Monday, 7 January 2019

Green Woodpecker

I moved to the Calder Valley in the winter of 2012, and on my first birdwatching wander I was delighted to notice a green woodpecker (Picus viridis).  Dazzlingly, it seemed to bounce on the icy air halfway up a hillside on the edge of the Copley woods, in and out of the ragged hedgerow and skirting a stream.  I followed the bird's course with my binoculars, as it dodged through overhanging branches, swerving over rocks and floating into misty invisibility.  I had been in the valley only a matter of days, and this January morning was my first opportunity to go birding in the local countryside. I had never seen a green woodpecker before. To do so now seemed a good omen.

See the source image
C. Vanessa Blackburn

In the time I have lived in the area, woodpeckers - green and otherwise - have been a not infrequent sight.  Their green speckled coats, wild eyes, patient habits, long thick beaks and the bright, red stripe that daubs their heads like a jester's hat, all combine to reveal a collage of contradictions - a bird which seems at once stately and frenetic, both stylish, and irascible. And every time I glimpse one, I am transported back in my mind to that early morning on the frosty hills, and the sense of promise it seemed to portend.


Up the muddy hill, 

flitting among 
bordering blackthorn,
skittering inch 
by drizzly inch
along a stone-choked stream,

an aerial climb,
you skim the rim of farmland,
acid-dappled laser-beam,
lime light-sabre,
in a neon gleam 
of feathered fire,

blood-coloured beak
creeping over hedgy wetness
in a thin mirage,

dreambird diving 
through the morning mist.

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