Buteo buteo, the Eurasian Buzzard, is a bird of the edge lands, of magic. She launches from her thick twig-nest in high, forked branches to glide on a trajectory to rabbit-grazed meadow. She is a perfect shadow in the wood, yet casts her own deep shadow on grass. Beware the unwary. On sunny days, I see her circling high above the apple orchards, and I call to her in meows like a kitten. She will call back.
She can be solitary. She can be social. Her dual life and her love of warm, thermal updrafts, are not unlike my own. Occasionally, I see exploding pigeons above the steep croft, and I know she will feed her chicks this day. Thank goodness for generalists.
Buzzards are of Least Concern across their massive range, according to the IUCN. I am, none-the-less, concerned.
British mainland birds are resident, often persecuted and vulnerable to the selfish wants of some humans, as all animals are. Their trees are brutally stolen, their hunting grounds siezed and built upon. They eat lead shot, especially around game shoots, attracted by fresh blood and slaughtered carrion. And they themselves are shot. This hate weighs heavy on the hearts of those who care.
But these remarkable birds, undisturbed, know their deep, broad volumes of place as intimately as I know my kitchen cupboards. They understand a daily rhythm and I have found them to be wise. When the new, red kites come, they simply soar their sky, and all is somehow calm. I have always watched them with childish wonder. They are raptors of majesty, keen foragers and navigators. They are birds of pride.
Buzzards of the northern, colder parallels migrate vast distances to Africa and India, mustering in huge flocks at isthmuses and upon ridges. I have never seen these gatherings. They must be glorious and intelligent. One day I would like to find them, and watch them.
Meanwhile, here in Wales, with each local journey I make, I count them on the telegraph poles. I look high in the sky for rounded wing tips and fan tails. I admire their underwings as one would admire paintings, the blackish edge forming frames around their flight. They are an array of browny, alabaster and cream. If you are lucky to be close, they are sometimes red. When our star falls of an evening, a buzzard underwing can glow like an amethyst.
On open walks, I love how she looks at me, sharp, with sparkling eyes as she soars overhead. In the woods, on a branch, she defecates in disgust at my intrusion ~ tail up. Projectile and white! Then dives and glides to escape my gaze.
All the while, I love her families ~ the tense love-making, fluff-babes, the fledglings hopping about the tree tops, the juveniles, round-shouldered and elbowed on the hawthorn tops. But it is on the farmers’ ploughed and worked ground where she truly entertains me. I need this laughter. She transforms into a “dancing hawk”, along with others in rows, asserting her personal space with metre-wingspans of mud. I imagine the tune, as she hunts the small things, soft worms and shiny beetles.
I am smiling. That she makes me smile is invaluable to me. Thank you, buzzard, for all you are and all you do.
Biking Buzzard ~ my poem about a special encounter, at Mesmerising Moments, a site hosted by the wonderful Karen Wilde.