Birders are always excited when they see a rare bird, alone and miles off course. But what is the bird thinking? Who knows, but this sonnet, I hope, offers another point of view. And I’m not being critical of birders, I’m one myself!
Sonnet to a lost tern
We men in green, bejewelled, with bins and scope,
Shout What’s that there, behind the reeds, tucked down,
A yankee tern? Too far off course, some hope!
But look, that pale-streaked breast, forked tail, black crown!
Heads down like men possessed we probe, we peer,
Page flip our guides to spot its beak, striped eye,
Confirm the twitch, then tweet ‘First of the year!’
What next then, Curlew Sand, Great White, Sea Pie?
We click shut our scopes in the failing light
And trek on to fresh finds, triumphant, blest.
Our stray forgot, dead beat, from polar flight,
Squats sullen, dazed, dull eyed, with panting breast.
Uncaring birders, think as you head for home
Your tern’s bewildered, fearful, and all alone.