Among the morning trees

Among the morning trees

Since my last post I’ve seen, among other birds: two buzzards fighting, a woodpecker and something green, either a siskin or a greenfinch. And I have learned to distinguish between pigeons and wood pigeons, the latter much bigger, sturdier, more solitary and posher than the flocks of feral pigeons in the city centre. Since feral just means wild, I think it’s a silly and rather derogatory name for the city cousins. I’ve taken to wearing binoculars round my neck, though it makes me feel a bit self-conscious and fraudulent. I find it very difficult to see through them and often can’t find the thing I can see quite plainly with my bare eyes. I’m not sure whether one is meant to focus them every time? It takes me so long to get organised that the bird has usually flown by the time I do. It’s obviously quite a skill. The other day a man came up when I was peering hopelessly into a tree, said, ‘What’s about?’ and rattled off the names of birds he’d seen in the area, many of which I’ve never even heard of.  Standing in the woods with dog and binoculars reminded me of a poem I wrote years and years ago (when old people seemed older!) about an elderly woman I often saw on my morning walks my terrier Sadie, young then, gone now.

Among the morning trees

Who moves more slowly:
Lil, eighty-six,
with her stick or Ben
the labrador, twelve,

In oaky shade, Lil
stops, gets steady,
leans her stick
against her hip,
before she hefts
binoculars –
the weight of them tremendous
in knotted hands.

A woodpecker rattles
but her hearing’s dim,
the blackbird wastes
his song on her.
Ben cocks an arthritic
leg against a tree, pees
stands guard
while Lil, face lifted


for flit and flash
of bird wing
silent in the silent leaves;
today a jay,
identified, a triumph,
a definite tick
in the old Field Guide to British Birds.

There. Lil lowers
her binoculars,
regains her stick,
Come on boy, breakfast time,
she says, and they trudge home.
And who is more content, Lil,
with her clear sighting
of a jay,
or blind old Ben,
who’s kept her safe
another day?