The masked lapwing or spur-winged plover(vanellus miles: Latin for soldier)
A SOLDIER’S SCREECH
For the last eleven years, October 1999 to October 2010, I have been watching the masked lapwing or spur-winged plover(vanellus miles: Latin for soldier) walk on and fly over the streets, lawns and properties of south George Town in the vicinity of Pipe Clay Bay where I live. These birds, these soldiers, accompany me now in the evening of my life, my retirement from FT, PT and casual-volunteer work. They became fully protected by an Act of government and a Wildlife Regulation in 1999(1) just as I arrived in this oldest town in Australia to begin my years of full-time writing and editing, poetry and publishing, journalism and independent scholarship.
In these last eleven years we’ve done a lot of walking these plovers and I. When in full-gate their little legs move like olympian runners trying to break a world record. These soldiers also have a loud and penetrating call, so piercing that it is enough to wake the dead. They often startle me out of my mental fatigue and somnambulence in the midst of my stroll along these streets in the afternoon, early evening or just after nightfall.
Stretching my limbs after several hours of reading and writing, I find these daily walks have become crucial to my energy state, my persistence and my need for relaxation. After a late lunch or an evening meal, in order to ready myself for more writing and reading, I head out for my half hour walk, my daily constitutional in the company of these little chaps who hustle and bustle about, making way for me as I head for the bush at the edge of this small, this old, town--the oldest in Australia.
After an evening meal with my wife, a late night snack after midnight and a daily consumption of two hours of television and one hour of radio on average before going to bed about 1 a.m., I make a mental calculation to see if I have attained my eight hours of serious academic work that day.-Ron Price with thanks to (1)“Native Plants and Animals,” Department of Primary Industries and Water, 25 October 2010.
They’re bold birds, these soldiers
of the sky and streets…..the only
troops I’ve seen here in 11 years,
in pairs, these parents protecting
their young and their territory…
Their little legs move faster than
Olympic athletes in a 100 metre
race covering their territory from
birth to death on that same patch
of lawn and road-back and forth
they go for generations-and they
have been that way since Caesar’s
day, indeed, way back to tertiary
years and its several epochs from
65 MYA to 2 MYA.
They swoop to defend their young,
ward-off intruders bluffing as their
instincts dictate--and we are advised
to wear a hat and glasses in a swoop
zone, but I just walk on by and gaze:
for I, too, am a soldier of the street &
sky. I, too, am an Olympic athlete on:
my patch of territory bustling yearly
from town to town, from birth to the
end of my days on this mortal coil as
I put one foot in front of the other
sometimes as fast as I can go to get
out of the way, or to get others out
of my way--occasionally letting-out
an almighty screech at all of life’s
slings and arrows of sad fortunes.
13 August 2007
Updated on: 25/10/’10
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