This has been a winter for woodpigeons. They darken the sky in their shoals, and I can stand back, complete a task and look up again to find the same flock still passing. They turn and drive above the hill, and the twig stems bend beneath them. I mark them well in their own right, but also because there are goshawks riding amongst them.
I don’t know when goshawks came here. I’m told they were absent for a long time, and now they’re back. I began to see them ten years ago, but I couldn’t swear against the possibility that they’ve been here all my life. We’re quick to claim authority over these things, and it wouldn’t be the first time that humans have mistaken invisibility for absence. It does us good to be wrong, and goshawks are well equipped to subvert analysis. I like to think they never left, but we lost the knack of seeing them.
And there was a hawk yesterday afternoon in a bright, soundering sun. Pigeons strove out of the beechwoods as I came by on the tractor, and she passed below them – not hunting; just moving away from me like everything else in that flat sky. There was something clean and shipshape in that bird against a fan of prey and panic and the steam from cattle backs and the fallen rain rising in sunlit sweat from the forest.
You can’t love a goshawk. That’s not how they work. But in glimpse and crossed-path, there’s something just as strong.