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Bird of the Month: the Kestrel

Regulars | By John McEwen

A small bird, a large legacy

To Christ Our Lord I caught this morning morning’s minion, king- dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple- dawn-drawn falcon, in his riding Of  the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing In his ecstasy! Then off, off forth on swing, As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding Stirred for a bird – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing! Gerard Manley Hopkins, from ‘The Windhover’, 1877 When this poem was recited in an episode of The Simpsons, Bart exclaimed ‘Wow!’ Kestrels (colloquially ‘windhovers’) were thought mere mousers in the medieval hierarchy of falconry – worthy only of a knave. Hence the title of Barry Hines’s 1968 novel A Kestrel for a Knave, the bird symbolic of freedom for its teenage falconer, Billy Casper...

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