Nature's aerial dynamics

Atlantic winds swept inland bringing the incessant motion of noise. It was everywhere, churning waves, grinding rocks, foghorn booming through fields of drifting corn and battered trees. Cliff walkers, encased in windproof gear, battled along the pathway, heads down, eyes streaming, deafened by the roar. Turning every now and then to lean back on the wind and gain some respite, it was a shock to see something that appeared to be motionless, hanging on the wind and using it with confident mastery. With all this roar and bluster the skill and grace of the two birds was more breathtaking than the gale itself.

I have never been so close to kestrels before. They were there every evening, poised and watchful above the cliff. The book says that to achieve this pinpint position they fly forward as fast as the wind blows them back. It's a kind of control and balance that leaves me humbled. Sometimes I can barely stand upright , so where does that small form find the strength to measure the force so accurately? How can those fan-like wings equal the blow and buffet with such silent sustained power?

It's the same kind of amazement I feel on late summer days when the swifts, house martins and swallows ride the air above river and fields. The atmosphere is quivering with vital expectancy - a concentration of energy. My feelings for these slight birds are tremulous with anticipation.

This heightened activity is the annual count-down for the day when we go out and find the sky empty. Above the dew misted grass and gossamer strands there is stillness. The immense migration has started and with due respect for the scientific achievements of my fellow human beings I find it more awe-inspiring than sending rockets into space. That it has happened twice a year since who-knows-when, is unheralded, unpublicized, can never diminish the wonder when you pause for a while to think about it.

Those birds who quietly undertake their dramatic role arouse a tender admiration. But it is the geese and other water birds who send a tingle down the spine. They have been particularly active round here during the past weeks, yet every time the haunting call honks overhead I have to rush outside to watch. The careful formation, in which, I am told, the leader changes periodically, the rhythmic beat of wings, the cry, evoke profound feelings of the unknown, a hint of the mystery of winged creatures.

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