Our Waiter On The Sea King

From where I sit to eat breakfast I look out over our garden; shrubs and a large lawn with my home made bird table, placed central to frustrate Kitty's lovely furry hunters. The flat topped, roofless table is surrounded by its mini forest of deer antlers picked up from the hill on our walks. Why? Because we like a bit of modern sculpture and because the sticking up points deter large birds (who could damage their wings) whilst providing perches for the little chaps and chapesses.

Apart from trying to recognise the species of visitors, I find the birds' behaviour of endless fascination. Much too complex for this little piece and with far more questions than answers to a non-ornithologist (as am I, not you!) But I now know what is meant by 'pecking order' because the sparrows and other little brown jobs have to give way to robins who give way to starlings who are pushed off the food by a turtle dove or two, who fly away on the appearance of a hoodie (hooded grow), who in turn are shuffled off, protesting loudly, by our very own private herring gull. The one called 'Sossie': acronym for 'spirit of Sorosh' in recognition of the overpowering greed of dog and bird. Sossie first made his entrance by tip-tapping on our dining room windown pane some while ago and has found the skill / courage to avoid the deer antlers on landing and take-off.

Once or twice even a herring gull has been cowed, put to flight, even caught and eaten by the buzzard who patrols our area on an irregular basis. Eagles, anyone?

Watching Sossie watching me this morning, I wondered at the perfection of his symmetry and I wondered why we humans have no such exact-same symmetrical uniformity, one to another. This seagull is one of nature's interlocking trillions of miracles, the one massive miracle that is life on earth, the one from which Man alone has attempted to exclude himself. Everything about this bird is a component of beauty; colours, legs and web-footed balance, red tipped orange beak for tearing up foodstuffs, brightest of bright yellow eyes for seeing miles and miles through the mists and spume-tossed storms of a winter seascape, his natural habitat ...

Waiting on the Sea King.

At times this rugged, ragged coast
can smile and then there is
that shimmer to her crystal seas
and herring gulls forget to cry
and anciently ice shattered rock
warms to the sun, and all her
fine ground sands remain unmarked
save by the pretty tracks of birds
that scurry, stop, and dart to probe
to find where shell-fish hide
and tasty things the sea has left
then move on down behind the tide.

Aloft, like scraps of weightless rag,
They wheel to ride the empty skies
on black-tipped wings, soft feathered,
startling white and pearly grey
(as, most days, is a Highlands day;)
they seem, these sprite-like gulls
to know the perfect joy of flight,
of nowhere special wandering
but still they are the special heart,
attendant part of everything,
these faithful, omnipresent waiters
on the whim of the old sea king.

I thought that, if a herring gull like Sossie was as rare as a Dartford Warbler you wouldn't get near our little garden for eccentrically dressed guys and girls with large telescopes and small notebooks.

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