This year there have been plenty of voles.
Early in June, walking across the open moors,
I see a hawk-owl perched on a single old fencepost.
She takes off and flies directly at me.
Hey, owl of the day,
You short-eared owl. She flies so close to me,
I think a falconer has lost his bird.
Does she want to land on my arm?
She slices past then flies at me again.
This time she locks onto my eyes with hers,
Gives me the death stare in yellow.
She carves the air alongside me, steers around
And comes back to dive at the whippet
In the long grass, who lowers her eyes.
What have we done to her? Somewhere
On this wide moor must be her nest,
Sheltered by surrounding grass and reeds.
She must have two-three chicks hidden.
Dull white round eggs, or pluffed-up fledglings,
I don’t have time to look for them before
She swings round again, two more passes by my face
I won’t forget, she could have my head off.
She lands on a turf dyke to watch our retreat,
Ruffles her feathers, hisses her scorn for us.
photograph: Reed grass Phalaris arundinacea, Yesnaby, Orkney, October / Cattie-face egg (Short-eared owl), Stromness Museum