Sunday, 10 December 2017

Birding the landscape

The fickle British weather has proved me wrong (again).

In my last post I wrote 'There is no snow on the mountains' in my 'Little Egrets' poem.  Very soon afterwards I looked out of my bedroom window and saw that Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) had turned a glittering white overnight.

Yesterday all the surrounding hills and mountains were clothed in snow.  One of the most prominent from this direction is Moel Hebog.  Reading A Journey through Birds by James Macdonald Lockhart I was reminded that hebog is Welsh for a hawk.  This has puzzled me - did this mountain have more hawks than its neighbours?  Then I realised that of course it's because of the shape - its rounded shoulders are like a hawk mantling its wings.  Another name for Snowdon is Eryri.  Eryr is an eagle.  The dramatic triple-peaked ridge that reveals itself when the clouds part is like the outline of a soaring eagle.

In the back of an old Welsh dictionary I found a list of birds' names.  A coot is iâr y gors - 'bog hen', a jay (which I see frequently round here) is sgrech y coed - 'shriek of the wood'.  My favourite is  the dipper aderyn du'r dwr - 'blackbird of the water'.  I like the way the birds' names place them in the landscape.

By happy coincidence the Picador Friday Poem was Kathleen Jamie's 'The Dipper' set in 'winter, near freezing'.  She writes of the bird's 'supple, undammable song', that it 'knows the depth of the river / yet sings of it on land.'  Yes, blackbird of the water.

[You can read the whole poem if you google Picador Friday Poem 8 December 2017.
Apologies to those who know dwr should have a circumflex on the w - and advance thanks to anyone who knows the correct short-cut keys to get it on a Mac!]

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