As the falcon flies

As the falcon flies

Even the rhythm of this simile conveys something of a great bird’s single, confident swoop to land precisely on a specific, awaiting glove. ‘But flying, as the falcon to the gloveSwoops home when signalled.’ For another sleek and powerful bird in...
Athene’s disguise

Athene’s disguise

Here Zeus spurs Athene to intervene in the Trojan war, and she descends to earth in the guise of a glorious soaring hawk, nose-diving. See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson’s magnificent Why Homer Matters, and...
Croodle

Croodle

‘Where pigeons sat and croodled.’ A cooing cosy word for a bird, but also meaning to snuggle up, nestle in, cuddle or crouch, for love or warmth. Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and death in the two rivers, illus. C.F....
Crisp-winged flies

Crisp-winged flies

A symbiosis of hovering birds and fly-pestered bullocks, the darting martins hoovering up bothersome crisp-winged flies. ‘Martins twittered along the river-bank, and hovered about the heads of bullocks, taking crisp-winged flies from their muzzles and between...
As silent as …

As silent as …

Another simile for silence, here combined murderously with talons sharp as black frost.  See other silent similes by Williamson and by Charlotte Bronte. ‘Silent as snow and fog, staring like the Northern Lights, taloned like black frost, the Arctic Owl flew over...
Whippering

Whippering

‘… the whippering cries of golden plover.’ This seems to be a Williamson coinage to describe the cry of a bird.  I haven’t found it in the Big Fat OED, source of all (English) words.  See also ‘stitter’ and ‘chitter’....
Wait your turn!

Wait your turn!

This observation of a family of swallows over 150 years ago struck me, along with another surprising tale by Thoreau. Apart from the impressive behaviour of the birds on both counts, in reading these immediate, living accounts, I wonder whether Thoreau had any idea...
Airborne support

Airborne support

This touching account in Thoreau’s journal has a swallow, injured by a shot from a gun, being given airborne support by another swallow. The duly contrite swallow-sniper thereafter showed reverence towards these lovely small birds. I hope the injured one...
Crackey, ackymal and ruddock

Crackey, ackymal and ruddock

‘The crackeys and ackymals and ruddocks – Devon names for wrens and tomtits and robins …’ All words for birds, delightful Devon names of which only ‘ruddock’ appears in the OED.  Glad to feature the other two lest they fall into...
Chakker

Chakker

‘… other noises were mingled with the chakkering.’ In this form, I couldn’t find this word in the OED, but assume it might be related to ‘chack’ and ‘chacking’, a mainly Scottish verb meaning: ‘To snap with the...
Chitter

Chitter

‘Hearing them, an ackymal that had been searching the streamside hawthorn boughs for green caterpillars flittered to the islet and chittered beside the crackey.’ An alternative to ‘twitter’, ‘chirp’ or ‘chatter’.  I...
Stitter

Stitter

‘Robins ticked at him, wrens stittered.’ Perhaps another sound imitation coined by Williamson?  His slim account of an otter’s joyous life and valiant death has a number of words evoking bird and otter sounds, several of which don’t occur in...
Crab-nibbled corpse

Crab-nibbled corpse

Poor, dead, ugly bird, corpse nibbled by crabs and devoured by fish. For a stunning description of this peculiar, prehensile bird, see Adam Nicolson, in his marvelous Sea Room.  Elsewhere Williamson speaks of ‘crab-green’.’Feeding with other fish on...

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