Feathers and flight

Last week I noticed a feather on my walk and retrieved it. Just an ordinary feather, probably from a magpie. I marvelled at the sheen and smoothness of the feathery part and the hollow strength of the quill and the absolute floating nothingness of holding it. A bird and its feathers are uniquely designed to fly. No wonder we say ‘it’s as light as a feather.

These days, I walk alongside a river, the lovely Swan River that glides its way through the city of Perth on the west coast of Australia. It snakes and serpentines its way around the suburbs before flowing out into the Indian Ocean. It’s a meandering tidal river with lots of wetland areas around its banks, so there are plenty of birds to watch as you walk. The majority of these are ducks, moorhens, cranes, ibises and coots of all shapes and sizes that skitter in and out of the reeds and marshes. Or land with a satisfying swoosh as they skid to a halt in the water. Generally are not airborne, just fossicking around in their natural habitat, water, with evident delight.

The Swan River is obviously home to swans. These are magnificent black swans with scarlet red beaks that are indigenous here. It’s debatable if they are more elegant and regal in appearance than their white cousins, but they are certainly a striking sight when you spot them swimming alongside the bank with their partner, occasionally in a larger group, or resting on the grass, preening their glossy feathers with long elegant gestures. I haven’t yet seen one up in the air, but I would love to. Big billed pelicans are another common sight here, in the water or along the banks, shovelling their enormous beaks right down into the water at regular intervals.

In flight, I often see brash loud cockatoos, galahs and parrots. lorikeets and rosellas, especially in the early morning and evening when they gather and swoop to feed on various types of eucalypts and other native trees or forage through the grass. There are so many other native birds here, magpies, wagtails, honeyeaters, butcherbirds, bee eaters, fairy wrens, wattle birds, butcher birds and bellbirds. I know I’ve spotted some of them flitting in and out of the bushes as I walk past. There are an endless number of birds here and the obvious pleasure they take in flying is enthralling. No wonder people have sought to imitate them over the centuries and get up into the sky.

The letter ‘f’ is another easy letter to learn to sound, with the top teeth just touching your bottom lip. There are many useful little words that start with this letter. ‘For’, ‘fun’, ‘fan’, ‘fix’ and so on. It’s quite easy to write, but needs the curve at the top of its stick to distinguish it from ‘t’. I think only the word ‘of’ uses the hard ‘v’ sound at the end of that word.

6 thoughts on “Feathers and flight

  1. I love your musings on the feather here. The thing that never ceases to amaze me about them is their strength. Yes, they’re light, but WOW are they ever engineered perfectly. I also hadn’t thought about the “f” has a hard “v,” but my inner etymologist wants to explore the linguistic roots between the f-v connection…

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  2. Gosh, I loved this post! This description of feathers was beautiful: “absolute floating nothingness”. Your descriptions of all the birds you get to enjoy – wonderful! Thank you for sharing the picture of the black swans. I don’t think I’ve ever seen those before Beautiful. I’m a huge bird fan, so I liked hearing about what birds you enjoy in your neck of the woods. Lately, we’ve gotten to enjoy many sightings of bald eagles!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, I realise most readers won’t be at all familiar with many of our birds, just as we don’t have bald eagles here. Would love to see some, we do have golden eagles away from town in the desert areas.

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  3. Feather – such a symbolic thing itself, not to mention all these amazing birds. “Fairy wren” just begs for a poem. The pictures, as always, are stunning – I am enjoying these dictionary gallery walks.

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