I’ve always said I don’t really like birds, but for some reason there are lots of them in my poetry.
We’re fortunate to have pine forest, olive groves, the river and other habitats here that provide homes for a variety of species. The most impressive ones that actually come into the garden include hoopoes and jays, the occasional woodpecker, and one of my favourites, the rabilargo – literally ‘long-tail’ – the azure-winged magpie. Sadly, although these flock in huge numbers – I swear I counted 50 last Tuesday – I’ve never managed to get any kind of adequate picture.
Most readers are unlikely to know them by sight, as they only occur on the Iberian Peninsula and in eastern Asia, so I’ve used this photo by Sergey Yeliseev, as I think the brief ‘poem’ below will make more sense if you have some idea what the bird looks like. When I first saw them I thought they must be the local version of the jay as they are clearly corvids.
The sleek black elegance of executioners’ hoods
and muted shades of beige and dusky blue belie
the rabilargos‘ raucous voice and acrobatic repertoire.
With strident glee they trampoline from twig to twig,
unfurl their summer-evening wings like fans, revealing
azure blue as vivid as the cloudless Spanish sky.
It occurs to me that one reason I never manage to get a picture is because the birds are so spectacular that I just stand and stare. I used to feel the same about the occasional jays we’d see in the park when I was a child, and the rare glimpses of kingfisher – I saw a pair of them by the river a couple of months ago – have exactly the same effect. That’s why I called the post ‘bluebirds’: some birds just raise your spirits whenever you see them.