The Observer

Years of sediment are slowly cutting a curve of river off from the current. A few centimetres
of water still let life flow between the busy stream and stagnating pool. A floating leaf. A twig.
A spiny orange Perch. All find their way into the microcosm.
Layers of shoulder height hogweed enclose the pool. There is a single narrow patch of
trampled grass allowing access from the path. On a still day you can lie at the water’s edge
and shift your perspective between reflected clouds and spiralling tadpoles.
That’s was what I had planned for this Monday lunchtime. As I approach, I see my spot is
already occupied. Corra-Ghlas faces the river, giving me a view of the shaggy black crest on
the back of his head.
His shoulders are hunched. Strands of his blue-grey feathers sway gently. The body they hang
from is still, and tense. One leg is frozen in the air. His neck is coiled. He has no interest in
clouds. Something larger than a tadpole has caught his attention.
In the distance I can hear the thrum of traffic. The trill of a Lon-Dubh. The harsh call of
Préachán showing off for her sisters. I’m trapped in a bubble of stillness. Corra-Ghlas is
focused. He hasn’t sensed my approach. Another step could alert him to his watcher. My
shoulders are hunched. Reaching strands of grass tickle my legs. One foot is frozen in the air.
A breath away from detection and the tension runs through my body. Is that a silver shape
beneath the water or the reflection of dancing leaves? Has his neck grown tauter?
A snap of movement. A beak like an arrow strikes the water. There is no splash just the barest
of river sounds. Splunk. A calming noise for an act of violence.
And now his head emerges. Prize grasped precariously by a single leg. Not a fish in the end
but Loscán. Green, wet and wriggling. Now comes the sound as Corra-Ghlas thrashes his
captive. A bash against the water’s surface shatters the pool’s magic. The struggle and panic
of mainstream life crashes down into this timeless refuge.
Its stale mate. Corra-Ghlas needs to open his beak and throw his head back to swallow his
prize, but Loscán is no floundering minnow. The moment his legs are free their frantic kicking
will carry him far from the predator’s grasp. Another thrash against the pools surface.
I feel my tension bleed away. I’m safe to lower the foot. In my eagerness I take another step
towards the struggle. Just three metres away Corra-Ghlas flicks his head again prompting
another frenzied round of kicking from his prey.
Another step forward? I’m a daily visitor to this riverside path and I’ve never been so close to
a battle like this. I risk it.
Corra-Ghlas snaps his head around. The beak springs open and wings grasp franticly at the
air. A prehistoric scream as he carries himself fifty metres down the river path. He lands,
hunches and huddles himself in his tattered blue-grey cloak.
Loscán has already plopped himself back into the pool amid his spiralling offspring. The
surface grows still.
I turn away and carry on down the path. Corra-Ghlas precedes me. Each time I approach he
flys forward, lands and watches me. Silent accusation for the one who cost him his lunch. My
observer stays with me until I turn, shamefaced, away from the river. He glides awkwardly
overhead, returning to his pool, his hunt and his human free world.