The rain bird

Today I watched a green woodpecker scoot across the grass beside my house. Also known as the yaffle, named for its call, or the rain bird, as its cry predicts rain.

Ours frequents the grassy area beside our house — foraging for ants2 on the ground between the sycamores. We’re able to watch him, but he shies away from cameras or focused attention so I’ve yet to photograph him. It’s become one of my life’s aims, to take my children to capture him on film — it matters on all levels that they see him, know him, and absorb him into their childhood.

He reminds me of windswept afternoons spent with my father in a hilltop garden on the Welsh borders, listening for peewits, cuckoos and woodpeckers (depending on the season), before a night curled up on an armchair before a log fire, reading Romany and Raq. This is how my father built me.

Thanks to my father’s tales, the green woodpecker takes me to a timeless place rooted inside me; a place of early childhood, of forests and skies, a place where woodlice wriggle through crumbling earth, and robins sit on the handles of spades dug deep into freshly-turned potato ridges. Inside my skin lies a world of woodpeckers, squirrels, hedgehogs, rabbits… the oak, elm, chestnuts, ash, and sycamores waving in the winter wind.

Tomorrow I’ll call my father, and ask if he still has the books. I bet he has.


1 Rain bird ref.

2 RSPB profile.

Image attribution

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