”

But me, I like birds for being themselves too.


About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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4 Responses to Speech of the birds

  1. E.E. Nobbs says:

    Keep writing about birds…never stop xx

  2. Thanks, Elly, thought I might be getting boring though 😔

  3. Lovely poems enjoy reading them

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