8.38 am. It starts as a scattering few, a straggle of long-winged gulls crossing the bright morning skies over my tiny garden. It’s Fenland out there, out beyond the city I live in. It’s Wash and it’s flatland, miles and miles of reclaimed marsh and flood-spill turned into perfect squares of monocrop.

Sometimes, when you’re driving in the dusk along the tiny roads between ditched and raised fields, you can almost see the dream of the oceans that were – going back several thousand years of course, before John Clare wrote his own paen to the denuded flats, before industry came, before even the Saxons and ancient Britons built their embankments.

This was edgeland, once. A place where ocean and land mingled. This was the Sea King’s territory, an earthly court where he and his entourage would ripple and run and flood and rush through, again and again, season after season.

And now, back in 2020, and against the shining winter morning there comes another wave of those long-winged gulls. Too early or sleepy to form phalanxes of V’s yet, but they’re building up to it. (With the occasional ornery crow gleefully flying through their midst, of course)

And another wave of beaks and feathers. And another.

Like that time an old friend told me ‘you never know the moment before or after a meteor storm that you’re in one, until, suddenly; the sky is full of falling stars.’

Suddenly, the sky is full of wave after wave of birds. How many are there? A few hundred? More than you can count.

And I’m reminded that these commonplace migrations happen Every. Day. The long-winged gulls move out on the dawn to the Sea King’s edgelands, and come back every dusk. Just as the rivers of starlings I used to watch rolling over the welsh farmlands made their own dusk-time pilgrimages to the coast.

What strange, commonplace marvels there are.

Barktongue
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