Starlings, a poem by Terry Astley

The Pearly Kings of the bird world,
With jewel-speckled waistcoats,
Shining brightly in the sun.
Rapid raiders of bird food tables,
Pecking frantically at seed and other morsels,
Deftly snatched between their claws.
Among the jostling throng
That’s never there for long.
A tiny sound or movement and they’re gone.
As though a fierce gust of wind had come
And whisked them off to somewhere else.
Soon settling down on rooftop ridge and chimney stack,
Or other places even higher
Like telephone or electric wire.
All neatly spaced and having a chatter
About whose garden next they will invade.
Some silent signal passes round,
And off they go, the whole brigade.
As daylight fades they go to gather and flock
In numbers, at their chosen place,
To have some play before they sleep.

Swooping and diving, that way and this,
They emulate a shoal of fish, under attack,
Away and back, away and back.
Up and down, reverse, return,
Soaring in shape-changing clouds,
That merge, then separate to merge again.
As though one brain-controlled each bird
Of this enormous, swirling flock.
Until the skies are darkened one bit more
And down they come, all at once,
Onto the treetop roost, to talk excitedly
About their day, about the way
They swerved and dived and never crashed,
About the tasty bits of food they ate,
In ever louder starling voices.
Until they realise it’s getting dark, time to stop this noisy lark.
And all at once they do fall silent, not a cheep,
As though some strange mysterious hand
Had thrown a switch
And sent them all to sleep.

Terry Astley, 2020

Starlings © Philip Jordan

About the author

Terry lives in North Fenham with his wife Brenda. He is interested in all aspects of natural history, but his main interest is geology. He is getting more interested in botany as he regularly attends the Midweek Botany Group outings.

Terry started writing poetry after he had retired, when on holiday in Skye, and the wonderful scenery inspired him to put pen to paper. He has continued to write poems about the natural world ever since and often reads one to the botany group when they are having lunch during their outings. He was very pleased earlier this year, when one of his poems was included in the recently published book: A Journey in Landscape Restoration Carrifran and Beyond.