Monday, December 7, 2009

my manners are tearing off heads

This hawk was perched, most menacingly, in a tree outside Murray Hall this morning. I'm not sure what he was hoping to swoop down upon and kill (a packet of chips? a muffin? a hapless colleague?), but there was no way in which he looked friendly. Every single word of Ted Hughes's "Hawk Roosting," finding a feathery compression of the will to power encapsulated in the one bird, was fully on show - no sophistry in his body.

Actually, I thought that this would segue in beautifully to a comment about flash photography and birds of prey, looking at Eric Hosking, who took many, many flash photographs of birds, especially owls, and who lost an eye when attacked by a barn owl in 1937. But this seems not (as I'd thought) to have been because the owl had been startled by the flash - Hosking was climbing up to the nest at the time. It seems, though, to be a bad idea to photograph owls, or either night birds, using a flash - not because of danger to the photographer, or to bird eyes, but because the brightness disrupts their sense of day and night, and hence their hunting patterns. I need, all the same, to have a look at Hosking's autobiography, which bears one of the worst possible punning titles - An Eye for a Bird.

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