The red knot

In the Dee estuary, a flock of red knots was preparing to continue their flight, the longest migration in the animal kingdom. Their destination was New Jersey or there-about – bays, beaches and mudflats where an abundance of horseshoe crab eggs would be found, their arrival so perfectly synchronised with Nature’s spring rebirth.

A gang of youths in search of an event, made its way to the cliff edge, facing on the ebbing tide. The greening muddy flats below looked inviting.

With chest plumage tawny-brown morphing steadily to pink, soon to be a stunning red for the mating season, five thousand birds were feeding on the shore where the estuary had become a wetland. They were building strength for the flight. 

The youths tested the unstable cliffs of soil, rolling stones and themselves down to the narrow shingled shore. Then with clothes muddied, faces glowing red and sweaty, they communed in a tight huddle, hatching a plan.

Wheeling in the darkened sky, the red knots sensed the wind direction. Swooping down for  mussels and soft fleshy finds in the sand, they grew tense and strained.

The tight huddle on the beach threw all caution to the winds. They filched their pockets for the wherewithal to execute the deed, the event that was lacking, the excitement of disturbance, of the shaking up of nothingness their lives had become.

“Here we go, here we go, here we go!”

“Nah, its a bad-un. I’m leaving!”

“Get along you miserable ..”

“Here we go, here we go, here we go!”

The darkening sky threatened rain. It was now or never for the birds. Their bellies filled, they gathered and swarmed around in circles.

The darkened sky threatened to drench their enthusiasm for the deed. It was now or never. “Here we go!” They waited undecided until the tension might force the impulse of ‘now or never.’

Marshalling their congregation on the shore, the red knots milled around, pecking, digging for the last offerings, waiting for the start-gun lift, when one amongst them would know it was now.

The youths as one decided. They dug into their pockets. They struck their matches, each bending to his own chosen spot. “Here we go!” Fire muscled its hidden track through the grasses. Smoke rising, vaguely, creeping low.

The air was smoked with burn. The acrid smell disturbed the scent. The red knots with plumage almost fully red were agitated. It was now.

The fire caught. The grasses burned and flames shot in the air, visible from the cliffs above. The youths were ecstatic with the show, and chuckled at the flight of so many nameless birds, nameless to them, silhouetted nothingness, their number uncountable, coalesced in a clump of bird anonymity, destination unknown.

The red knots rose as one body of pulsating bird-being, the land alight behind them, in front rebirth. “Here we go!”



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