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Friday, July 14, 2017

Poetry Friday--Shorebirds

Have you been to the beach lately? One of the great things about the New England coast is the abundance of shore birds such as Piping Plovers. The Piping Plovers have had a hard time in the past, but their future has been improved. Here's a short video on how the Piping Plovers are being protected in Massachusetts.

I could watch the scurrying creatures for hours--as a matter of fact, the last time I was in Maine, that's exactly what I did!

Another shorebird, the sandpiper, has been "captured" in words by Elizabeth Bishop. "Sandpiper" is found in the fascinating collection of poems selected by Billy Collins and illustrated by David Allen Sibley titled, Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds [821 BRI]

The roaring alongside he takes for granted,
and that every so often the world is bound to shake.
He runs, he runs to the south, finical, awkward,
in a state of controlled panic, a student of Blake.

The beach hisses like fat. On his left, a sheet
of interrupting water comes and goes
and glazes over his dark and brittle feet.
He runs, he runs straight through it, watching his toes.

- Watching, rather, the spaces of sand between them
where (no detail too small) the Atlantic drains
rapidly backwards and downwards. As he runs,
he stares at the dragging grains.

The world is a mist. And then the world is
minute and vast and clear. The tide
is higher or lower. He couldn't tell you which.
His beak is focussed; he is preoccupied,

looking for something, something, something.
Poor bird, he is obsessed!
The millions of grains are black, white, tan, and gray
mixed with quartz grains, rose and amethyst.

Did you know that today is National Mac & Cheese Day! Visit the Poetry Friday Round-Up being hosted by Tabatha Yeatts, where you may find a mac & cheese celebration in poetry!


  1. Diane, at our south shore of Long Beach there is a protected environment section. I have to look at which bird is being protected. I wonder if it is the plover.

  2. I"m so glad we don't just let species disappear. It's really a small thing to stay off the dunes. I like how narrowly the poem keeps its focus on what the bird is doing, yet in doing so, reveals the heart of the poet.

  3. A tip of the hat to E Bishop for rhyming "obsessed" and "amethyst," two unexpected words that go very well together. Also, I love "interrupting water." Thanks for letting us know about this collection.

  4. I haven't seen the Billy Collins bird book. I will look for it. Thank you!

  5. The closest we get to shore birds are Killdeer, who make their nests in gravel and who do a fabulous broken wing show to lead you away if you get too close.

    I love how Elizabeth Bishop helps me to see the shore with a "bird's eye view," although how a bird would know about sizzling fat...

    Headed to our library site to reserve this anthology! Collins! Sibley! Birds! YAY!

  6. A lovely poem, and I particularly love it when I get to add a new word to my vocabulary - finical! A good word, because I can be quite finical. :-)

  7. I love watching the sandpipers, too. They are well protected on our beaches in Maine, too, though they don't always adhere to the rules about where they are to be. One got SOOOO upset with me as I wandered the beach. She had taken her chicks out for a walk beyond their fenced in area and I couldn't see them against the sand. Was she mad when she thought I was going to walk through their parade!

  8. Sounds like a book I need to find--thanks for sharing some sandpiper love.

  9. What a lovely sketch of a a treasured friend I love to catch up with on beach visits. This poem is new to me. But, I really like it....looking for something, something, something. And, the last word, amethyst...so lovely.

  10. Lovely poem. I don't often get to watch shorebirds, but I enjoy the chorus 9 song birds that live in our yard. We even have a nest full of baby birds in the hanging basket on our front porch.

  11. I have been to the beach recently, and I do wish I would have seen these little shorebirds. I am used to seeing seagulls only. Thanks for sharing more info about the sandpiper!

  12. Thanks for this beautiful poem and sensitive video on the Piping Plovers Diane, I've been painting the plovers for a long time in efforts to bring more attention to their plight!