Archive for ‘The Birds of the Yorkshire Dales’


Pipit – Lapwing – Swallow – Chaffinch


Up on the moor tops, fields are cut,

And soon the berries will be ripe.

Amongst the heather, pipit rich,

The tewits fake their broken wings.


I think too hard about the words.

The sun is low and burns the eyes.

The dry stone walls form broken lines.

I hear the words, but cannot write.


And down below, the dale is dark,

Its words are carved on whispered stones.

Around the empty chapel hall

The swallows coax unwilling young.


So this is summer in the north:

A chaffinch calls at mottled skies.






Pungguk di antara bumi dan bulan

Menari di awang awangan

Meluncur, memanjat awan

Embun menanti penuh harapan


Mencabar deruan angin

Meniti malam yang dingin

Pandangan tajam menikam

Pabila bahaya mencengkam


Hilang seketika, tiba-tiba

Mengentap angan angan hiba

Terbang sayup, alah bergaya

Ajaib dan sungguh perkasa


Tiada yang anih lagi kerdil

Tiada yang mustahil.



Malay version of the poem “The Barn Owl”, translated by:


trans. © Copyright 2013 ninotaziz

Original by Gavin Jones, 2013




If only there was nothing left

To take – I’d free my shimmered voice:

Released to sing as thrushes sing,

At dawn, at sunset, call the earth.


If only I could hide away,

The fields would know my tranquil heart.

A peace which only plovers know:

I’d be – and nothing more than that.


But then you’d lose the glittered back,

The gleaming iridescent wings,

The gathered glory of my nest,

The golden rings and silver silk.


I wonder if you’d miss the “chack”

And chattered questions I shout back?


The Barn Owl


Defying earth and air and moon.

An essence made of sky and flight:

Your every silent bob and feint

Will stop a heart, or still the dew.


Defy mechanics, vault the clouds,

And shatter every shackled thought.

You see through roots, through night, through time,

And fly on questions, drift on mist.


Defy the senses, hide in sight,

You hear the elements combine.

You are the opposite of weight,

You are the miracle they missed.


Defying life’s fragility,

You scream impossibility.




As a Flock of Waxwings in the Beech


These leaves of beech first breathed in spring,

And trembled, touched by summer rains,

Turned copper crisp through autumn frosts,

And with our coming, shiver on.


We flick our wings against the thorns

Of sloe and brittle bramble shrub,

We take our pick of haws and hips.

Amongst the beech we hide from hawks.


On winter nights the starlight calls

Of redwing heading further south:

The finest needle points of fear.

We huddle then behind the leaves.


We wait together in the beech.

We fly together in the snow.




The Ghost of a Ringtail by Gavin Jones – Martin Harper’s blog – Our work – The RSPB Community

The Ghost of a Ringtail by Gavin Jones – Martin Harper’s blog – Our work – The RSPB Community.


The Ghost of a Ringtail


The moor was bright with wisps of mist,

And floating cotton grass in down.

The pipits pointed skyward wired.

So light the sun, so still the moor.


With pivot, dart and kiting wings,

The ringtail took the northern ridge.

She filled the widest sky with sight.

So light the sun, so still the moor.


Forever had her line owned flight,

And now the last in phantom form,

Eternal drifting beauty’s spell:

Though lost to life she haunts the hills,


The emptiness and quartered grounds,

So light the sun, so still the moor.


This summer, within sight of my home, one of my country’s rarest and most beautiful birds was shot – possibly by someone in the employ of a local landowner.  I despair of our species, I really do.


Pied Flycatcher


A sunlit pool, a space to dart

From off a branch the black and white

As clean as rapid’s foam and night:

A dancer pirouetting up


And back to bathe and preen and spy

Then off again to spin and snap

With flicking wings and sniper’s sight

A moment whirling in sunlight.


The spiral movements of its life,

From Senegal to ancient oaks,

Its call repeats, its circle turns,

Its world in orbit round the branch


Where sun meets black and woodland white:

A helix twist of vaulted flight.




Wren Days


A bursting song, vivacious fire,

Which spreads the word of ancient woods.

Proclaims itself a spirit free,

Declares itself a truth to fear.


From caves and webs across the floor,

From moorland crags and river banks,

Between the oak and sycamore,

A god’s crescendo echoed on.


Through bloodied winter, huddled fast,

A totem crucified in frost,

And carried dripping through the snows:

The tiny flecks of red on white.


The wren: from deity to death

Is energy, is life, is song.






They live another planet’s life,

Their world a maze of creviced wood ,

And flakes of bark and spider’s webs.

They seek the scent of insect’s paths.


And up they spiral, ever up –

Their probing, prizing spikes of beaks

Are thrust into the rotten reek –

They never reach the canopy.


Then out across the autumn woods

Where fungal spores spread sickly mats,

They claim their trees with needle trills

Like crystal wrens at misting dawn.


In otherness they live their lives,

As alien spirits of the oaks.



Ring Ouzel


A lunar crescent, skyward horned.

A tail which traces scree and ling.

A plaintive tone, a mournful tune.

A solitary black and bib.


Alone in rocks above the scars,

Where streams from bogs first scratch their beds

With steady tick like lowland merle,

A lost and wayward song of moors.


The moon is pitched in afterglow

And scattered with the trace of stars.

The melancholy call of space

A flick of night pitched wing and gone.


And left as one with what was once,

The sadness of a memory’s song.




In stubble cold, a bare white beak

Is flicking through the dregs of fall,

And if you’d call a flock alone

The winter picks the weak and old.


They fly: delineate the wind.

They march and mark the ancient lines.

They hack and chack at all that’s wrong,

And boundary off the coppice round.


When up one whirls it gathers more,

And eyes together scan and gleam

A single eye becomes the bird,

An eye as bright as night is black.


As one the copse of beech is filled.

As one the sky, the fields, the hills.


Tawny Owl


You look into the forest’s depths,

The twists of branches, knots of fear,

Reflected panic of the dusk,

And through the tangle: night black eyes,


Or ember eyes, or mirror moons,

Or timeless worlds which pluck in dark

The twitching, writhing remnant lives,

Before the silent wings fold back.


And trees cloak round to hide the deaths,

To save the torment of the rest.

The forest floor forgets what’s passed,

And carries on with nothing lost.


Pressed tight against the oak tree’s trunk,

A night of killing hides in day.


Yellow Wagtail


The gentle rains have summoned gold

From limestone walls as light as leaf.

The summer citrine floating gems

Are raised to shine on sundewed peat.


Their calls as fine as spider’s silk

Are threaded through the spikes of sedge,

And bright as mirrors to the sun

Chase heaven in a skyward vault.


As fragile as the cotton grass:

Arrive in April, dance in May,

Come autumn join the swallows south

And leave the hills to still and grey.


The yellow wagtail’s second life:

Is gleaming in the Sahel’s sands.


Grey Wagtail


The river racer, foam of sulphur,

Is dart and shivered mercury.

A scattered feather, pitched in peat,

Which whisks the water’s surface clean.


A never still, a bobbing weave,

A flight and dance, a flip of tail,

Its tick tricks time, alarmed and shrill,

Is chasing after waterfalls.


Then up and gone on undulations:

A shallow trace of wings and air;

A shadow left on deeper reaches;

A moment’s fire of fight and life.


And left, a woodland’s damp is hanging,

Awaiting echoes from the streams.


(first published in the collection “From the Shore”, 2011 – Shore Poets)