Vision In Time

            At Kenfig, a grey November day over wind-swept dunes, a Hen Harrier suddenly, three feet away jumps into the air, a small leap of perhaps a foot and stops, suspended, hovering for a second, still, inanimate, hanging in the air like a child's kite, wings extended. Tan, or a mottled, buffey, beige, almost imperceptible dapples of white interspersed. Soft, thick wings, with feathers like one of the larger owls. Palpable and downy like the pinfeathers on a chicken's breast. The wind flutters these fleecy wing feathers independently of the wings flapping movement. Like a trembling current of air, the pinfeathers ripple and vibrate, twitching, once, twice. The bird hangs hushed in the air like a still photograph for the eye to inspect, for the mind to ponder. What possible benefit in such an action? Surely just to linger there a foot off the ground must be to put itself in danger, from predators, foxes, dogs and the like. And yet, like me they would also be awed and like me they would stand and watch inactive, while the second passed, uncomprehending, thinking of the phenomenon of bird suspended stationary in the air. Almost imperceptibly his wings change shape, the tips drooping downwards, almost vertical, the central parts arching, swelling, his body upward, head down, rises an inch or so, and still he hovers, time passes, him hanging, me watching, one quarter, one half, three quarters and finally the whole second passes. He flaps a whole stroke, wings up, again near vertical, light underwing with dark trailing edges, wing tips extended like fingers clutching the air, and again flap, and flap, a buoyant floating movement, silently, so unlike the rowdy pigeons clapping flight. He moves now, distancing himself with greater and greater speed, and in two seconds he is thirty yards away, slowing confidently, he glides turning, sweeping out over the dunes, a vision in time, now departed.