Spangled beauty

Back in the days before PC's, mobile phones and Leicester City being the best team in England, I was studying poetry as part of 'O' level English Literature (today this is referred to as GCSE). One of the handful of poems that still stands out some 41 years later is an ode written by Gerard Manley Hopkins entitled 'Pied Beauty', which was basically the author thanking God for bestowing upon the world pied patterning and colouring in nature. I can even remember the first line:

"Glory be to God for dappled things"

Not bad memory recall for an ageing atheist...

This came back into my mind today whilst birding at Dungeness. It was a fairly quiet day punctuated by the unfussy migration of waders, mainly those headed for the Arctic Circle (or less fancifully, Scotland). The birding PR machine in this corner of Kent will remind us all ad infinitum that this is the time of the spoon-tailed Pomarine Skua - and it is. But to me, far more importantly, it is when many sea watches are enlivened by the eastwards passage of mixed wader flocks, mainly Bar-tailed Godwits, Whimbrels, Sanderling, Dunlin, Knot, Turnstone and Grey Plovers, a heady mixture of winter sobriety and summer brashness. Hugging low to the water, twinkling in the harsh light, the observer is treated to the spangles of black, white, orange, brick-red, chestnuts and silver-grey. They pass as a display in a high-class jeweller's shop window, unattainable beauty, here now but gone so fast that you want more.

This passage was also carrying on inland, over the RSPB reserve, where unseen migrants called from a pearl-grey sky - Whimbrels, Grey Plovers, Dunlin - either too high or hidden in the glare of a cloaked sun. We're these birds heading truly inland, or were they just taking a short-cut across the shingle peninsula to shave off a couple of minutes of their northern trek?


bob smith said…
In a similar vein Steve but referring to autumn migration do you know this poem by Denise Levertov?

The last warm day, I caught
almost unnoticing
that high shrilling like thin
wires of spun silver,glint
of wheeling flight-some small tribe
That night
the moon was full;by morning
autumn had come.

There's also a moving description of autumn night migration of waders in Far Away and Long Ago by
WHHudson. Lars Johnsson talks about wader movement in the book called Island(I think).
May I use your description to come up with a haiku?

bob smith said…
something like this

winter sobriety
and summer brashness
twinkling in the harsh light
here now
fastly gone(or and fastly gone)

This is actually called a tanka=two haibun joined with a pivot point....twinkling in the harsh light


Steve Gale said…
Bob, thank you for injecting some much needed culture into this blog!
bob smith said…
Hi Steve
You were mentioning some time ago about having a book in you. Well maybe you ought to think more seriously about this. Maybe with some of your illustrations. For example some of the writing from Shingle Minded
were excellent. I say this partly because I've just put together a book called Patchwork which is a collection of photos and writings relating to the patch here at Worcester Park. Lots of people do self publishing now. How about it?

Steve Gale said…
I will give it some thought Bob, but more urgently, where can I get a copy of Patchwork from?
bob smith said…
Hi Steve
Its not published yet but very soon-I'll let you know


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