The Bird Taggers
Down by the ley at dusk,
people are working softly.
In the reeds, they have strung a net
from poles, several pluck small birds
from the netting. They carry white bags
into which they place the birds in pairs
for company. These people work swiftly,
talk in low voices. The reed banks hum
with the sound of settling birds.
One man comes to explain, how they ring the legs,
track the birds’ flight, to protect feeding grounds,
nest sites. He shows us a young swallow.
It lies meek in his hand, relaxed as a sleeping mouse.
His voice is sure, this is heart work, for the future.
Several white bags hang silently from his belt.
He says not to worry, they have nest boxes.
Once in the dark boxes they will be calm
and in the morning, released.
Soon the birds will fly to Spain, to Africa.
from Taking Flight Rose Cook