Thursday, October 27, 2016

Birds of the Quarry, 2 - The Kingfisher

Kingfisher male, Folly Cove
Our local kingfisher cycle begins in the springtime on the shoreline of Folly Cove where a pair of the birds tunnels into the sandy bank to nest and the ocean caters delectables.

Kingfisher female, Halibut Point
Eventually they bring their youngsters to the bounty of minnows on Halibut Point. Their looping wingbeats and short-tailed silhouette call to mind a woodpecker in flight. The open perches they choose give good views to the water and to the dubious motives of humans. They're easy for us to see but hard to photograph. When approached they fly off with an indignant, scolding reproach.

In its plumage and brassy voice the kingfisher resembles a blue jay re-molded into a square, its crest teased into a shag. Its stretched bill, cupped wings, and truncated tail all suit its adroitness to hover and plunge into the quarry. 

The Kingfisher
Mary Oliver 

The kingfisher rises out of the black wave
like a blue flower, in his beak

he carries a silver leaf. I think this is
the prettiest world--so long as you don't mind

a little dying, how could there be a day in your whole life
that doesn't have its splash of happiness?

There are more fish than there are leaves
on a thousand trees, and anyway the kingfisher
wasn't born to think about it, or anything else.

When the wave snaps shut over his blue head, the water
remains water--hunger is the only story
he has ever heard in his life that he could believe.

I don't say he's right. Neither
do I say he's wrong. Religiously he swallows the silver leaf
with its broken red river, and with a rough and easy cry

I couldn't rouse out of my thoughtful body
if my life depended on it, he swings back

over the bright sea to do the same thing, to do it
(as I long to do something, anything) perfectly.

*  *  *
In a fortuitous moment this afternoon I encountered Dianne Sampson at the Cape Ann Museum carrying a sculpture of her favorite bird, the kingfisher.

The Kingfisher, commissioned by Dianne Sampson
Brad Story, sculptor
Erik Ronnberg photo

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