The Wind Dancers

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For my sins, although I spend all my spare time in the countryside … or writing about it … I have a day job. Most days I have to commute an hour each way between Norwich and Great Yarmouth and vice-versa. The wide skies of Norfolk usually present, each day, a visual delight and a cornucopia of wildlife sightings. Sunrises and sunsets, cloud formations, the whole view of a distant violent storm across the wetlands. Morning yellow vistas with skeins of geese forging inland to feed and pink-hued dusks dotted with those same skeins heading back to the overnight splashes. Drive up the Acle Straight, through the marshes and where the wind drives constantly across the plains, and you will see the rooks beating their way from the East Coast plough-fields back to the famous Buckenham rook roost. Small tribes of swans struggle to the pools, their laboured landing giving the impression of a bird least lent to flight. Murmurations of starlings gather on the telephone wires and take off to display in a smooth and skilful dance of whirling feather, choreographed in heaven. My favourites, though, as follow the crawl of traffic exiting the East Coast port, are the lapwings who winter on the marshes. When I was a young explorer in the open, arable Hertfordshire countryside (half a century ago) the lapwing, or ‘peewit’ as we called them then were as common as rooks. More rarely seen now, I revel in their flight when I see it now. On the ground, the translucent green plumage and head crest marks them immediately. In the air, as they wheel and roll like an aerial ballet troupe, they look black and white. The dance is majestic, a random orchestration of swoops, jinks, turns, loops and feints. Driving up the Straight tonight they performed just yards above the cars and lorries. A dangerous distraction that could lead the watcher to stray into one of the deep dykes lining the road. Yet I survived, with one eye on the flocks and one eye on the tarmac. Privileged again to watch the ‘wind dancers’.

Copyright Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, 2015

Lapwings displaying (3)

Lapwing flock (3)

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