Poem “First Light” by Belinda Rimmer
Photograph “Bay of Egrets” by Roberto González García
(inspired by the National History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Urban Wildlife Finalist, Roberto González García’s photograph, “Bay of Egrets,” 2017)
amid the clunk
of an industrial shipyard
a colony of cattle egrets
in reed beds.
Ships’ noses nudge and poke
through the dark ripples;
the egrets take their chance,
don’t move a wing.
All night hunched,
clicking of beaks,
but no fighting.
At dawn’s loud light
they sway and rise –
obliterate the static hoists,
boxes of dead fish –
to stain the Spanish sky
pink and white.
About the photo, “Bay of Egrets”:
The photo was taken at eight o’clock in the morning, half an hour before sunrise. For a number of weeks I visited and photographed that composition at sunrise, waiting for specific circumstances, such as the presence of one of the big ships in the shipyard and a growing tide. The high tide had to be at about 9 o’clock so that as it encroached on the intertidal zone used by the egrets, it would raise the roost before dawn. I also wanted the lights to be visible on the ship and the surrounding premises, when the shipyard activity had already begun for the day.
Town: El Astillero
Autonomous Community: Cantabria
Camera data: Canon EOS 7D; Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM; 105,0 mm; 0,3 sec; f/4,0; ISO 400
Explanation: While we see the population decline of dozens of bird species all around the European continent, particularly in the most populous areas, the cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) increases its population, taking advantage of a more and more altered space. Until the 1980s this species had not be seen in the north of Spain. Today, in this region as well as on the rest of the planet, it is the most abundant egret species. In the last several decades the cattle egret has formed colonies from the species home in Africa to all the continents except Antarctica. In Europe, its habitual presence dates back to the middle of the last century. Cantabria concentrates 90% of the species’s northern Spain population, and it is here where it has found its perfect habitat: a completely human-formed landscape full of meadows for cattle, with a warm climate thanks to the Cantabrian coast’s humidity. In spite of being an egret adapted to very close proximity to human activities and customs, few people are aware of the nightly spectacle of thousands of cattle egrets circling down from the sky, looking for protection along the intertidal zone.
Belinda Rimmer (United Kingdom) has many poems published in magazines, anthologies, and online. In May 2017 she won The Poetry in Motion Competition as part of Cheltenham Poetry Festival. Her poem ‘Water‘ was turned into a film by Diana Taylor and has since been selected for the International Poetry Film Festival in Lisbon, the So Limitless and Free Film Festival in Montreal, and the Blue Danube International Film Festival.