Wildlife-Poetry And Prose

SQUIRRELS by John Mole b.1941

Tails like dandelion clocks
They blow away, these
Light-weight bucking broncos
With a plume behind.
For sheer surprise
No-well aimed burdock
Sticks more nimbly to your overcoat
Than these to tree bark,
Nor with such aplomb
Can any comparable creature
Lead a dance more deftly
Through the branches.
Down to earth again, they
Hold their tums in, like little aldermen,
Or sit on tree stumps
Like old ladies knitting socks.

The Pettichaps Nest

By John Clare

Well! In my many walks I’ve rarely found
A place less likely for a bird to form
Its nest close by the rut-gulled wagon-trod road,
And on the almost barefoot trodden ground,
With scarce a clump of grass to keep it warm!
Where not a thistle spreads its spears abroad
Or prickly bush, to shield it from harms way;

And yet so snugly made, that none may spy
It out, save peradventure. You and I
Had surely passed it in our walk today,
Had chance not led us by it! – Nay, e’en now,
Had not the old bird heard us trampling by
And fluttered out, we had not seen it lie,
Brown as the roadway side.
Small bits of hay
Plucked from the old propt haystacks pleachy brow,
And withered leaves, make up its outward wall,
Which from the gnarled oak dotterel yearly fall,
And in the old hedge-bottom rot away.

Built like an oven, through a little hole,
Scarecely admitting e’en two fingers in,
Hard to decern, the birds snug entrance win.
’tis lined with feathers warm as silken stole,
Softer than seat of down for painless ease,
And full of eggs scarce bigger even than peas!
Here’s one most delicate, with spots as small
As dust and of a faint and pinky red.

We’ll let them be, and safely guard them well;
For fears rude paths around are thickly spread,
And they are left to many dangerous ways.
A green grasshoppers jump might break the shells,
Yet lowing oxen pass them morn and night,
And restless sheep around them hourly stray;
And no grass springs but hungry horses bite,
That trample past them twenty times a day.
Yet, like a miracle, in safety’s lap
They still abide unhurt, and out of sight.

Stop! here’s the bird – that woodman at the gap
Frightened him from the hedge: ’tis olive-green.
Well! I declare it is the pettichap!
Not bigger than the wren, and seldom seen.
I’ve often found her nest in chance’s way,
When I in pathless woods did idly roam;
But never did I dream until today
A spot like this would be her chosen home.

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The Dales