Birds feature impressively in Williamson’s minutely loving study of the life and landscape of an otter. Some are preyed upon, but overall their apparent fragility is combined with feistiness and resilience.

The ‘hawk-like glidings’ evoke Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Windhover, whose flight is likened to a skate’s heel sweeping smooth on a bow-bend. The closing line of the verse is apt for the admiration inspired by Williamson’s writing: ‘My heart in hiding stirred for a bird, the achieve of, the mastery of the thing’.

‘A bird flying with irregular wingbeats and sudden hawk-like glidings took the moth in its wide gape and flew out of his sight.’

Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and death in the two rivers, illus. C.F. Tunnicliffe (Harmondsworth: Puffin Books, 1976 (1927)), p. 33

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